Online commenters themselves disagree about whether comments should be anonymous and if they should be reviewed before publication. Below is a wide range of comments about commenting posted on The Washington Post website, which publishes readers' submissions anonymously and does not review them before publication.
— I never, ever read comments — many are disgusting and the product of sick, angry minds on both the left and the right. In contrast, I love letters to the editor. What's the difference? Letters are SIGNED. Vicious anonymous comments are made by cowards, who are owed shunning, not attention.
— Anonymity makes the comments section a cross section of readers' gut reactions and real thinking, however messy that might be. I would miss that.
— If The Post wishes to remain credible, you must “take back” the discourse and enforce standards of civility. You would be doing our American society and democracy a huge favor.
— Freedom of speech means not just hearing things that we like, but allowing that which we very much dislike.
— Posting under one's real name might cut down on the ability to share useful information. I've seen people provide useful insights on their professions and industries, which they might not be able to do under their own names.
— I would have had no problem if the WP had forced people to use their real names. It would reduce the amount of garbage that people fling simply because anonymity reduces self-restraint. I realize that there are cases where genuine anonymity is needed, but that can't be more than 1 post in 1,000.
— Enduring abusive comments comes with the privilege of the bully pulpit.
— We'd all be divorced and/or fired from our jobs if we interacted with each other the way some people do on comment boards — but there is something about the boards that makes people lose sight of how respect and a good hearing are gained in the outside world.
— Internet anonymity does not just free people to express hate without fear, but to express the legitimate opinions our society does not treat with the respect it should.
— A humble suggestion: limit commenting to actual subscribers. I suspect that the most objectionable comments come from those far, far from the area, and that the best come from the folks who actually take the time to read the physical paper and have a stake in the community.
— I also sometimes become angry at abusive posts. But these people are not going to go away as a result of censorship. All these kinds of posters do is discredit the point of view they claim to support in the eyes of most reasonable people.
— All I can say is that it's about time that The Post did something to deter the endless stream of hate-filled, anonymous comments, which inevitably ruin any chance of having a serious discussion of political issues. Personally, I wish The Post would require the same standards here as they do for their letters section — full name and home town to accompany all commentary.
— An open forum gives the reader a notion of actually how many loons there are out there and what they believe.
— I have pretty much given up reading comments because they are generally so nasty, vindictive or off topic. The issue is about civility and courteous discourse.
— While the columnists and reporters at The Post may find it inconvenient and unsettling to read criticism of their work, these message boards provide a necessary check and balance to ensure quality.
— If WaPo did not permit anonymous postings, the quality of commentary content and nature of discourse would improve overnight.
— The WP message boards provide a place for spirited debate, and can provide balance to stories that can sometimes be blatantly biased. They make The Post interesting, and on a personal level, they provide me the opportunity to add facts to a story (usually editorials) that either subvert the truth or “conveniently” leave out a key fact in a story.
— Like pretty much everyone I know, I've found the overwhelming bulk of those “Comments” to be completely devoid of substance, full of bile, and accomplishing little more than driving these discussions down to the lowest common denominator. At the very least, everyone who posts should have a verifiable home address and phone number, even if it's not posted along with the message. You hold to this standard for letters in the print edition. Is there any reason not to do this for online Comments?
— In today's world of political correctness and employers who look for your trail on the internet, being able to comment anonymously is ESSENTIAL.
— Compiled and excerpted by Tom Price