Should Rostra require revealed identities?

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters 15 Comments


I know I’m in the minority on this issue (a new experience!), but what is wrong with requiring people to post on SDRostra using their real Planet Earth names? Rostra is a private (as opposed to govt) blog, so the rules of engagement can be set by Thor ET AL.

Apparently the NORTH COUNTY TIMES has gone to this policy in its “comments” section. If they can do it, why can’t Rostra?

Yeah, people can lie about their identity. I suspect most won’t. And for those that do, they sometimes can be exposed for lying — a huge negative.

Doubtless we’d see less unsubstantiated smears. Is that a bad thing? If an established asshole such as myself can use his or her real name, what’s wrong with leveling the playing field for all?


Comments 15

  1. Rider –

    Are you talking about blog-posters or commentators.

    I somewhat agree with you. I prefer my handle, Maassive, but everyone knows it’s me. A policy that requires users to pick a single verified and stick with it isn’t a bad idea at all.

    But who cares what I think.

  2. Why do I choose not to reveal my real name? Well, I like my job. When you work for the government, you have to be careful. Even positive articles can have negative backlash from the employer. So while I would like to reveal my real name, when I write articles that could impact my employer in a negative or positive way, well, it’s best to stay hidden.

  3. Good question. Yes, it is private, and we can set the rules. And, we have.

    The powers that be have decided that anonymity is allowed, finding that the free-for-all encourages participation, especially from those who fear the wrath of their employer (private sector or gummint). The downside, as you note, is the substantiation problem, something we hope is noted that we try to monitor as we can, especially when it comes to smear tactics.

    In the end, it is up to the reader to decide if they don’t want to lend credence to the opinions of those using pseudonyms, or — for that matter — if they don’t want to lend credence to Rostra at all. Totally up to the commenter to use a real name or not, understanding that many readers may take what they have to say with a grain of salt if they are anonymous. Likewise, totally up to the reader to ignore the anonymous writers (and change the channel, if you will), or to tell us to pound sand altogether. Rather libertarian, really.

    We do ask those using pseudonyms to select one and stick with it, and we do have ways of knowing about those abusing that rule (perhaps not so libertarian, but it’s still our blog).

    We are, of course, open to change policies if we deem fit, and if enough bloggers or commenters believe it worthwhile to change the current allowance for anonymity, we would at the least listen to what they have to say.


    Thor’s Assistant, Greg (today, at any rate, and even “Greg” may be a handle. Or not.)

  4. Barry Jantz here, I swear. Dave, you may be surprised to know that only a small minority of Rostra readers likely know you from your handle. The number of regular commenters and bloggers that by now know you or easily figured it out because they closely follow the local media are a small number compared to those that see “Maassive” and don’t know a thing about it, because they may not ever click on your handle, or — dare I say — may not know a thing about CityBeat. That’s not an argument one way or the other regarding your use of it, just letting you know that based on readership and those linking to Rostra, it may not be a given that you and Maassive, or you and Dave, are one in the same.

  5. Barry – My handle is always linked to my twitter page,

    But even if I used my full name, people still wouldn’t automatically recognize it. My only point is that there’s a difference between posting anonymously and posting using a single, regular handle.


  6. Yes, understood. As Thor’s person mentioned above, Rostra wants each commenter to select a handle and stick with it, whether anonymously or not. In my case, as I have indicated before at times, I believe using my own name lends to credibility in more ways than one. At the same time, I do understand and support those that choose anonymity, especially on a political blog where often those working in government and campaign circles may have firsthand insights and breaking news of value, while being in the difficult situation of not being able to “report” on it because of potential blowback. I’m interested in what others have to say on the matter.

  7. Post

    Good to hear the vetting on this. I’m not going to take my ball and go home if some (most?) keep posting anonymously.

    I just prefer real names when I’m attacked — or, indeed, when ANYONE is attacked on this blog. Real names help readers to judge the self interest of the posters, if any.

    But, in the end, it’s hardly critical.

  8. Most online anonymity hinders genuine communication. Some use anonymity as a means to act in ways they wouldn’t in person. Trolls like these have various motivations behind their actions, which is why traditionally, the media will not quote an anonymous source. Most media experts support accountability online no matter what the forum. But as Barry and Thor have said, this forum does have some loosely adopted code of ethics for its bloggers limiting the use of evangelical or extreme contrarian trolling leading to personal attacks. However, verifiable sources would dampen this behavior and lend more credibility to the forum.

  9. Just as I advise my clients, I don’t say or write anything I wouldn’t want revealed to the entire universe anywhere, including on Rostra. The site isn’t impervious to hacking or mistakes. Anyone who would lose his or her job by what he or she chooses to post should rethink how much safety anonymity provides here. It’s not a whole lot.

    I don’t particularly have a problem with it here. Journalists have relied on anonymous sources for years. I scrutinize the anonymous posts on Rostra with more care, and consider whether the person posting has an agenda that might cause me to discount the information if his or her identity was revealed. Still, I agree with Barry it’s the writer’s choice and a Libertarian approach.

    Thor and Thor’s Assistant also seem to do a good job screening out the worst of the personal invectives. But come on Richard, what’s a political blog without some good hearty name-calling and insults? They only offend me if they’re poorly written or aren’t funny. Calling someone a “whack job” or a “political hack” is plain lazy. Surely our Rostra community can do better than this. Impress me.

  10. I use a pseudonym not because I am trying to hide from anyone on this site, but rather because when business associates, partners, clients, etc, search my name I would prefer that my business websites and professional activities pop up rather than my comments on a political website.

    In a previous life I worked for politicians and as a lobbyist and public affairs professional. I’m now in different lines of business, and at this time, politics is more of a passion than anything else.

  11. I need my anonymity because of my job circumstances. Without anonymity, I wouldn’t be able to participate.

  12. Post

    The “single pseudonym” seems to be an acceptable compromise.

    Gayle, I don’t much mind insults. Lord knows I’m a stone-thrower (always with ample justification, of course).

    But I for one can personally testify that using my real name reduces both the frequency and vociferousness of my derogatory remarks. Naturally this inhibition leaves me emotionally crippled, but I’m dealing with it.

  13. Post

    Point of clarification: There has been some discussion alluding to how “libertarian” it is to allow anonymous posting. Restricting OR allowing features on a PRIVATE blog is simply not a libertarian issue — either way.

    Libertarians have no problem AS LIBERTARIANS with such PRIVATE restrictions (or lack of same). It is only when coercive government gets involved that the libertarian aspect comes to the fore.

    After all, government does only two things. It tells you that:
    A. You MUST do this.
    B. You CAN’T do that.

    All the time. Choice is not an option — government is a monopoly.

    For example, if the government set the rules for blogs, these rules would apply to ALL blogs. And indeed, govt IS trying to move into controlling the Internet (and talk radio) — “leveling the playing field” and all that.

    Government backs its rules with the police, courts and jails. Naturally libertarians wish to restrict this list of government admonitions to the essential matters — we can all quibble over what those matters are. My list is rather short — other folks have much longer lists.

  14. Can’t disagree with that. We were using the term kinda tongue-in-cheek to describe our policies, choosing “libertarian” mostly because Richard Rider himself was the originator of this discussion! Perhaps our policies are more libertine than they are libertarian. Great comments on this, by the way!

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