The leader column from this week's issue of The Drum tackles the ongoing anonymous comments debate. Changes are afoot...
Well, that is what some would have you believe about those who use the Anonymous button on The Drum’s website.
Introduced a year ago it has proved popular and controversial in equal measure. In fact around 1,800 people have left 11,000 comments – 64% of which are anonymous – since comments were first accepted.
Most people hide their identity for legitimate reasons; wanting to offer insights and opinions without prejudicing future new business or employment opportunities.
However, others abuse the function by using it to settle scores.
The issue has come to a head recently. As the overall number of comments on the site reaches record levels, the number of comments which breach our terms and conditions has also risen.
Two agency MDs, Tony Stanton and Julian Kynaston, were prompted to speak out about the issue recently in their Drum Blogs. Kynaston went as far as calling his press release team out on strike as far as The Drum is concerned; which, depending on your point of view, might be deemed more of a promise than a threat.
But there is no doubt the men have the moral authority to speak out. Neither use the anonymous button themselves.
This is in contrast to one individual who contacted us on the back of Kynaston’s stance. He seemed very surprised we knew that he regularly used the anonymous option himself (see Last Word).
What he did not realise is that, although the anonymous button means we cannot – under the terms of our own journalistic code, and the Data Protection Act – release the identity of commentators to a third party without their permission, The Drum, if needs must, can identify them. This is essential in order to enforce our own Terms and Conditions.
A favourite form of abusing the anonymous button is to use it to add multiple comments to a story to create the impression it is more controversial than it is in reality. Last week for example, one individual commented on a single story 10 times. In fact, he even started taking issues with his own comments to create the impression he was 10 different people.
So with this in mind The Drum is to make some changes to its website very soon. We are going to be more stringent in enforcing our terms and conditions and those wanting to participate should read them carefully. We will also be replacing the anonymous button with the option for commentators to use a pseudonym.
Hopefully this will ensure sanity prevails in our online comments, and those wanting to talk to themselves go elsewhere.