Sunday, February 14, 2010

'Anonymity is no guarantee in online postings'

Excerpts from a Chicago Tribune story published today, where I was interviewed about the pitfalls of posting anonymous comments on blogs and other websites:

Write something threatening or defamatory and the mask of anonymity can be removed. It's technologically simple to track the source of a comment; the more difficult question is when it should be done. Add to the complicated stew of issues an Internet culture of free-wheeling commentary, and the results can be unpredictable.

"There are purists who think the Internet is a fundamentally different medium and that the old rules — that is, vetting letters to the editor — should not be applied to comments," says Jim Hopkins, a former reporter based in San Francisco who runs several media blogs. "I've been hit with the same criticism. If you limit these comments in any way, (critics say) you're engaging in censorship."

In a departure from past practice, I now review all comments before they get published, sometimes rejecting those that are unsuitable. How do you feel about that policy? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.

[Image: today's Tribune, Newseum]

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