Tuesday, June 4, 2013

We are changing how readers comment on our site


You wouldn't go to a public forum wearing a mask and expect to be invited to speak.

And yet websites commonly allow users to speak their minds anonymously in virtual forums, as if that should be the new standard for the Internet.

No doubt it will continue to be the standard for many sites. But our own experience tells us that anonymity rarely produces the kind of dialogue our users want.

In fact, the mud-wrestling that often unfolds in anonymous comments that follow our stories on CharlotteObserver.com is a big turn-off for many people. And despite our best efforts to maintain a civil atmosphere, a small but determined number of users continue to post comments laced with hate, vicious attacks and vulgarities. We delete as many as 300 comments a day that violate our guidelines.

So we are recalling the masks. Beginning at noon Wednesday, our stories will only feature the comments of people who are willing to be recognized.

Specifically, commenters will log in using a Facebook account. Most people on Facebook use their real names. Even those who don’t are generally recognizable to their Facebook “friends” and, therefore, more accountable for what they say.

You won’t need a Facebook account to read the comments, only to post one. Many readers already have an account. For those who don’t, we’ll show you how to get one.

We’ve prepared a Q&A for that and other questions that we anticipate you will have with this change. You can also message me with questions on Facebook, in email, on Twitter or by phone (details below).

We know that a few users will yet find a way to post anonymously through Facebook. We will continue to monitor comments for violators of our guidelines, explained at the beginning of each comment section, and ban them from our site.

We also have an option for anonymous users who often assist us through the comments with news tips or additional context about a story. Look for a link at the top of each comment section that allows a user to send the newsroom a message that will remain out of public view.

With these changes, we expect fewer comments on our stories. This has been the experience of other newspaper websites that already switched to Facebook registration, including The Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and USAToday.

But their experience also suggests this will result in more relevant and substantial comments. We hope it will also encourage the return of many reasonable commenters who previously left, rather than be bullied or intimidated. We want to provide our users a safe place for community conversations and respectful debate.

We also still welcome the tasteful comedians out there. Just remember that if the joke falls flat, someone will know where to aim the tomatoes.

Reach Rick Thames at rthames@charlotteobserver.com, twitter.com/rthames and www.facebook.com/rthames.obs. Phone: 704-358-5001.

172 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kudos.

But its none too difficult to create a false email, Facebook account and therefore continue to make annoying posts.

I for one specifically avoid reading because inevitably you scroll to the comments and its always the same screen names you see.

I challenge those habitual posters to comment with their real names, but doubt they will.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading the comments, both good and bad. Its entertaining and many times the comments are better than the stories and its part of what makes coming here great. Its sad to see you're taking this away.

Shelly said...

My only issue is i dont wsnt a lot of strangers stalking my fb account. I have no problem giving my name.

Anonymous said...

Agree that the comments are often better than the stories themselves. I'm not getting Facebook just to comment. Another reason not to bother subscribing.

John said...

So another bastion of defending free speech instead takes steps to muzzle it. If I don't choose to take part in the privacy violation of Facebook, I'm not entitled to comment? Free speech is now officially dead and the Observer should go out of business with it!

Anonymous said...

Of course the dang liberals at this rag want to take away our rites to FREE FREAKIN SPEACH!

John said...

So... how much is the kickback you are getting from facebook?

D Merritt said...

A media source restricting freedom of speech. Classic.
Words have never hurt a soul. It only points to the level of the person making the comment. As in everything in life, if you don't like it don't read it.

Mr Thames, I respect you have a job to do and a service to provide, but this is wrong. I prefer the anonymity of the comments as they are. Posting a real name is dangerous in these times. It takes a matter of seconds to locate just about anybody complete with pictures and directions.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading the anonymous comments, and your open commenting is a big reason I have visited your site frequently over the past several years. Anonymous comments give people an oportunity to speak their mind without fear of retribution. The idea of Facebook commenting being legitimate is laughable. I would estimate that a good percentage of Facebook profiles used to comment on news sites are phony.

Expect to see your page visits decline, as your site will become less interesting and engaging.

Redlight said...


My opinion------not a good move. It will have the effect of muzzling a lot of intelligent commenters.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @7:02....but yet you sign your name ANONYMOUS! Hilarious!YOU are the biggest hypocrite in these forums!

Lizzy B said...

What are high schools in this country teaching about "freedom of speech" that leaves so many people thinking it protects what their right to troll internet sites?

Anonymous said...

There's a reason I don't use Farcebook. I hate it. It is nothing more than a data-mining operation and I want no part of it.

I will not begin using Farcebook just to comment here. Too bad. I enjoyed commenting but I have no intention of falling prey to the ridiculous Farcebook fad.

DanStat said...

The Observer continues to show a severe lack of understanding of social media and young readers. The paywall was the first misstep. The second is using a single social network to regulate anonymity of user comments. Most people who would actually intelligently engage aren't using Facebook. Twitter, among others, are much more appropriate networks. It's a shame news media doesn't really get how younger readers engage with content. Moves like this turn the media into a caricature of themselves. Dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

About time!! I wondered why it took so long for you guys to switch to facebook comments! Other newspapers even in this state have been doing this since last year. This will definitely eliminate the constant racial attacks and just plain dumb comments to every other article that so many common posters do on Charlotte Observer! KUDOS!!!

Anonymous said...

Just when we begin to think the Charlotte Observer's management can't get any more obtuse.

Comments to your news must now have to contribute, however small an increment it may be, to Mark Zuckerburg's billion dollar ponzi scheme? RIP C.O. This may end up being the final nail in your coffin.

Is there an issue / problem with the lack of civility in public forum comments? Certainly. Does that simply mean selling out to Facebook without exploring a single other alternative? The answer to that question is self-explanatory.

This is another reason why no one will every compare the Observer with newspapers like the Washington Post, NY Times, or others of the premier news sources in our nation...

Such short-sightedness... Rick, we really did expect more of you than something like this.

Anonymous said...

Finally!!! It will be fantastic to see the tough guy Internet muscles go away. Always thought the comments were a joke since guys talking all the smack could hide behind their posts. My guess is people will be much more reserved, but at least accountable for what they say. Habitual posters & instigators like "John" will finally have to show who they really are. And yes John, it's still free speech as fb is free. You & the rest of the opinionated posers just don't like the fact you can't hide anymore! Welcome to 2013!

Zon said...

In the interests of blocking the few people that post hate, the Observer is alienating the majority that want to speak their minds without the anxiety that comes with public comments. Employers routinely scan Facebook for any reason to exclude or terminate. Anonymity allows people to express themselves freely. Zon will be gone.

Anonymous said...

I say screw freedom of speech if all you whiners want it for is to spew hate and vicious attacks!!!!!
Way to go Observer!!!

Anonymous said...

A problem with this is that many people who do post things which are perfectly appropriate to say in public, might not because they don't wish to be "out of the closet" so to speak. I think also find that the Observer is highly biased politically and socially and they do often remove comments they do not agree with, even when those comments are appropriate to say in public.

Anonymous said...

You maroons complaining about 'free speech' still don't realize that it has nothing to do with a private website.

I refuse to use Facebook.

I believe you get a better feel of people's opinions when anonymity is allowed.

If you just want sugar and spice, don't bother having a comment section.

Anonymous said...

With all the money you'll save not having to moderate the comments as much, can you at least hire someone to proofread the stories and especially the headlines? The mistakes and typos and incomplete writing in The Observer are mind boggling. Seriously, Mr. Thames, please respond to my comment. And I tried to use Facebook to post this but it's not a choice on this page, so I am anonymous once again. -- Jayne

Anonymous said...

If you spent any time reading the comments section it was obvious people typed things to incite a reaction from someone. Far too often the comments made added nothing to the topic of conversation.

This isnt about freedom of speech being taken away as comments are not being completely withdrawn.

Civility wins.

Zon said...

Bad idea. Those people posting multiple comments also visit the same story several times, and have the advertisements on the page displayed several times. Anonymity allows open expression without the fear of retribution, comments are going to get a lot more boring and page visits will decline. Not a very smart business decision.

Rick Thames said...

Several of you have asked if Facebook is paying us to make this change. It is not. Nor are we paying Facebook. Scores of web sites now use Facebook as a means of registration simply because it is among the best current alternatives to anonymous commenting.
Also, I have to disagree with comments that this suppresses free speech. People are still free to comment. They simply must believe enough in what they are saying to be willing to attach their name to it.

Anonymous said...

Too funny...... Annonymous said......

apoint2bemade said...

This is a good move on the part of the Observer. Some of the comments that post in the Observer are among the most vitriolic I have seen anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who are public employees will no longer be able to freely comment for fear of retribution. We will no longer be able to tell the truth about some things that are going on at taxpayer expense. You have limited that outlet with this move. Your comment section will become rather boring and useless. Too bad. Stupid move,really, when your site depends on traffic.

Anonymous said...

At public forum I can see who's there and choose to speak or not accordingly. I also could speak without necessarily giving my full name, what college I went to, what town I live in and where I work. No, forcing people to use their real names and a photo is more like making people be a TV reporter in order to comment. I'm a single woman with an unusual name living alone and there's no way I would post online anywhere using my real name.

D Merritt said...

And by signing their name to it they open themselves to any sort of twisted individual who would have easy access to the poster. I wonder how long it will be before there is a serious crime associated with this practice.

I'm out. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Facebook jumped the shark when everyone's grandma started getting an account.

I find it hard to believe that page views and revenues will increase with this new system. But we all know the CO and McClatchy are sycophants for the Left and making a profit may not be their true motive here. Limiting opposing views may be. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

Why would I choose together a Facebook account just to comment? It's not a problem with using my name....I simply have no interest in establishing a Facebook account. Sorry, CO....I won't see you later.

Anonymous said...

I will no longer comment on any story that requires me to use my Facebook page. My Facebook page is my private communication between my friends and family, not for the general public to view.
Observer, you made a big mistake by taking my right away to comment on an article anonymously.
I have never posted nasty put downs. I have posted pro gay right views, pro abortion views and pro Obama views, ETC ETC!

Anonymous said...

There is a reason why employee surveys and suggestion boxes are anonymous. So, hopefully you can get honest feedback and comments.

I provide what I consider honest and helpful feedback on my employee surveys, but I would never trust anyone to not retaliate somewhere down the line if they knew who was making it. You just never know what may cause someone to be picked for a round of layoffs, or a missed job opportunity. I prefer many of my public comments to remain anonymous for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to side against the Observer on this way.
The editor states that you don't comment in public wearing a mas.

Well, you also don't comment in public giving everyone listening access to your Facebook, nor do you obtain the names of everyone listening, PLUS the potential risk of people having access to private information.

Good idea in principal, bad choice of how to resolve.

Willy Loman said...

I've always used my name. But it takes one second after riding Facebook to find out who you are, where you live, where you work, what you do, who you hang with....etc. Somebody (psycho with a fake Facebook account?) takes issue with something you write, starts arguing in the comment section, and the next thing you know he's at your door...or your office...or your kid's school? You guys are really making people gamble just to comment. Have fun!! and talk to ya soon.

Anonymous said...

Ah - one more reason to not visit co site. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Thames,
I actually agree with the premise of your decision but also realize the danger of Facebook as portrayed in the actions and behavior of some of my students on social media. At this point there are more News and Observer articles, stringers, and puff pieces in the Observer than ever. The austerity print news model, not the anonymous commentary will ultimately decide whether The Observer follows the The Charlotte News to greener pastures

Mark said...

Facebook is the worst social media in existence. Everything you do requires a Facebook account and all they want is your information. I try my best to keep my info off of Facebook. And the above quotes is exactly right , employers scan Facebook and this could just cost you your job. I see comments becoming watered down and irrelevant. Liberal thinking. Someone might not like a comment so everyone pays the price.

Shame on CO. Freedom of speech is no more.

Anonymous said...

The Observer strikes another blow for big brother..how much are they paying you for your, um, our information. The media voices gets smaller and smaller every day, and this is just another capitulation.

Pretty soon, Google Amazon, Apple and Facebook will be the four corporations that run America.

Brad Byrd said...

Long overdue!

George Hanson said...

They'll reverse course when traffic falls off a cliff and ad revenue does the same.

They are hurting already, can't afford to lose the revenue.


Rick Thames said...

To the public employee who uses comments to point out problems, we've left you an option for safely relaying news tips to the Observer out of public view. Click on the link found at the beginning of each string of comments. That will get your tip to the newsroom. Emails and phone calls are already more common means of communicating news tips than comments on the site.

Anonymous said...

Glad the Observer finally came to its senses. Honestly, I avoid forwarding articles from the CO to friends because of a majority of the idiotic posts in the comments section. It's actually rather embarrassing that you have a certain group of individuals that ruin it for everyone else because they spend their entire day berating other posters or somebody in a story. Wish I had that much free time on my hands. The FB feature won't entirely solve the problem, but it should weed out some of the bad apples that act like 12 year olds.

Anonymous said...

Rick, you are interested in learning more about each reader that chooses to comment. Would it be too much to ask for you to disclose more about the reporters who report the news? I would like to know how reporters vote, what their bias's are, etc. Let's pull back the curtain on both sides.

Rick Thames said...

Let me stress that people who log into CharlotteObserver.com through Facebook are not giving up any more privacy than they already have by creating a Facebook page. Your Facebook page continues to be as secure as you choose to make it. Commenting using your Facebook identity does not change that.

Ghoul said...

Rick Thames says, and I quote," People are still free to comment. "


Well except right here, where Rick picks and chooses the comments that do not challenge him.

McLeroth said...

In that case, a final story suggestion for the Observer from this "anon."

How about a story about texting and sending/receiving email during meetings by Council members and Commissioners?

First, the rudeness factor.
Second, the legal questions.
Third, the question of propriety.

Also, there seems to be a lot of backroom and closed-session dealing in our public bodies lately. Serial conversations and intermediaries to gather a quorum, that sort of thing.

Open-meetings violations? Always a good topic for the local paper.

This is the sort of thing many users can't say using a FB account, because FB posts are forever and are associated with one's own identity.

So long!

Anonymous said...

I would guess this move is being required by DHS so they can ID dissenters and get them into the right data base as domestic terrorists.

It's ridiculous to publicly speak on political issues these days because government, corporate and personal retribution is a very real possibility.

To be frank, Observer News sites are very lame and weak. They cannot even be called left or right because they carry so little high profile content of any kind.

Now they choose corporate mediocrity form commentary.

How could you possibly consider charging real money for this site, which can't even be used to wrap fish?

Rick Thames said...

Logging into our web site using Facebook can not change your privacy settings on Facebook. Only you can do that. So information that you only wish to share with your friends is no more exposed by logging in this way.

Anonymous said...

The security of Facebook is in rather low repute.

Anonymous said...

I learned a valuable lesson around 1993 which was to never post anything about yourself online.

I have no Facebook, My Space, Link-in, personal webpage or any other information that is posted publicly on the Internet and very little posted privately.

If the Observer believes you can control your privacy through Facebook, you are sadly mistaken.

I give the Facebook sign in about 6 months and it will end.

Anonymous said...

Former County Administrator tried to get Bank of America to put heat on a an employee who was critical in public comments. He continued to be the public administrator. Public comments traced back to anybody can be used to fire or intimidate them. Some folks don't mind using their name. Others will keep their opinions to themselves. The comments section has been a totally unfettered forum. While you may not like some of the comments, intelligent people can sift through these to get to the worthwhile comments. The proposed change will eliminate a significant amount of the interest in stories online.

Anonymous said...

Rick,
Come on now. While I understand your concerns and sensibility you as a journalist should be well aware of the numerous writers and authors that have used pseudonyms in order to protect their identity. Have you ever heard of the Federalist Papers that swayed public opinion enough that our present Constitution was ratified? Do you know who used the name Publius when they (hint hint) wrote these papers. Are you saying that they were so ashamed of their "vitriolic hate" that they used this common Roman name? Chances are a poster might have stated some opinion or even "blew the whistle" on some entity that the Observer either refuses to adequately investigate in depth or is too "cowed" to perform real investigative journalism. Given the construct of your argument within the context of American history, you have abrogated your function as being a community soundboard no matter how politically "incorrect" you believe some posters are. There was a time in American history where the mention of abolition was considered offensive and abolitionist printers such as Elijah Lovejoy were killed because their viewpoints contradicted the "politically correct" and majority held belief by Whites even in the North. You sir and the Observer are cowards. Quit using the excuse of a few controversial posters for your paper's capitulation to the powers that be.

Mark said...

Obama will be here tomorrow. Silence the Right.

Anonymous said...

It's been fun and I appreciate the opportunity you gave us over the years to state our views, but no way am I putting my name out there, for the very reasons you state for making this switch Rick. The vitriol expressed by those few. Now while those people may not comment anymore, that doesn't mean they cease to exist. And Rick, if you post with your FB account your privacy IS compromised. Adios!F0D

Anonymous said...

Poor decision for everyone involved, for the CO who WILL lose traffic because of this decision, and for readers, who will lose a forum for discussion that adds to a sense of community in Charlotte. You shouldn't throw away the whole batch of apples because of a few bad ones.

Rick Thames said...

Secret societies have no place in public forums. And the brave in those settings, it seems to me, are those who are willing to put their names to what they say. I know that can't work for everyone in every situation. For those who need to alert the public and can not afford to do it publicly, we are here to listen privately. Thousands of people bring their concerns to us in this way and they find they can trust us to help them. We have been, and will continue to be, the court of last resort.

Anonymous said...

Rick's last comment nearly made me hurl.

Seriously?

So when will you become that brave McClatchy soldier and go after Obama, Holder, the IRS et al in the current administration's scandals, because the rest of your lame stream press sure as heII isn't.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the Observer taking this step and many other news sites, including USA Today, have done the same it will shut out a lot of people, like me, that comment and don't care to ever use Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I'm on social media like twitter and Linkedin but will NEVER set up a Facebook account. Nothing against the people that started the company since, as an IT professional for over 30 years, I am all for technology and the free market. Also, I really don't care about all the privacy zealots who get so upset with Facebook. My issue is that it just seems like something that women and kids flock to and I have ABSOLUTELY no interest in it. My wife and teenaged daughter are on it but whenever I hear of a man on Facebook I immediately think there is something a little odd about him. Just not something most men would care about and I'm sure not going to set up an account just to comment. Oh well, if I posted my name many would know me and I've been told many times that my comments added to stories but you won't see them any more - bye all!!!

Anonymous said...

This is all about control. The Observer has banned so many just or their opposing viewpoint. Many just made a new profile and came back, but it will be more difficult with FB. I suggest the editors just post their drivel in the comments since that is the only opinion they want to see.

Anonymous said...

To tag on my last comment about Rick becoming the McClatchy soldier and going after scandals in the administration, I forgot to mention the Sebilius personal email accounts doing public business issue.

I had the same conversation several months ago with a local elected official about certain politicians doing government business using alias or personal email accounts so they wouldn't be subject to FOI requests.

I truly believe the Observer has no clue what transpires under the table...

Anonymous said...

Really sad to hear that comments can only be made through Facebook. Would have been like forcing comments through MySpace a few years ago. Outdated and not very relevant.

The Freeholder said...

Based on what I've seen in other places, your comments are going to dwindle to about zero. Of course, if that's what you're really trying for, then I guess it's a good thing, eh?

Many of us have a reason for hiding behind a nom de plume. For example, I work in an environment where my political views would be, shall we say, unwelcome. Considering that I would like to remain employed, I am not free to speak my mind under my real name. Unfortunate, but true.

Have fun, Observer staff, while you still can. It won't be long before you join us out here in the real world.

Anonymous said...

My goal of seeing Harry Jones dismissed for his role in the botched revaluation has been accomplished , whether or not my many comments in the Observer forums had anything to do with it. (I did find it interesting that the firm hired to evaluate the county's customer service relative to the Reval cited the discussion forums as providing more incite into taxpayers' sentiments than did news stories.) However, when one considers Harry Jones attempted retribution against the BofA employee who dared to criticize him in an email and the recent vitriol spewed against Pat Cotham and Vilma Leake by certain commissioners, a former chair of the county commission and even an ex governor, I think it highly likely one could suffer unpleasant consequences from criticizing certain local pols. At any rate, it is a chance I'm afraid to take. So long, CO, it's been good to know you.


George Hanson said...

Well said Rick.

Rick, you should strike the term "public forum" from your lexicon because that no longer exists on your site.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech does not entail freedom of accountability for said speech. If people think it's important enough to say from behind the shield of anonymity, they should not be afraid to say it with their name attached to it. If they are, then that's their problem, not the Observer's.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with "bravery" Rick. This has to do with personal safety. And these comments sections have never had anything to do with "alerting" you to a story. They have to do with expressing ones opinion without fear of retribution from those who would, or have the potential to do harm. So enough of this justification path you've suddenly set yourself on in your last few comments. At least be honest with us, if not yourself.

Anonymous Coward said...

If I were your IT director, I would tell you to skip FB--its privacy settings are deliberately hard to understand and find on the site, and the whole design reeks of "lack of security."

A better system is to preserve anonymity (if desired) but to RANK users based on how many votes they get, and improve the visibility of their posts based on their OVERALL RANK.

This has been done on sites like slashdot.org for many years, to good effect. The useful posters are ranked up, the useless ones, down.

Debi Adam said...

Great idea that will filter the vitriol. Just curious why you only picked Facebook as opposed to going with OpenID that opens it up to google/yahoo and a few others. I read your stories but dislike the troll factor. Here's hoping you will spend less time moderating.

Anonymous said...

Because 0bama'a coming and we only want good things said about him?

Jim said...

Great. You are enabling and abetting Facebook's notorious cross-site tracking. Thanks.

Pete Miller said...

I have always commented with my real name and picture on Observer articles, and people have often mocked me because I am a young adult, and even made comments about me being a skinny guy...on Observer articles that I have simply expressed my rational opinion on. Just today, someone attacked my views on an article about Eastland Mall because of my age (I'm 25). Always, these people are anonymous with usernames. I hope that by making everyone use their real names, this place will turn into a civil forum for discussion and we can all talk to each other face-to-face. I commend you guys for making this decision. Sometimes I have felt like I am literally the only person who chooses to login with my Facebook account (and recently they actually took that option away with Disqus, and FORCED you to use a username)

Anonymous said...

Doesn't really matter. If the CO doesn't like the comments they are getting on a story or if the comments are in opposition to their story...they're going to disable the comment section anyway.

Anonymous said...

Rick,

Most normal people understand why the CO is moving in this direction. There's no need to argue with these lunatics who think their 1st Amendment rights are being violated.

It's also comical to think that the CO and Facebook have some back room deal going on.

Adolf said...

Just as I do not discuss religion or politics at work, I won't discuss my newspaper article views with my Facebook friends.

This forces me to create a special Facebook account so I can continue to speak my mind without revealing my personal views to my friends!

It is appalling that someone at the newspaper thinks that whatever I have to say about a story should be published to all my friends. I need a "public" persona, and a "private" persona. I am not going to mix them. Sorry, Charlie!

Anonymous said...

Rick, the people who post the most vile and offensive things will just create bogus Facebook accounts to keep posting vile and offensive things.

In our era, employers scan the internet to search for anything a prospective employee might have said or done online. That has a chilling effect on the good and the bad.

So I won't be participating. I have no interest in being turned down for a job because of my political views. I have no interest in being stalked, harassed and even threatened because someone identified my opinion through my (bare bones) Facebook account.

Good night and good luck.

Anonymous said...

I am an old NASCAR fan and will not read any more of your articles or reporters about NASCAR. I do not know anything about Facebook and will not learn at my age. It is a miracle I learned about how to do this. I am far too old and wise to put my name out for the world to read. You may end up like NASCAR has by forgetting their old fans. Just look in the stands at the next race.

Anonymous said...

I promise not to sign up on facebook as Rick Thames. Really, those will not be me. Not even as any of the Observer greats forced into retirement early!

Anonymous said...

Gonna miss all those generic talking points and bat crap crazy posters... Those tin foil hat wearing people can find another site to troll. That's all folks!

Anonymous said...

I already do comment using my real name and have done so for a long time.
I consider those who are not willing to use their real names cowards who don't have the fortitude to stand behind their words.
If you are such a supporter of the first amendment, than you should have no problem using your real name.
- Don Benfield

Anonymous said...

Rick in reference to 10:26
"Secret Societies?" What secret society are you referring to? The Klan? The NOI? Are you telling us that a "secret society" is trying to manipulate the CO comment boards? Wow! I read some pretty inane comments and those that make no sense to me but as far as convincing me that there is a concerted effort to pollute the "morality" of Charlotte by a secret society is truly bizarre indeed worthy of the most extreme posters under the current system. As far as the CO being the "court of last resort" please tell us of a story that the CO broke this way. You are not the Washington Post or the New York Times. In fact I wrote a critique of a major Charlotte area institution that the CO never even addressed but an out of state newspaper with a much higher circulation and prestige used with similar examples from other cities for a story in their paper. The CO will do whatever they want but please don't pretend to do it under the guise of protecting freedom and democracy by utilizing the scare tactics of the long defunct Anti-Masonic Party.

Anonymous said...

Pathetic and weak decision. Just one more reason to leave the site and never come back.

Get your heads out of the sand, Charlotte Observer.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'll miss all the snarky comments from Fred the Janitor. He will be missed.

Carlotta said...

Why don't you include google (as this blog does,) twitter, etc. in addition to Facebook.

Overall, I support the change and will be happy to see civil discourse. I dom't see any restriction of free speech here. You can still say whatever you want, you just have to come out of the shadows.

Carl R, Concord NC said...

A number of posters here have complained that this change in some way diminishes their 'free speech' because they are no longer anonymous and unable to speak without fear of retribution.

I would question what they have to fear in terms of retribution. If you are posting hate and trying to bully or intimidate others, yes then you can no longer hide behind an anonymous post. Your words and actions are going to be revealed for others to see.

Perhaps this is a small step toward civil speech and behavior that has disappeared from society over the past 30 or 40 years.

The idea that 'free speech' entitles someone to anonymously issue lies, hate and vicious attacks on others is destructive to civil discourse and the exchange of ideas.

If you have a comment, or if you have a believe in something, then be willing to publicly defend such behavior.

If you have a point to make or a tip to contribute to a particular story and truly need to provide that information anonymously, there are ways to engage in those communications.

Anonymous said...

Occasionally I would click on one of the ubiquitous commentor's profile in Disqus. These amateur editors post thousands of comments. Seemed to me that the same people showed up every day to bully each other. The comment section was unreadable. I welcome the change.

Anonymous said...

If you are conservative or libertarian, making a public comment via Facebook can invite unwanted attention these days. Better make sure you have nothing going on in your life that you don't want made public. The Observer is allied with the same groups that want to destroy you, make no mistake about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness, my boss will be so happy. She says I spend why to much time on your site anyway.

Curmudgeon said...

Every week there is some new privacy issue concerning Facebook and I for one refuse to become a part of that. I find it very sad that I have to become a member of some commercial enterprise just to comment on CO stories.
I note a lot of websites allow Google sign-in's and that seems to satisfy those news outlets.
In any case, you stifled my voice in this community and my lost my subscription besides.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those who've posted and mentioned that they have security concerns with Facebook. I do not believe that in order to comment, one must reveal their identity to the entire world. Would you also like me to post my Social Security Number? Oh wait, the State of South Carolina already took care of that for those of us who are fortunate enough to have filed taxes in the state! This is a very ill-conceived idea and whoever came up with it obviously didn't think through all of the pros and cons. I'll most definitely no longer be posting....

Anonymous said...

Yes, there will be a decrease in comments - and the public forum will be squashed. The anonymity offered is central to discussing the kinds of local issues that have helped our community in the past few years.

It's a shame the Observer chooses the this route. I will seriously think of this when it comes time to renew my digital access.

Anonymous said...

Not a problem, but I won't attach my FB account to any posting. If there have been inappropriate comments, the simple solution would be to block that person. My screen name is attached to an email address, so I have not been anonymous. The CO needs to do what the CO needs to do and I save time imparting my wisdom on stories and editorials. Thank you. paulosfm

Anonymous said...

To the guy above mentioning Harry Jones.........dude bye! You're one of the main reasons I'm glad comments are switching to Facebook. Oh and to the clown that mentioned something about facebook being something that "men" don't do just his wife and daughter, HEH truly delusional and happy to see you'll be gone too!! Just a backward mentality of folks that use to comment all the time that's now going to change!! Change it up CO, change it up!!!!! (-;

William Smith said...

This is the best news I've read in a while. Thank you CO for presenting news as news instead of 100% opinion as most news networks have done. Forcing identity doesn't encroach on anyone's free speech.

Bob Walters said...

Sounds like you don't like what folks are saying so you are trying to change that.

Bob Walters said...

Sounds like you don't like what you are hearing so you are tying to change it. That is a typical liberal action.

April said...

I'm with Debi - why Facebook? More and more sites are requiring Facebook for access, even contests/sweepstakes. Do we really need to force everyone to have a social media account? Couldn't you control the abusive comments by denying access to the repeat offenders with their Observer account?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the basic premise, Rick, and I am probably one of the ex-subscribers you are targeting. I rarely read the comments section anymore because I can usually guess the two sides the "arguments" will take (and what articles will have comments shut down).

However, I refuse to use Facebook, so this change does not benefit me in any way.

Anonymous said...

I like the the idea of moving this over to FB and making people more accountable. Won't solve all the problems, but we all know that people who make the vilest comments are often the biggest cowards. People who are having an issue with this because of "freedom of speech"- you have no idea what freedom of speech is or means. I'm one of many turned off by politcal stupidity and people who can't have a rationale convesation without cursing, name calling, or basic immaturity. This isn't what "freedom of speech" is all about. It wasn't meant to throw everything into a toilet bowl- it was to recognize diversity in opinions- not being a forum to insult and spew garbage.

Anonymous said...

While I understand what you are trying to do, I don't like the idea that you are using Facebook as the mechanism. Also, there is some value in posting anonymously. Some people may feel strongly about a matter, but perhaps don't want to display their politics in front of family, friends, customers, etc.

GrumpyGeezer said...

Rick are you also going the make "The Buzz" readers comments public? If you don't you will come across as biased.

Joe Z said...

Are you "in bed" with Facebook? Will you get a commission as more of us join? Sorry. I don't do Facebook and, if able, I always use my name.

Anonymous said...

This decision will eliminate a few troublemakers but it will discourage many more responsible individuals who are in positions that necessitate that they regard and protect their own privacy. It will also eliminate many adults who have chosen not to participate in Facebook. It is not as ubiquitous as you believe.

Anonymous said...

This is a mistake and many of your older readers who don't have a facebook account and don't want a facebook account will simply stop reading your newspaper. There has to be a way to thin out the hostile anonymous attackers without punishing everyone. Wrong move Observer.

Anonymous said...

Your first statement is wrong. You do not get "invited to speak" at public forums, mask or no.

Also, why not require everyone, including your so-called journalistic sources, to "remove the masks" and openly pronounce who they are? You are hypocrites, and as a moderate liberal I am ashamed of you as our local news leader.

-Thomas Jones

Anonymous said...

Shine a light on cockroaches and watch them scatter. For those of you whining about having to attach your name to a comment, A: There are plenty of other blogs out there you can comment on and still hide behind a curtain, B: Most other papers I've seen using Facebook comments have had just as incendiary remarks from their readers, even with their name attached. Heck, most of us knew who some of the trolls here were anyway. Thank you Observer!

Anonymous said...

Earlier I meant to say well said Anonymous10.06pm.

Not so much for Rick...

Anonymous said...

If we utilizing FB's login feature can we also add a LIKE button for comments?

Laser Guided Loogie said...

CO is part of the power structure here in America.

This is part of a general trend to demolish anonymity on the 'net.

Not in pursuit of some high minded ideal of civility. That is just a fig leaf.

They are looking to shut down free speech on the 'net. It's as simple as that

The IRS scandal has shown that when liberals get power, the first thing they do is use power to shut down their opposition.

This is why anonymity is so important, and why the CO is against it.

-Ken
Laser Guided Loogie

RAM, Charlotte, NC said...

This is a pretty stupid decision on the part of the Observer. Disqus provided a really good service, and allowed users to use the same account on multiple websites.

This decision also shows a profound lack of appreciation for the growing contempt for Facebook. People are moving away from it, slowly but surely, because they recognize the very real threat to their privacy posed by sites like FB. I, for one, closed my account once I realized how much data-mining they do... and how much of your personal information they make available to advertisers and the government.

Unknown said...

I really like the observer going to this format. I know people can still create pseudonym's but it's like my dad used to tell me...Dont say it if you cant own up to it.

Anonymous said...

It's very simple Rick. If you really believe something you will attach your name to it. Right? Don't worry about your job, family, or friends. They will LOVE everything you post. Everyone on your personal Facebook account shares the same view.

Thank you for the "out" of privately reporting. I wanted to make my opinion PUBLIC information, now I must trust you to do so. I'm sure you inform the public about all of your private tips. Thank you for holding my hand, muting my voice, and forgetting what it is to be an American. I'm ashamed to share a common flag with you.

I'm unsearchable on facebook. You have to know me to find me. This eliminates that, completely.

rb said...

Read another way: If you're conservative and disagree, don't comment; however, if you agree with a full-on liberal viewpoint and want to participate in a "you're great", "no, you're great", "no, we're great" and "wow, aren't conservatives extreme and racist" discussion - have at it.

Anonymous said...

Rick you and your newspaper have become the joke of the Carolina's with your left leaning biased reporting and now you have put a big nail in your coffin. Stupid is as stupid does.

Anonymous said...

Well, you have managed to pick the least possible user friendly conversation forum. Since there is no way to thread comments within Facebook, there will be no conversations among commenters.

That's unfortunate, and in the end, you will have accomplished little, since anonymous facebook accounts are simple and common. I would bet that half or more of those used in public forums are pseudonyms created just for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you! What a great idea.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea to clear out the haters.
Anyone who refuses to use Facebook can still exercise their freedom of speech by writing a letter to the editor, the old-fashioned way.

Anonymous said...

Being anonymous doesn't automatically make one a “spewer” of hate speech. With that said, it is very clear that if one doesn't agree with the agenda of the left, or the right, or anyone in particular, their views are deemed as hateful. I for one will never be down with abortion, gay marriage, beastiality, Obama, anything far left etc, but in no way would I speak hateful towards anyone who believes otherwise. The catch here guys and gals is just like the IRS scandal, the EPA scandal and all the other ones soon to follow, is that when someone openly expresses their views, there are entities that will begin to mess with your life if they are contrary to the ones in power, and sorry media, you all are usually far left, so though this may seem like "good intentions" to some on the part of the CO, I am very wary. Or maybe FB worked out some deal with all the rags to try to increase their ever dwindling user base. There, I made it in before Noon...

Anonymous said...

I agree with most. This is restricting and bad idea. It will only serve to create more fake FB accounts. If you really want comments and a forum, leave it as-is.

Anonymous said...

Much easier for the IRS to audit dissenters when they have your real name, right Rick?

Anonymous said...

There have been recent examples of government intimidation against groups holding opposing views. Would one want to place themselves in the sights of a rambunctious IRS auditor by wearing a target made from a CO comment post? Not me.

Anonymous said...

I have never been on Facebook, and never will. This is an editor who, like his staff and many others, is completely obsessed with Facebook, thinking everyone uses it and it is used honestly. What a joke, and how unprofessional! This does NOTHING for identifying people who post comments.

CO has lost my business forever.

Dude said...

I love this change! If you have enough nerve to post some of the crap you guys and gals post then have the NERVE to let the world see who you are. Hopefully some of the racist/biggots will get out and leave the rest of the world alone! As for not wanting someone to creep you on facebook CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is the best news I've read on this website in a long time. There are such vile comments from the same minority on here.

This is an excellent decision.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading the Observer online and almost always look at the comments on the article I read. I usually spend a few minutes during lunch looking at your articles. Unfortuanately, my employer has disabled Facebook access so I am not sure I will be able to see the comments in the future, which is disappointing. I am sure I will not be able to post them. I am beleive there are others like me. Thanks. Graham J.

Harry said...

I think this is a smart move, and I sincerely hope this results in fewer troll comments by the folks that seemingly only comment in order to instigate arguments. Maybe the lack of anonymity will help those trolls realize that most others are not amused by the "Obammy" and "Farcebook" puns that they feel are so clever.

I don't really understand the notion that the ability to electronically comment on news stories is some sort of inalienable right. When newspapers only existed in print, people still discussed their thoughts in social circles, it just wasn't encoded in HTML. You still have that right...but if you choose to comment electronically, you just have to use the platform that's provided. It's as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I guess you endorse closing the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier too? Or just using DNA swabbing to identify him?

Anonymous said...

Rick,

Regarding your comment on "secret societies having no place on public forums", I look forward to The Observer's exposés on The Federal Reserve, The Bilderberg Group (meeting this weekend in Watford England), The Council On Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission, Skull & Bones, and Bohemian Grove.

Which Observer staff members will be assigned to these societies?

Anonymous said...

Facebook is blocked at my workplace (a large bank) so this means I will not be able to comment.

Ed McDonald said...

Good, it will keep down the number of sock puppets that appear on the site.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Public Official: Thanks for coming to this news conference. Are there any questions?

Charlotte Observer reporter: Mr. Public Official, I have a question.

MPO: Sorry, we don't recognize you as an actual news organization. We only take questions from those organizations which are members to one specific corporation.

COR: But just because we don't belong to that corporation doesn't mean we aren't a news organization. There are many other ways to verify that we are a valid new organization.

MPO: Next question.

Anonymous said...

As a school employee commenting with my real name is dangerous.I understand the butt till no longer be able to participate.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! It's sad when the "comments" section about even an uplifting story turns into some sort of word brawl. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

the only reason i look at this site is for the discussion

Anonymous said...

This is going to get real ugly real fast.

Anonymous said...

What? Are you trying to get people fired or not hired for a job? What if someone wanted to speak out against the airport takeover and worked for one of these business men who support it? In your effort to squelch speech that you find uncomfortable, you are squelching meaningful speech from your readers.

WestNDNBeauty said...

Nooooo! But I don't have a Facebook account and do not want one but I really enjoy reading the Observer online and discussing the articles in the comment section :-(

I also just got a pass account so I can have access to the paper. Will I be able to post comments with my Press Pass account?

Nan said...

Bravo Observer!!!

It's about time this happens. And to those who question or take offense at the practice of putting a name to comment - how is this different than writing a letter to the editor, in which you must state a name and hometown, a practice that has gone on for years, and readers proud to have their letters to the editor published.

cltindependent said...

Great idea. That will elimate most of the anonymous vitriolic comments that can't express an opinion without hate. At least fake Facebook accounts can be reported to Facebook and shut down.

Anonymous said...

Using Facebook is great news for the reading public. It sounds like many who are posting on this story are sounding their last hurrah. They secretly love the Observer, but use the comments sections to spew their hate.

I recommend only allowing Facebook accounts to post where the account has at least 10 friends. This will eliminate some of the fake accounts and require some of hate nuts to make a few friends.

Anonymous said...

It comes across as though posting a comment via Facebook instead of allowing for anonymity now allows the C.O the ability to qualify whether or not the comment is "valid" based upon someone's Facebook profile. Now, it's seemingly not about what someone has to say but more so, do they fit some conservative profile, thereby making their opinions more worthy than others. Rick mentioned this would allow for someone to stand by their words. I disagree. This allows for public profiling so that the Charlotte Obsever could potentially discriminate against the opinions of those with whom they disagree.

AlphaMikeFoxtrot said...

The number of comments on the CO site will be way down. The Gaston Gazette did this about a year ago, and most of their articles pass without comment now. Plus add in the charge to read online and your traffic is about to grind to a halt.

I am of two minds on this. I believe you should be willing to back your statements, but even some our greatest leaders found times it best to go incognito, such a Ben "Poor Richard" Franklin.

Rick Thames said...

WestNDNBeauty: It sounds like you now have access to all of the Observer's products: website, tablet, print and mobile. You will NOT need a Facebook account to read the comments on our website, but you WILL need one to make a comment, yourself. Thanks for the question.

Julian said...

Mr. Rick Thames, please read to the end. My 2nd point may surprise you.
Your guidelines regarding maintaining a civil manner of discussion - which I fully support -are perfectly sufficient to that purpose. This is not at all about civility, it's about freedom of speech.

1. We live in the age of Political Correctness. P.C. operates through name-calling and stigmatizing; this was proven to be a very effective method of intimidation, which prevents people from speaking out their minds publicly. You don't want to be call a variety of bad names when everyone is aware of that, but you couldn't care less about this infantile name calling when you publish under a nickname.

Will my very civil comment be approved by the blog author ?!!

2. Here is a point that should worry everyone, liberal and conservative, secular and religious, alike.
Nowadays, employers got into the habit of checking on job applicants' Facebook accounts, to get a better image of who they are dealing with. No one knows who will review their job applications, what those individuals' biases are, and how they will react to the applicants' comments, which will be now so easy to track.

So long, Freedom of Speech. We enjoyed knowing you in our country, for as long as this lasted!

Unknown said...

I enjoy reading the comments but usually turn away when it gets nasty and very personal. Often the comments are more entertaining than the original article. But the attacks do get old quickly. I hope the change does not rein in "freedom of speech" but the attacks usually don't relate to the article anyways.

Mavvy said...

I don't mid being known for who I am. I DO mind paying a subscription fee to read the articles. Ain't happenin', cap'n...so I'll pass.

Anonymous said...

I can hear the board meeting now..."We are a downward spiraling business. What can we do?"

"Hey, let's alienate a large portion of our web traffic by requiring login via facebook for commenting.:

"Capital idea Mortimer, I say capital!"

"Thank you sir. The pay to read by itself wasn't killing our business fast enough."

Dark Space said...

Its hilarious that the only comments that seem to be in favor are logged in as "Anonymous". This will be my last comment on the CharlotteObserver website, fare the well fellow Charlotteans...

Anonymous said...

Wellll - I guess it is easier to monitor comments when there aren't any comments!

Anonymous said...

So pleasant looking at the comments now. Long over due CO. Kudos and I welcome the change based on the few articles I have read tonight! We had some pretty sick trolls.
Jennifer Carrigan

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I used to try to jump in once in a while to comment on articles, but was immediately greeted by inane comments from people who somehow thought they became smarter because they were unidentifiable. I eventually gave up - this, clearly, was not Debate 101. Reason seems to be scarce, and intelligent, meaningful, and polite comments are scarcer. Without someone 'looking' people become nasty, mean, and stupid. I look forward to comments that are given by people who are willing to stand up and be recognized for with they say.

Anonymous said...

I generally posted to bring some balance to the strings of negative comments made by the same persons who seemingly never leave the site. Every comment is negative and filled with political spin. They posted like paid staffers punching a clock. And at times did wonder about their true status.

That being said, I won't post with my personal Facebook account because it is reserved for family and friends. Unless co-workers are friends, we don't interact on FB. For that purpose, I use LinkedIn.

As a public employee, I have had access to privy information I have chosen not to post. But using common sense, have posted my private citizen opinion anonymously and enjoyed participating in the forums.


Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous June 4, 2013 at 10:29 PM - While I hate losing the ability to post under an assumed name, being constantly subjected to dribble like this is the main reason I support the comments change.

John English said...

Lets see the avatars added for extra fun!

Anonymous said...

Good! "Free speech?" Many of the posts that show up would be considered libelous if the writer's name was attached. THREE HUNDRED A DAY? That's a lot of venom. Just as "Letters to the Editor" require a person to make themselves known, this should too. Besides, those that are carping "Free Speech"... the town square soapboxes that this emulates didn't have folks with hoods on shouting their views. If you want to comment do, if you do not, don't. Simple. Yes, viewership may drop from the Springerites that want to see how offensive the comments are. How do I know? I know some that do!

PS: FB has a way to control access to your account. Use it.

Barney Barnhardt said...

Your game, your ball so you "can" take it and go home at any time you wish. Is this what has happened here??

I've read many comments on the CO site that have accused the paper of trying to stifle dissent. While I'm not saying you have, or that you haven't, one has to wonder if that's part of the reason for this action. I read your stated reason for it, but as you and I know, news media organizations can, and probably do,spin their stories and/or coverage to support, or detract, from, a particular position or point. I sincerely hope that's not the case here.

Anonymous said...

Silly idea!

Anonymous said...

I don't have a facebook account, but I would still like to see the comments. Nothing shows or me. I see "2 comments" on top o the story, but it is blank at the bottom. The FAQ says I don't need an account to read the comments, just to make one. What am I doing wrong?

Anonymous said...

Perfect timing Observer. Have you not read your own news about the recent spying & invasions? Does a name mean the opinion isn't relevant? If your name is extremely common then it's no problem. I have no desire to join Facebook or to support them. Google has been turned over to the gov't, Verizon & I have no doubt some of these lovely Obama supporting companies will be asking if he needs any info. I wouldn't be surprised to find the Observer on that line either.

James Jordan said...

This "freedom of speech" line is nonsense. You are absolutely free to say what you want to say - people will just know YOU said it. It's taking away your freedom to hide, if anything.

One person stated that he didn't want his real friends (facebook) to know where he stands on certain issues. Dude, if they don't know where you stand on important issues, it is likely they are not your "real" friends.

Good job Observer! I've always thought the posters who would go to an 'open' article and blog the complaint, "why isn't commenting open on the article about last night's shooting?" were a strange bunch. What were they DYING to say?

BiBr said...

Bad idea CO (what's new there)? The only one hiding behind a mask is the CO. In the guise of promoting civility, you try to intimidate the majority of readers that dare to call you out on your liberally-biased beliefs. What's different from what your doing and what the IRS did to conservative's freedom of speech...

Anonymous said...

The comments section was the only thing worth reading. Shame I won't be doing even that here anymore. I was once ban avid reader of The Observer, but as they've clamped down on dissenting opinion, I've moved on.

Rick Thames said...

Some of you have noted that the feature at the top of a story specifying the number of comments posted is not always accurate. It appears that this count now does not include replies to posted messages. There may be some other bugs with the feature. We are checking into it. Meanwhile, let me say again, you will NOT have to have a Facebook account to see the user comments. They will appear for all users, regardless. You only need a Facebook account if you want to POST a comment. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Good luck C/O. You're going to need it now.

Skylark Thibedeau said...

I never use my legal name when I write a letter to the editor, I use my nickname that family and friends know. I found back in the 90's how intolerant of differing opinions the 'tolerant' left is. They will look you up and harass you by phone and snail mail.

Now they can harass your friends and Employer too.

Anonymous said...

CO can do what it wants but this change will eliminate most comments ....which may be what the CO wants. Not going to sign up and let the crazies start "friending" me or tracking my personal information. This change is a VERY BAD idea.

CharlotteO Moon said...

Finally!

The old curmudgeons that posted every single day on the CO will be gone...or be exposed! Now we won't have to read comments from the same old white religious, conservative minority, as they were simply the 'anti-everything' crowd. This city is moving forward, and if you don't like it, we will now know your name.

Anonymous said...

This will be my last visit to this site. I will not support an organization that tries to force me to subscribe to something I literally despise: Facebook. I don't want to have any part of it, including supporting it by reading the Observer. It's obvious that they are obsessed with it. Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen $.

Anonymous said...

Requiring one to make their Facebook identity available to one and all f they chose to comment makes them vulnerable to their employer. This is a particularly salient reason to prohibit participation especially from educators as their jobs are already too subjected to the whims of capricious leadership and a community that won't partner with teachers but is ready to blame at the drop of a hat. I'd say this move regardless of your desire to have "authenticity" will have a certain chilling effect from probably your must authentic readers or there will be an increase in fake Facebook accounts. This is a big brotheresque move.

Anonymous said...

Very valid point that invades privacy.

Anonymous said...

Actually one CAN set up a fake Facebook account. According to CNN, FB itself estimated last year that about 83 million of its accounts were duplicates, fakes, businesses set up as personal accounts, pets and the like. So that part doesn't matter to me.

Here's what's more important: Comments should be MODERATED, just as the old "letters to the editor" were moderated. And why does every story deserve a comments section? If the facts are suspected to be wrong, one can quietly alert the newsroom as you've said.

Intelligent people are turned off by the endless droning of conspiracy-minded nut cases, racists, self-appointed religious prophets and various other unschooled and rude people who can't use apostrophes correctly. Those types flock to sites that allow endless anonymous comments. Back in the prehistoric print days, the editor would occasionally allow one letter by someone stating that God allowed a hurricane because of interracial marriage or some other perceived grievous sin, but now, these unctuous lunatics get an unmoderated forum. Enough already.

Those who wished to remain anonymous could explain to the editor why they wanted their names withheld -- for example, if they thought their employer might target them for taking a certain stance. Now, it's all anonymous, with no limits, and I've seen more intelligent debates on the walls of a bathroom stall.

We've already seen the howls of protest over "free speech." Well, you have free speech. You can go stand on a public corner with a sign about how everyone who disagrees with you is a leftist, a commie, Satan, immoral, whatever. You can start a church. You can distribute tracts and flyers. You can talk about the "good old days" where women were property, clerics defended slavery, legislation restricted the teaching of science, the peasants had no rights and segregation was enforced by mobs and ropes. You know, the golden era when America had "God's" blessing.

And if you lean left, you can go march in a May Day parade, wear a Che Guevarra t-shirt, and blame the Koch Brothers, gun manufacturers and corporations for everything like you do in YOUR screeds.

In other words, everyone has free speech rights. But that doesn't mean you have the right to free speech HERE. This is a privately owned website. If you don't like the rules, you can make your case but there's nothing in the First Amendment giving you an unfettered right to comment HERE.

I want to read thoughtful, fact-based comments in a context that's respectful and reasonable. I'm sure I'll be harangued as a leftist or worse, and that's the problem. Unmoderated comments sections encourage the tribalists and extremists. There are plenty of sites that appeal to them. I actually can't applaud the change to FB comments because they can still be anonymous and allowing them is no substitute for comment moderation.

I'm sure there will be a swirl of comments following mine accusing me of being a liberal, a radical, coroporate tool, spy, fanatic, immoral or maybe even a reporter (ha ha). That doesn't bother me really. I'm grateful for the opportunity to use an unmoderated forum to ask for more moderation. Even if it means moderating ME. Enjoy the irony and have a great day.