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[ NNSquad ] Re: New Facebook Feature Empowers the Dangerous "CommentNazis"
RE: New Facebook Feature Empowers the Dangerous "CommentNazis"
Hi, Lauren. Nice piece on the Facebook "CommentNazis." Having not yet read it, I subitted, on March 4th, the following piece to the Vallejo Times-Herald newspaper (a Media News Group publication) in Vallejo, California, as a reader-opinion. I've received no reply.
Interestingly, I also posted a version of it as a comment on the FAQ page of the newspaper's web site where it explains its new have-to-have-a-Facebook-account comment posting policy, here:
Today I looked for it and it was gone, so I just posted it again... along with my asking at its beginning why it was removed, and if the newspaper could not withstand the critique. It'll be interesting to see if it's still there by the time that you, or those to whom you forward this, view that page. If it's not there, your/their demanding to know what happened to it would be interesting!
You're free to publish/distribute this email message however you want.
----- BEGIN PIECE SUBMITTED TO VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD on 3/4/2011 -----
I think I understand one huge reason why this newspaper has gone to the requirement of readers having to have a Facebook account in order to post comments beneath articles on its web site. It helps to eliminate the anonymous vitriol that we used to see in the Topix comments. By requiring that the commenter have a Facebook account, his/her words become part of said commenter's permanent Facebook record and glimpse into his/her very life for the entire world to see... that is, if they check the box which allows the comment to be posted to their Facebook wall. But even if they don't check that box, the Facebook requirement nevertheless makes them identifiable; and so their comment becomes part of this newspaper's permanent record, even after the article expires from being freely readable into this newspaper's archive (sadly, behind its paywall).
Such identifiability ultimately makes one think twice about what they write... the very definition of what the journalists and editors at this newspaper understand well to be what's called "prior restraint." Prior restraint is anathema to a free press.
As a civil libertarian (not to be confused with the Libertarian political party... I'm a lifelong progressive/liberal Democrat), I'm deeply troubled by how this new Facebook account requirement chills anonymous free speech.
Since the founding of this nation, the posting and handing-out of anonymous bills, flyers, notices, complaints, demands for redress, and other forms of First-Amendment-protected free speech have been at the very core this nation's greatness. Without the ability to nail anonymous calls to action onto trees, or the sides of buildings 300 years ago (and ever since), the American Revolution, itself, might not have been adequately organized, and so the United States, as we now know it, might not today exist.
I make this clarion call for anonymity even though I have been the victim of some of the most vile and horrible things having been written about me by anonymous cowards in various places around the Internet over the years (in largest measure as a response to my activism, and the pimps, human traffickers, and degree- and diploma-mill operators I've helped to put in jail). I also say/advocate it as a person who wrote an article in 1995 that was published in about a dozen newspapers and journals -- including on a large Time-Warner web site -- which called for there to be no anonymity on the Internet so that people would only post responsibly; or be accountable if they didn't.
However, I've since come to understand that I was wrong, back then. Anonymity is absolutely essential to the survival of a democratic republic like ours. This newspaper's relatively new requirement of its article commenters having to have a Facebook account flies in the face of anonymous free speech. It decidedly chills it. As a publication which so relies on the First Amendment for its very existence, I am surprised by this new policy.
I'm also bothered -- almost offended -- by the fact that commenters words disappear behind the paywall along with the article. Previously, with Topix, at least the comments survived for all to read, more or less forever. By eventually disappearing the comments behind the paywall along with the article, and then allowing them to be seen thereafter only by those who pay, this newspaper is financially benefitting from the words of its commenters (which help to enliven and enrich the story) without just compensation to them. Of course, I also believe that comporations who put their logos and slogans onto T-shirts should be sending checks to those who wear them, so perhaps I'm a stickler.
It pains me, in any case, to say that I'd almost rather see the vitriol here... and for it to survive to be freely read, even after the newspaper has converted the article into part of its revenue stream. At least then, I'd know that public comment speech, here, is still free.
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com
----- END PIECE SUBMITTED TO VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD on 3/4/2011 -----
Gregg L. DesElms
895 Jackson St., #319
Napa CA 94559-1321
FAX: (206) 984-1288