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A growing number of online news outlets (most recently the St. Cloud Times) have started using the Facebook platform in their reader comment sections. This could be a huge breakthrough, as it could signal the end of anonymous postings. Under this new platform, readers must have a Facebook account in order to post a comment. This encourages civility because comments are more likely to be linked to a person’s real name.
When reader comment sections were first unveiled, I thought it was a first amendment breakthrough. But when I read some of the anonymous comments (often laced with ignorance and hatred) that were being posted, my opinion changed. While I have seen intelligent and productive conversations take place in reader comment sections, they are far too often overshadowed by a cesspool of anonymous blabber.
The concept of a reader comment section is great in theory because it actively engages readers in the news. But when people are given the option of posting under pseudonyms, it can reveal humanity’s ugly side. My hope is that this new platform will discourage anonymity and encourage thoughtful conversation among people who aren’t afraid to own up to their words.