And, maybe you have seen the “Mean Tweets” on Jimmy Kimmel where celebrities read real tweets that they have received. These tweets are really derogatory but the celebrities make fun of them, but some of these tweets are really hurtful. And, almost of these comments and tweets are anonymous! And, that really is the problem.
There has been an ongoing trend to have some control of comments on internet sites; particularly, the news organizations that have a real stake in keeping subscribers engaged and involved in important dialog. So, to avoid the anonymous screen name being used, the sites require registration with real names, email addresses, or other traceable data to keep the poster a bit more accountable for their comments. But, the displayed name is still a screen name. Presumably the commenter doesn’t want to be recognized for some reason. But if privacy is the reason, forget it! There are sites that can track screen names via social media sites and connect the dots to identify the poster. And, if there is clear harassment or threats the courts can subpoena the ISP (Internet Service Provider) for the name. But there is clear evidence that we have the right to be anonymous according to the Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (Here) that the First Amendment protects our right to be anonymous:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . 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.
So, the trend as I see it is to continue the anonymous screen name for most sites because readers are drawn to the vitriol. It seems to be like rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. We don’t like the idea of an accident but we are drawn to look. Maybe it is simply human nature to read controversial content. But, I will continue to use my real name as I feel strongly that it lends credibility to my comments and I am not going to throw acid at anyone. Here on this site we have very respectful readers and for that I am thankful…