Real Names – The View Shared with BBC Radio 4 and more

BBC Radio 4 LogoBBC Radio 4 LogoThe other day I had the privilege of participating in a debate on BBC Radio 4’s You and Your’s program about anonymity in online commenting. Have a listen.

At the Guardian’s Active conference I asked, why major online news sites are so content with empowering the angriest people in society with the design of their online news commenting systems. I am personally most interested in the local level where I see the mainstream media with online news commenting essentially promoting division and discord by intent online in local communities. They are not reflecting a conflicted society, they are giving mega phones to the 1% on the extremes and allowing the other 98% of us to be driven away. At some point I hope media sites begin to survey their communities on the damage to their own reputation for poor stewardship of online interactivity. Our own experience is that simply promoting real names as the default (and I recommend pre-moderating those unwilling or unable to stand behind their words with their real name) deals with 80% of the incivility problem.

While I certainly oppose government requirements that people must use their real names online, I strongly encourage democratically spirited organizations to promote real names because it gives people far more power and influence not to mention making online spaces more attractive with greater civility. Facebook is eating the interactive lunch of online news sites stuck in the 20th Century of “no one knows you are a dog” online. That said, I don’t care if World of Warcraft uses aliases or real names (link to Guardian article that tipped off the BBC).

Update: Listen to my interview on the Guardian’s podcast starting at minute 14:00.

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