Online Commenting: A Right To Remain Anonymous?

USA Today › Tyler Wells Lynch

A revolution is at hand, and the consequences could fundamentally change the identity of the Internet — or, more precisely, your identity within it.

Websites and social networks are increasingly changing the structure of their comments sections in an attempt to breathe civility back into what many see as the Wild West of the Web. Some publications have moved to tie user names to public profiles, while others have adopted systems that promote relevant comments over recent ones. Still others have gotten rid of commenting altogether.

Last fall, Popular Science made the decision to kill its comment sections, citing a recent study that showed uncivil comments not only polarize readers but often change their interpretation of a given news story. The 141-year-old magazine went so far as to claim “comments can be bad for science.”

But the nature of the modern Web ensures that pretty much any article ever written can be shared and commented on — if not on a publication’s own site then on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

“The essence of commenting and sharing runs much deeper than what’s below a story,” says Matt McLernon, communications manager at YouTube. “That conversation, that two-way element is going to happen one way or another.”

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