by MADIHA MIRZA
It has become a norm that whenever a news story hits the web, the comments section of online news articles, opinion columns and blogs are filled with anonymous angry rants and personal attacks.
John Hatcher, assistant professor of Journalism at UMD, wrote an article "Let's raise our standards on anonymous postings" and while reading it, I could not help but agree with every word because it echoed my opinion about anonymous comments in public forums.
Let me begin by saying that according to the Code of Ethics of The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the communicators should "be honest and accurate in all communications, investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of all the information released and reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented and avoid deceptive practices."
In print news, letters to the editor require the name, address and contact information of the writer. This information is used to verify the past record of the source's reliability and whether the source exhibits some bias or self interest that compromises the integrity of the information.
But with the advancement in technology and increase in popularity of online news, many news websites including the prestigious New York Times allow their readers to express their opinions in the comments section without having them register with names and addresses.
Since the online news websites allow comments without any verification, majority of the comments digress from the topic and often contain uncivil statements.
Allowing anonymous comments has both pros and cons. The apparent pros of anonymous postings include the promotion of an informal discussion while the cons are unjustified hatred and personal attacks expressed in the guise of anonymity.
If people are bold enough to express their negative opinions and inflammatory comments in public forums without any hesitation, they should be bold enough to back their opinions with their name and identification.
But it is also the responsibility of news websites to stop the competition and monitor their reader's comments and to establish a set of rules that would discourage anonymous comments.
Although it would be difficult to implement any solution and gain the results overnight, but doing something is better than doing nothing.
Let's start with a simple step, which, as in the words of Hatcher, is, "If you want to say it, put your name next to it. That's it."