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 16, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I agree with professor Bill Reader above. If a North Korean were to post the truth of his or her life on a blog they would be either dead or in a government labor camp along with their entire family. Governments can change. Sometimes they become more free and in other times, suppression rules harshly. I post Anonymously because I can say what I mean and not worry about harassment from individuals or government.
David Ross January 16, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I don't see anything wrong with posting anonymously. Sometimes that is needed to protect a person from retribution. To those who don't like it because people object to "insulting comments," I only have a couple of things to say. One: Get thicker skin. Two: Just because someone's name is shown as the author of a posting does not mean that the name is real. I could post as Casey Johns. Looks like a real name. Spells like a real name. Formats nicely as a real name. But if I used the name Casey Jones you then it would be a fake name. A name no different from a name like Mr/Ms/Dr/Rev/Lt/Sgt/whatever Observer above.
Steve Ontiveros January 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM
While I haven't yet found a reason to post anonymously, I like to know it's an option. I don't think any public forum / news organization should be in the position to censor posts purely on the basis of anonymity.
gwen January 17, 2012 at 12:45 AM
It depends on the subject. If you write something hateful, you should have the guts to stand up behind your words. OTOH, if it something that will get you killed... awww crap, I guess anonymity has to stay..
Anneke9 January 17, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Anonymous comments are ok with me. I know many people who can't speak freely because their careers and reputations would be negatively impacted. I all comes down to this: Do you want to hear the truth? Or, do you want to hear what someone thinks you want to hear?
Karen Rossi January 17, 2012 at 02:29 AM
I don't think that you should be allowed to leave an anonymous comment. If you have an opinion about something, have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself. Too many people say nasty and rude things because they can hide behind the "Anonymous " label. Karen Rossi
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) January 17, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Great points made. Thanks for sharing your opinions.
Ken Martin January 17, 2012 at 03:33 PM
The First Amendment was created by people that had the backbone to stand up for what they believed. I really don't think it was intended to allow anyone to criticize a situation or a person (most anonymous comments are critical) and then hide in anonymity for fear of reprisal. I think Patch (and any other public forum) has the right and duty to not publish anonymous comments.
Thomas Clarke January 17, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I post using my real name. The First Amendment as well as the following 9 Amendments to the Constitution protect me and you from the government. The whole concept of Liberty and Freedom are embodied in our First Ten Amendments and should be protected from the encroachment of business and the majority at all costs. While I may not like the anonymous, profane and offensive as soon as those posts are curbed in the interest of the common good, we are well on our way to the self same conditions of our nation's birth. My fellow warriors have shed too much blook to preserve our rights to have them cut short by business, corporations and the government.
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
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