YOUNG VOICES: If you need anonymity, you shouldn't say it

2013-04-15T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: If you need anonymity, you shouldn't say itBy Beatriz Costa-Lima nwitimes.com
April 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The cloak of anonymity is a powerful thing.

I would never stand up in the middle of my history class and tell the kid sitting a row in front of what a moron I think he is. Why? Well, primarily because that wouldn’t be a particularly nice thing to do. But also because if I did such a rude thing, everyone in the class would think I was a rude, immature and hurtful person.

But what if I could take away that consequence? What if I could launch the hurtful remarks without it backfiring on me?

That’s what anonymity on the Internet provides. It frees people from the consequences of what they say; therefore, they don’t think twice about what they say.

The web has the capability to connect millions of people on a single page and has the potential of creating a medium to easily inform citizens and house intelligent discourse. However, just take a look at comments sections on many websites, and it’s obvious that that doesn’t regularly happen. That’s because of anonymity.

People feel much more powerful when they are behind the safe confines of their computer screen. They feel untouchable and therefore will say just about anything.

Comments should be a place where citizens can come together and discuss issues and further develop a story. It allows a quick and easy way to connect the public to reporters. So there is a medium that has so any beneficial possibilities at our fingertips, but anonymity tends to cloud all of that.

Finally, websites, particularly news websites, have found a way to combat this problem: Requiring identification for comment posting. Say goodbye to anonymity.

Studies have shown that sites that require users to provide their names have more productive and insightful commenting and less comments that need to be moderated, according to the Poynter Institute.

The Times made the right call to end the endless string of pointless, hateful anonymous remarks all over the site and to plan to restore commenting with the requirement of registering names.

Many users who previously posted anonymously could find such a move horrendous. Some call it censorship or some big media ploy to take control of people’s thoughts. But requiring identification isn’t either of those things. If there is some hateful dig you wish to make, you are still free to create your own blog or site and do so.

If there is additional information for a story or issue that one can only give under the cloak of anonymity, they can still provide news tips to Times staff.

If you have something to say, you should have to own up to it. If you don’t want to own up to it, then it probably isn’t worth posting.

Beatriz Costa-Lima of Munster is a freshman at the University of Missouri. The opinions are the writer's.

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