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Poll: Should Anonymous Comments Be Allowed?

Where do you come down if the choice is between totally free speech or civil debate? Vote in our poll and please leave a comment.

Why are we asking your view on unsigned comments?

Patch sites, including ours, periodically receive complaints about insulting comments, often posted by readers with unidentifiable user names.

We are not alone. It's a major issue for many online news sites that has been exacerbated by allowing readers to post comments anonymously.

Anonymous comment forums, wrote Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., "have become havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety." A spirited argument against them can be found in an essay by Rem Rieder, editor and senior vice president of the American Journalism Review.

The other side also is passionate. "Anonymous speech is exactly what the framers of the First Amendment had in mind," wrote Ohio University journalism professor Bill Reader, in an essay in the American Journalism Review. He argued that anonymity's benefits – having opinions considered on their own merits and protecting against unfair retribution – outweigh the abusive posts.

Please let us know your view by clicking an answer in the poll below, and we would greatly appreciate it if you'd indicate the reason for your vote in the comments section.

Observer January 17, 2012 at 07:28 PM
In 1776 Thomas Paine published anonymously a 48 page pamphlet called “Common Sense”. “Common Sense” became a catalyst that helped create a new nation, the United States of America. He published “Common Sense” anonymously to avoid King George’s hangman. Enough said.
Stephen Carbonaro January 22, 2012 at 05:12 PM
But we know who wrote it today, and we are grateful to him for his work. But at that time, Thomas Paine was not the only one in danger of the hangman. The Declaration of independence would have little meaning to us if it had been signed by "Anonymous", "the guy next to Anonymous", and "Beaver". That's why we know who our Founding Fathers were, and we don't have to go "Were you our Daddy?"
Observer January 22, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Hi Mr. Carbonaro, Thank you for your comment. You have pointed out an historical reference of brave souls who directly threatened a king, which has benefited us all. I have pointed out an historical reference of an occasion where Thomas Pain used anonymity “a pen name” a “nom de plume”which also benefited us all . So I conclude, both have a place when used to benefit us all.
Stephen Carbonaro January 23, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Indeed.
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