Shall we trample the rose because of the thorns?
Original post made by Gina Channell-Allen on Jul 2, 2008
This is not the first case of an "online identity theft," nor will it be the last.
I'm sorry, but the theft of an online identity is not our fault. If a person doesn't have the guts to participate in a conversation without using someone else's "name," mandatory registration nor special software will fix this problem.
The benefit of registration on the PleasantonWeekly.com site, which you can do at the top of the home page, is that it's easier to post comments because you don't have to retype your name and find your neighborhood on the ever-growing list on the dropdown menu. And you can track topics so you know when a new comment is added.
But it defeats the purpose of an open forum to make everyone register in order to post. Not only does it take away the anonymity some find protective, it doesn't guarantee immunity from "identity theft." A contributor can register on our site under any online name they want. I found the same is true with the New York Times site. The difference is that the New York Times doesn't immediately post to the site; they have editors who ferret through the comments before they go online, meaning not all posts are seen.
As the song goes, every rose has its thorns.
The purpose of Town Square is to have a community forum where people are not afraid to ask tough questions and bring things to community members and leaders without fear of reprisal. Those are a few petals of the rose; trolling, flaming and, in this case, identity theft, are a few of the thorns.
This theft issue is becoming all too frequent. However, I would like to believe that contributors would prefer to not have someone sifting through their comments deciding which ones to post and which to remove.
Town Square contributor Frank, who has been an identity theft victim, has devised a unique way of protecting his identity. In a recent forum he writes, "I am the real frank of Pleasanton Heights. To confirm go to (Web Link) and there you will see a copy of this post. This IP address is mine. Any other IP address is a counterfeit."
Tell me, would you rather us control who and what gets online? Or would you rather deal with the thorns as they come?
Gina Channell-Allen, a 20-year journalism veteran, is the president of the East Bay division of Embarcadero Publishing Company, president of the Pleasanton Weekly and publisher of the Danville Weekly. Send questions to email@example.com.
on Jul 2, 2008 at 11:44 am
LOL! Watch for it, Gina.
on Jul 2, 2008 at 11:59 am
Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.
Watch for the comments on whether folks want us to control who and what gets posted? I really want feedback. (Which is why I posted this today because the column won't print again this week.... shortage of space.)
We really struggle with this. Being able to post anonymously is a privilege, but some folks abuse it. But what would we lose if we revoke that privilege because a few people aren't mature enough to handle it? (I'm having flashbacks of elementary school.) Would we have had the interaction we had with the teen suicides? Would we have found out about the ICE raid not long ago?
Please, tell me.
on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:40 pm
You are unnecessarily interlinking two separate issues: registering particular identities, and controlling who and what gets printed. You are therefore obfuscating the fundamental issue about identity counterfeiting.
Registering particular online identities DOES NOT destroy the anonymity of users, it simply forces users to have unique online monikers. You, the registrar, will have the ability to associate a online moniker with a password that you would require the person to input to register, but that password information would keep confidential as part of your policy and your software. Your blog software would only allow posts that were authenticated with user moniker and correct password. An extra step for the posters when they click SUBMIT, but this has nothing to do with you screening the posts. It's all done in the software!
Even now your server logs already associate posts with IP addresses, so registering an online moniker is not substantively changing the degree of anonymity that is already present.
How does this link with editing posts? So, when you print:
"This theft issue is becoming all too frequent. However, I would like to believe that contributors would prefer to not have someone sifting through their comments deciding which ones to post and which to remove."
you are terribly misleading the reader! It is my opinion that you simply are not understanding the technical issue and its various solutions. (I'll post this to my web page later....)