Arizona Republic Says Sayonara to Anonymous Commenting

The days of sounding off about the day's news under the anonymity of the Interwebs have come to an end at Arizona's paper of record.

Arizona Republic editor and vice president for news Randy Lovely announced yesterday that readers would no longer be able to comment on stories on the paper's website anonymously. As of yesterday, if you want to comment on an article on the AZcentral website you must do so through your Facebook account.

Lovely, apparently, has grown tired of people making nasty comments without having the cojones to reveal their identities.

See Lovely's explanation for the change below.

In the early days (just a few years ago) of online commenting, I embraced the Wild West freedom that the tools provided in allowing citizens to speak freely about their ideas.

Over time, my sentiments have changed as the tone and civility of the anonymous remarks have soured. I still defend your right to express your opinion, but, unfortunately, I don't know who you are.

To a degree, freedom of speech has been hijacked. With people hiding behind clever screen names, a lack of personal accountability has led to a breakdown in meaningful dialogue and debate.

My views shifted gradually as I held out hope that the community at large would rise to the responsibility of shaping a productive exchange. At first, I defended the range of remarks, then I began to grow concerned about the tenor, and I finally became disgusted.

Lovely says comments made on the site following the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January was the last straw. He cites the following comments:

WeElectedIdiots2: "I guess a politician with half a brain is better than the rest of the idiots that get elected."

AZJavaRooster: "She should be up for Canonization soon! oh, God! she was heard to say, 'Well if I had half a mind ...' "

ksteele26: "This guy Loughner is a true patriot. Giffords has the blood of millions of the murdered unborn on her hands."

Again, you can still leave nasty comments on AZcentral, you just need to have a Facebook account -- and the balls to attach your name to your comments.

"Research shows that 81 percent of adults in Phoenix have Facebook accounts, so we're hopeful this change will not limit participation on the site," Lovely continues. "Most importantly, we believe this move will go a long way toward instilling a sense of personal ownership for the remarks on the site."

The Phoenix Business Journal also requires readers to attach their names to comments made on the publication's website. According to veteran PBJ reporter Mike Sunnucks, the move "has decreased the number of comments on our stories with readers required to attach their names to their comments."

New Times is yet to follow suit, and there are no current plans (that we editorial minions have been told of, anyway) to not allow our readers to comment anonymously.

See Lovely's explanation for the change -- in its entirety -- here.

What do you think about the change? Feel free to chime in -- as anonymously as you want --in the comment section of this post.
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James King
Contact: James King