This has been a challenging couple of weeks for our town. Some of the op-ed’s and the comments that were attached to them have been offensive to some readers. Several have written in to request that anonymous comments be disallowed. There are two reasons this is not the case today.
- There is no technical way to do this. Anyone can sign up for any email account for free. Services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail are widely available at no charge. Temporary (throw-away) email addresses are easy to create for anyone with an iPhone simply by clicking the “Hide my Email” button. While it is possible to force users to authenticate with Google, Facebook, Apple, etc., not everyone has those services, and all of those are free anyway, so it would make no difference. In short, it is not difficult to post anonymously, even if we tried to force users to prove they are “real”. Note that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Boston Globe all allow anyone to create a free account and comment.
- While we do moderate comments, we typically only disallow them when they do not substantively add to the discussion. With rare exceptions, personal attacks, profanity, and off-topic comments are typically not published. We see our role as reporting the news and providing a forum for discussion, not policing speech.
In short, this is an all-or-nothing situation. Either comments are on or they are not.
And while this has been our policy, ultimately HopNews is about you, the reader, not us. So we’re offering you this opportunity to share your feedback.
The poll will close on May 29.
We welcome your feedback on this topic. Please send any additional thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them in the comment box below.
You really need to provide a third option. Comments should be enabled when the person is willing to identify themselves. I don’t think they should be anonymous comments. If you want to make a comment, then you need to be willing to put your name to it. It’s too easy to hide behind Anonymous comments. So I don’t think your pool reflected things accurately because you did not provide that option.
Thanks for your comment, Ms. Roche. As explained in the article above, there is no way to enforce this from a technical standpoint. Anyone can create a free email address at any time, thus becoming a “real” person, even if they’re anonymous.
If you keep the comments delete any and all that are anonymous. I’d rather see them all go.
3rd (or 4th) option: “click here for comments”. Hide them by default, show them on demand. This way, if someone doesn’t want to see them, they don’t have to click them open.
Good suggestion, Mr. Lurie. We’ve implemented this.
There is enough trolling on social media. Is it possible to to delete anonymous posts? I find no added value to the comment if the poster doesn’t have the integrity to state their name. With the important investigative journalism you’re bringing Hopkinton, let’s keep it legit.
Thanks for your feedback, Ms. Myers. While any comment can be deleted, it’s difficult to tell which are anonymous and which aren’t. Obviously if someone uses the name “Anon” it’s pretty clear. But what if they just make up a name, like “John Smith”? HopNews has almost 100,000 readers each year. It’s very difficult to be accurate with that size of audience.
Thanks for asking for input. I had no idea the scope of readership; good point.
For someone who has actually been “attacked” by anonymous comments. I support keeping the comments. It’s free speech.
I knew my op-Ed’s would attract mean spirited comments, and I expected them. That’s okay.
I’d also like to point out those who have made derogatory comments to me and attacked my character after reading my op-Ed’s have used false names. So they are also “anonymous.” Many of those anonymous people are now crying out for the comments to not allowed. So it works both ways.
It seems the ones most upset by anonymous comments are trying to control the narrative and hush those who have something to say. Anonymity allows those in the community who have felt shunned, or silenced or are also afraid of attack to speak out.
Free speech is important. Mr. Thomas is doing a valuable service to our town. He’s giving people a voice. If you don’t want to read them, don’t read them.
I think you said you support comments and free speech, even ones with aliases on HopNews. Yet free speech wasn’t allowed on your campaign social media where community members without aliases asked questions that went unanswered, residents blocked and made deletions. Seems selective support of the First Admendment.
It is clear, you choose free speech for your mean-spirited Op-Eds on HopNews and not for your campaign. Why would you have deleted two weeks of activity on your campaign page if you support free speech? Even volunteers need to answer questions from the public. It is very fake to want free speech one place and not all places including concerned parents who publicly asked you direct questions in public platforms, to be answered there who did not want to engage in private one on ones. No one likes tough questions; it was clear avoided them and lashed out at those who ask them, which is of course your free speech. Clearly your view of free speech is just a fake news narrative.
Peter Thomas does offer a valuable service to the community. He has responded to pro and con benefits of his platform from real and anonymous commenters. He answered questions openly, Ashley you refused to.
Your “street cred” is weak because your lack credibility.
Time to find a new crusade. The trolling is getting old.
To quote: “If you don’t want to read them, don’t read them.”.
Currently, you censor comments and only publish ones that appeal to you and your advertisers. Will you change?
Thanks for your feedback, “Brad”. That’s actually not true. Our policy is to remove comments that do not substantively add to the discussion. Direct character attacks, profanity, and off-topic comments do not make it to the site, but everything else goes.
If you only delete comments that do not substantively add to the discussion, why were all of my comments deleted on the ‘Republicans: Hopkinton Can Do Better’ article? (https://hopnews.com/republicans-hopkinton-can-do-better/)
I’d love a response, for journalistic integrity. There were not character attacks, profanity, or off-topic comments. All were accepted until you took them down en-mass.
We found your relentless use of the word “Fascist” inappropriate and lacking decorum. Several of your comments served no apparent purpose but to inflame others.
For example, on 5/19 you wrote “You should be mocked for supporting the idea…you are a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person.” Previously, on 5/17 you wrote “Let’s Grab Hopkinton By the P***y”.
You were moderated out to allow for a cooling off period.
Free speech is a crucial right, but it’s not a free pass to hide from the consequences of your words. If you really feel strongly about something you should be willing to put your name to it. I say drop the Comments and make an Op-Ed page. Or allow people to email you their responses to a piece and you can publish those as you see fit. That way you can have a decent chance of verifying who it is. We’ve seen over and over again that some people cannot help themselves from abusing anonymous commenting. It’s a pathetic statement about humanity, but it’s a fact. Keep HopNews out of the hands of trolls who will just drag it into the gutter.
Based upon the graph above, I’m in the minority.
I believe Hopnews online commenting should be disabled.
They truly accomplish nothing and have nothing to do with free speech.
Free Speech is an open air public right, not a right on a website you happen to visit that may or may not provide the option.
Social media has made the effect of “commenting” an irrelevant, reactionary habit.
A habit that lacks the courage and restraint of face to face debate or thoughtful writing.
Let’s try to keep our town website and newspapers civilized and dignified.
If someone wants to exercise their right to free speech in a civil manner, send a letter to the editor.
The state of online commenting everywhere will never evolve to respectful discourse.
Even in our small community website, it will devolve and this discussion will happen again.
Solve the problem now; Disable comments and suggest writing letters to the editor.
Is there a reasonable way to require commenters to share their full name and physical address as another means of validation they are real? Comments at public meetings and traditional letters to the editor use that approach. Some online forums require a commenter to register once when they are vetted. Some online forums include assessments of a commenter’s “worthiness” in terms of contributions (like Reddit). Some forums have more extensive rules. Comments are mostly very helpful. It’s the few very bad ones that cause issues.
MySouthborough did this last year, so it’s certainly not impossible: https://www.mysouthborough.com/2022/06/22/eliminating-anonymous-comments-as-of-july-1st-register-as-a-user-now/
Just do that. People like anonymity because it lets them say stuff their neighbors would balk at if they said it to their faces. Freedom of speech protects public places, and this is a private website that has advertisers that might take offense if people keep calling each other facists and snowflakes.
It’s an interesting idea, but there are a few practical considerations.
If you read the comments section of the article you linked you’ll note that many of Beth’s readers expressed concerns about their privacy. Her solution was to implement a comprehensive form requiring commenters to supply their address and phone number so she could verify them. Commenters worried that she might get hacked and their data would get out, or that their information would be shared with town government and they’d experience retribution for posting a critical opinion.
Human verification takes time and effort. While this may be practical for MySouthborough it is not for HopNews due to a sheer numerical problem. According to SEMRush, last month MySouthborough had 6,800 unique visitors while HopNews had 63,300. 341 comments were posted. That’s a lot to validate manually.
To those who might be arguing against anonymity, please read this by the EFF.
Or, 1995 Supreme Court ruling:
Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
In today’s day and age, speaking out again certain groups actions have made individuals direct targets. For example, E. Jean Carroll had been under direct attack by the ‘movement’ around their sexual abuser. Election workers have been targeted by the same ‘movement’ for being election workers.
Saying you must not speak anonymously is an attack on those who may not have the power to directly fight injustice but have to speak out.