Time for Inside Higher Ed to End Anonymous Comments

There have been many cases against anonymous comments.

Popular science removed their comments entirely for a good reason, as referenced in a New Yorker article:

“The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse.”

Huffington post brought up To Kill a Mockingbird:

“Lee’s basic claim is this: We are capable of doing far worse things to one another when we do not have to own up to the things we do.”

The cases for anonymous comments tend to focus on the lack of effect restricting it will have as people are still willing to say terrible things in public under their own names.

I would like to make the case that it’s time for Inside Higher Ed to require a login to comment (they use Disqus as their comment system so it would be quite easy). Inside Higher Ed is the online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education. My position has nothing to do with whether or not people will say terrible things or uncomfortable things, or things you don’t agree with. It has everything to do with continuity and history.

Let’s say I have a strong opinion about an article. I write a comment. Other users can see my comment, and check to see what else I have said on other articles. If I’m always bringing up the exact same point that will be noticed: I’m a one trick pony and that’s why I’m trying to shoehorn my hatred of underwater basket weaving into a discussion of university governance. Similarly if I have a wide range of nuanced comments on a range of topics that also says something about my position.

Take a look at the article Ethics Lesson posted November 20, 2014. There are currently 50

Inside Higher Ed on their About Us page has this to say:

Community. If we’re doing our jobs well, everyone who works in or cares about higher education should feel, every day, that this site is produced for them. This is a gathering place for all of the many constituents and diverse institutions that make up the rich web of higher education. At Inside Higher Ed, you’ll find no pecking orders or second-class citizens. We invite you – no, actively encourage you – to add your views to our mix. Comment on an article. Send article ideas or tips to our staff members. If you have a computer (or heck, a piece of paper and a stamp), you’ve got a voice here.

I agree. One of the things I love the most about IHE is the comments. I love having the ability to see more information, see additional points made in support of and opposition to the article, see the academic community wrestle with some major issues-it all comes together to be an example of the best the internet can be. It shows that text isn’t static, that the discussion around an article is sometimes as important as the article itself.

I don’t believe this will be changed by requiring a login. What will change is that we will be able to get to know our fellow community members a bit better. Because when it comes to a discussion of academic issues what you’ve said in the past is important.

 

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