Is it Time to End Anonymous (and Abusive) Postings on the Internet?

 

My interest in the article below is because of horrific comments left here by readers who do not share my point of view or opinions. These commentators were vile and threatening to my personal safety so I was forced to open files with both my local law enforcement authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States.

There is a growing trend towards civil discourse on the Internet.  Medscape, Medscape Connect, Psychiatric Times, and other websites and news venues have instituted the ban on anonymous comments and I’ve unwillingly followed suit. My desire to allow free speech on this blog was squashed as people who identified themselves as survivors of childhood sexual abuse ramped up in the comments section  and used this blog for what I determined was hate speech.

These redaction measures will curb the actions of those who hide behind anonymity to threaten and defame others. Tolerating such behavior has ended on this blog. I’m saddened because I prefer free speech, but when my blog became a forum for hate speech, I had decisions to make and I reluctantly choose to leave comments, but to redact them. I think it’s important to leave the redacted comments, however, so readers get a true sense of how people behave when faced with opinions that differ from their personal and world view.

Below are excerpts from a pertinent article:

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Is it Time to End Anonymous (and Abusive) Postings on the Internet?

[Note: This article first appeared in a slightly longer form on the Medscape Psychiatry website as Internet Abuse: Time to End Anonymous Postings? The author wishes to thank Bret Stetka, MD, for graciously permitting this posting.]

By Ronald W. Pies, MD | August 16, 2012
…I’m far from alone in perceiving that rudeness has flourished apace in recent years. In a blog (6/15/12) titled, “Dearth of Civility in the Public Square,” commentator Gwen I fill described an online survey by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate. Sixty-three percent of the 1,000 people surveyed said America has an incivility problem, and 72% believe things have gotten worse in the last few years….Finally, there is the matter of the Internet—that double-edged sword that may be wielded against a brutal dictator, or aimed brutally against a lonely, marginalized classmate. As a psychiatrist who posts blogs on several websites, I have been appalled by the level of anonymous invective on many poorly monitored sites. …People who are able to post anonymously (or pseudonymously) are far more likely to say awful things, sometimes with awful consequences…The abuse extends to hate-filled and inflammatory comments appended to the online versions of newspaper articles — comments that hijack legitimate discussions …and discourage people from participating.In my view, anonymous “flaming” on the Internet is both a symptom and a cause: it is a symptom of a society in which, all too often, “anything goes”; and a contributing cause of further abusive behavior. Declining levels of civility in our culture have encouraged anonymous, “drive by” postings on the Internet; but these postings, in turn, encourage further abusive remarks, in a vicious cycle of reinforcement. Alas, physicians are far from immune to this contagion of incivility, and too often contribute to it.

…For the abusers, maintaining anonymity is merely an excuse to unleash a barrage of insulting or hateful language—cost-free! —it is also cowardly….I am urging that our exchanges be marked by basic respect and civility—and by a willingness to take personal responsibility for what we say and how we say it….

Retrieved 09/03/12  Psychiatric Times blog

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last update: 10-02-14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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