Maybe we’re just in a wintry mood, with the furnace burning through the heating budget way earlier in the season than expected.
Or maybe it’s lingering remnants of the frustration that led us to impose radio silence on our comments forum last week.
But none of the comments posted between last Monday and late Thursday jumped out at us as particularly noteworthy. So we’re not spotlighting any this week.
Still, there’s some news about comments. As many readers know, redbankgreen has temporarily shut down its commenting function. For those who missed the announcement, go here.
Commenting will be back, though.
We’re in the process of installing and beta-testing a replacement system, one that would require readers to have a Facebook registration in order to comment.
It’s not a perfect solution to the problems that gave rise to it. Some readers don’t like being steered to sign up for a social media site they otherwise have no interest in just to post an occasional comment. Others object to the way Facebook handles privacy issues. Some argue in favor of maintaining anonymity, saying that if not for the marriage of concealed identities and the press, America would not have had the Federalist Papers, and that whistleblowing on wrongdoers will be curtailed. All valid concerns.
But Facebook Connect will lighten our moderation load, which had become too big a distraction for us to continue doing business as usual. Far more importantly, it nudges our commentariat in the direction of accountability.
We want this site to reflect the values that we believe we share with a majority of our readers, and accountability is among them. We’ve heard the argument that not all anonymous commenters are cowardly, and we certainly agree; most of the comments posted on this site are anonymous or pseudonymous, and don’t cross the line into the realm of abuse. Frequently they’re informative and amusing.
But libel, innuendo and gratuitous attacks on individuals and organizations featured in stories on this site have been on a rapid rise, and they’re not coming from readers who openly identify themselves. Some of the people who post those comments have privately told us they do so because they feel encouraged by the presence of similar comments.
We hope that Facebook Connect it will dramatically cut down on the abuse and allow for the return of the “town square for an unsquare town” that redbankgreen was created to provide.
As in the past, anyone can approach redbankgreen with tips or ask us to publish an article that requires a source’s identity be protected. We give all such requests due consideration. That will not change. To those who want to get the word out without a media filter, keep in mind that there are millions of square miles of free Internet acreage out there just waiting for the next blog to set up an outpost in.
If you’d like to weigh in on any aspect of this issue while our new system is being installed, please visit the redbankgreen.com page on Facebook. You must be a Facebook user, of course, and have to click the “Like” button at the top of the page before you can comment.
Meantime, here’s a question we’re wrestling with: what do we do with the 33,646 comments in our archive? Keep them or trash them? Our bias is to start fresh, on the belief that every nasty, mean and untrue comment ever posted will have the half-life of radioactive ore for those they were aimed at, while the friendlier and neutral ones are soon forgotten.
We’d love to hear from you, if you’re willing to stand behind your words.