WSJ looks at “Internet Civility”

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Of course we all know that old New Yorker cartoon: on the Internet, we’re all dogs.

That seems particularly true when it comes to anonymous comments to newspaper articles. I wrote about it last year, citing Virginia Heffernan’s column in the New York Times Magazine: Reader comments are key part of online journalism. So why do they disappoint?

L. Gordon Crovitz’ latest column , Is Internet Civility an Oxymoron?,” looks at the same issue.

Apparently. he’s shocked, shocked to find “uncivilized and uninformative” comments posted to articles.

What’s interesting about his article is that Cravitz lists several ways that sites are addressing the problem of the comments section.

  • Some sites let readers rank the reputation of comment writers.
  • Gawker list comments based on readers’ rankings.
  • Some don’t permit any postings at all.
  • The Wall St. Journal permits people to review posts by paid subscribers.
  • The Washington Post will soon rank “trusted commentators.”

In the end, these are just compromises. The solution would be to reduce the ability of people to hide behind usernames. I think that people would think twice about posting something negative if they had to use their real name.

Why don’t sites just require people to use their real names when posting?

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