EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 28, 2013

Column: Starting this week, you'll have to stand behind your comments

We tried hard to make our web site’s comments feature a forum for the exchange of opinion and information.

We failed.

Sure, many commenters posted thoughtful remarks and adhered to the highest standards.

But far too many used the feature to spew vitriol, bigotry, obscenity, cheap shots and juvenile taunts, no matter how hard we worked to keep the conversation civil.

They didn’t take the hint when we deleted unacceptable comments or even when we blocked them by user name. They simply adopted new pseudonyms.

So starting Aug. 1, a little more than five years after we launched the feature, we will no longer accept anonymous comments. The same rule will apply to our weekly newspapers, The Andover Townsman, Derry News and Haverhill Gazette.

Those who wish to post on our websites via Disqus will be required to register under their true names. I’ll explain how at the bottom of this column.

Our sister papers, The Salem News and The Daily News of Newburyport, took this step a year ago.

I resisted this step at the time because I understand some people are unable to comment freely under their real names.

But it takes too much time to weed out the nasty remarks some people feel free to post under the cloak of anonymity. There are other venues those people can turn to.

I also happen to think the comments phenomenon may have run its course. Readers who want to communicate with us, and each other, now have other options they didn’t have five years ago.

We have almost 8,000 Twitter followers, for example, 5,000 on our text alert service and more than 4,000 on Facebook. Those numbers are growing. I’d guess we have fewer than 100 “regulars” commenting on Disqus, and that number appears to be shrinking.

I hope those anonymous commenters who have something to contribute will rejoin the discussion under their own names.

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