Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, December 12, 2011

Courier looking for more civility online

Switching to Facebook will make it more difficult for commenters to remain anonymous,
as 'wall' of Facebook posters pics (and IDs) above shows.
Plainfielders reading the Courier News online in recent days may have noticed that as of this evening comments to articles online would have to be posted through a Facebook account (see December 5 story here).

Managing editor Paul Grzella discusses the move in his regular Monday column today (see here), noting that this is a Gannett-wide decision.

The deal about Facebook is that you must have a 'real' identity and email to register (though, of course, diehard haters can figure out workarounds), and Gannett's hope is that this will greatly cut down on the vitriolic -- and sometimes racist -- rants, which Grzella admits often make him 'cringe'.

But Facebook is no fool-proof guarantee things will be more civil. Just check out the recently exposed Facebook rant by New York City police over the annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn (see NYTimes story here).

Several of the posters have been identified as NYC police officers and the Facebook page is currently under investigation by the Department's internal affairs bureau for inappropriate language.

Regular readers will know that I am no fan of the bilge that anonymity seems to unleash in the comments sections of both the Courier and the Ledger. Olddoc and others among the local bloggerati have wrestled with how to handle the anonymous comments we get.

Up until now, for Plainfield Today, I have set commenting up so that I review all comments before posting and consign the worst and most egregious offenders to the 'DELETE' pile.

Though bloggers using BLOGGER may switch to 'Facebook only' comments, I have hesitated so far to do so because of the many tips that come in from those wishing to remain anonymous -- which Facebook makes difficult, if not impossible.

If there is a way to achieve both ends, I will post about it here.

Meanwhile, check out the Courier later today (go here) and see how they are implementing the new change.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for not giving Facebook a monopoly. Aversion to Facebook (and Google among others) is not just because of the lack of anonymity, but because of its reputation for keeping what I shall call dossiers on its users and selling the information to advertisers- and maybe making them available to governments. Is this just urban myth?

Regarding the issue at hand, Gannett using Facebook is essentially directing traffic to the site. That usually entails payments. I suspect Gannett hopes to do well by doing good in encouraging civility.