Unmasking the anonymous online poster

Martin King
boston Unmasking the anonymous online poster

See Portrait of the Poster video at

When launched its new commenting system, followed closely by the revamped blogs and its comments, I was hopeful that we could start to move away from The Secret Ranter – the type of poster who hides behind anonymity and adds inane insults that detract from the value of free speech.

As the headline said, People may hear when you shout, but they don’t The Secret Ranter can still be found, but I’m hopeful his days are numbered. And indeed we have seen an increase in both the quantity and the quality of comments.

SoI was delighted when a colleague pointed out the following from The Boston Globe:  Inside the mind of the anonymous online

As the article points out: News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan.

Staff writer Neil Swidey concludes:  Maybe the best approach to getting people to behave better online is just reminding them how easy it is to figure out who they really are.

The age of accountability is dawning.

* Martin King is Online Editor of

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  • had_it

    Does blog ranting serve a useful social function (catharsis for the powerless) or is it an inciter that leads to onerous political/social deeds? I smell a violence-in-the-media controversy that academics can make a living on for a generation or two.

  • IndyOnline

    That’s not the point. Yes, anybody can make themselves anonymous – and we can make posters jumnp through hoops to avoid that if we have to. The main point is that readers are learning to ignore anonoymous posts. What’s the point of them if the person won’t stand up and be counted? I’d rather be taken seriously, however wrong I might be.
    Martin King

  • Brennig

    ‘That’s not the point’, said the person known as ‘redeye54′. Irony much?

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  • martin king

    A. The redeye54 post was signed. B. If you’re happier, this is my twitter id and there’s even an image.
    Martin King

  • Brennig

    But Martin, that is my point. ‘Identity’, within the context of online ‘personalities’, is what – or who – people say they are.

    You say that you want to be known because you have a desire that what you say should be taken seriously, and that is laudable – and a desire I am in full agreement with.

    But to quote your own article, the contributor who ‘hides behind anonymity and adds inane insults that detract from the value of free speech’ will continue to do precisely that. S/he will simply switch to more ‘acceptable-looking’ personas.

    Yet will those anonymous contributors be any more – or less – real? And also, will their inane, detracting comments be any less pertinent?

  • Ciaran Rehill

    Perhaps a religious maniac “King of Kings”? Actually many Scots Kings are MacGregors who changed their name.

  • Pingback: Now, the website that charges you to comment | Martin King | Independent Notebook Blogs

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