Editorials

Editorial: A comment on comments

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Monday, March 7, 2016

The Herald removed the ability for readers to leave comments not linked to an e-mail account and user name on our site yesterday.

The comments section of any website can and should be a place for readers to conduct a productive discussion about the site’s content. But comments sections have an unfortunate propensity to turn into a collection of uninformed arguments, spam and irrelevant insults. The ability to comment anonymously greatly encourages such behavior: Without any accountability for what one is saying, commenting on an article can serve as an outlet for pent-up frustration rather than a space for fostering productive discourse. This is why we disabled the option to comment as a guest on our website.

Previously, visitors on our site had the ability to comment on articles completely anonymously. Choosing the guest option still meant they had to provide an e-mail address, but it was possible to enter an invalid or nonexistent one. Now, it is still possible to provide an e-mail address that gives no hints as to one’s offline identity, as we recognize that some readers may feel more comfortable voicing valid yet controversial opinions anonymously. But commenters will be required to create an account on Disqus — the platform that moderates our comments — that links to a single, valid e-mail address. Requiring that commenters use a single e-mail address for all commentary on The Herald’s site will lead commenters to develop a posting record accessible to all.

As a result, we and our readers will be able to judge more accurately whether comments are legitimate and warrant engagement based on the commenter’s history. We will be able to see if they have a record of thoughtful and well-articulated comments. This policy change will ideally also lead people to reconsider carelessly spouting nonsense.

Going forward, we would like to continue actively encouraging feedback on our articles. The Herald’s stories may at times provoke profound disagreement, and anybody who feels strongly about the content on our site should be welcome to critique it freely. But those critiques should be rational and well-informed rather than ignorant and disrespectful.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Emma Axelrod ’18 and Emma Jerzyk ’17, and its members, Eben Blake ’17 and Leeron Lempel ’19. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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