Monday, October 17, 2005

Anonymous Web Posting Can Lead to Abuses

I try to track as many Delaware weblogs as I can. I do this partly for work and partly out of my own interest in what's going on in my home state.

Every once in a while, though, I come across a site that makes me cringe.

I've been watching the "community blogs" offered by the Delaware State News' Newszap site. This site used to suffer from embarrassingly bad web design and was almost unreadable for that. Lately, they've done a very nice update, creating what could be a valuable community resource. Unfortunately, the level of input -- for the most part -- is painful.

The site allows completely anonymous posting. Users can register, but don't have to. In general, I don't think that anonymous blogging is a major problem. Many bloggers work behind screen names. They often have their own sites or at least take part in moderated on-line forums and are registered somewhere. If nothing else, a site administrator can ban them (until they invent a new sock puppet).

But completely anonymous and un-moderated blogging -- apparently the case on the Newszap site -- can lead (warning: links lead to hate-filled invective) to posts such as "How Diversity Dumbs Down DelDOT" and "More FACTS blacks dont want you to see."

These are ugly and deeply negative web postings that serve only to fuel argument and reciprocal hatred. They cry out for moderation, both on the part of the posters and of the site itself.

As far as I can see, there's little or no site moderation on the Newszap site. I'm not surprised. The State News has long published an anonymous comments section in their print editions. They call it "Sound Off" and it too has had its share of awful offerings. But with Sound Off, there is at least an editor to hold off the truly nasty comments.

That doesn't seem to be the case with the Newszap "Blogs." I think the site would be better for some regular moderation from the staff at the State News.

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