Anonymous commenters could face their own Ice Age

The debate about comments on news sites continues to generate, … er, comment and momentum is building to somehow put personal reputation back behind the words.

The latest piece I’ve seen is Neil Swidey’s piece on, which takes a snapshot of the current landscape, but also takes a close-up of several commenters. Swidey notes he wasn’t able to talk to several others he had wanted to interview, writing:

But here are the people I didn’t hear back from: the screamers, troublemakers, and trolls (Internet slang for people behind inflammatory posts). Not a single one. The loudest, most aggressive voices grew mum when asked to explain themselves, to engage in an actual discussion. The trolls appear to prize their anonymity more than anyone else.

Rob Curley of the highlighted to a group visiting his offices from E.W. Scripps last week that Curley’s group is experimenting with — among other things — improving comments by requiring users who want to comment on stories in the site’s politics section to login through Facebook. Here is an example story.

A note above the comment area says:

In an effort to further elevate the dialogue on our stories, we will be — for at least a short time — requiring readers to log in with their Facebook accounts to leave comments on politics stories on We hope and believe that this accountability will cut down on the meanness and name calling that occurs when commenters are granted anonymity. We still hope readers will voice their opinions — whatever they may be — but we want to make sure they take responsibility for them, as well.

The move amounts to requiring real names for comments on certain types of stories and may in some cases expose not only the user’s real name, but their phone number or e-mail address or other personally identifiable information depending on the user’s Facebook privacy settings.

Here is a collection of recent pieces on story comments from a delicious list I maintain.

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