Arianna Huffington does something positive, conservative heads may explode

Broken clock alert: Arianna Huffington is right


A broken clock is right twice daily, and Arianna Huffington deserves praise. In a decision that must become a trend, Huffington has decided to eliminate the concept of anonymous commenters on her Huffington Post sites. Going forward, commenters will be required to use their real names.


This change is long overdue, and worthy of celebration.


There is plenty to criticize about the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and similar sites, and most of that criticism stems around loose policies regarding commenters. Profanity, sexual vulgarity, and bigotry run rampant. Libelous accusations often go unchallenged. This is not free speech. It is verbal violence, and should be treated every bit as seriously as physical violence.


The Internet has become the wild west, and Internet bullying is out of control. Some students have even committed suicide due to the horrors of anonymous online bullying.


While some people have no sense of decency or shame, others would refrain from abusive anti-social behavior if they knew they would be held accountable. Whatever her motives, Huffington is demanding accountability.


Given that Huffington runs a leftist site, perhaps she has finally had enough of abusive conservative commenters. If she wants to see real Internet bullying, she should visit conservative sites and see how her own supporters behave. Yet arguing over “who started it” is less important than stopping the bad behavior.


Many Libertarian activists including Ron Paul supporters will vociferously object to this transparency, but they are among some of the biggest anonymous abusers.


Libertarian and other free speech absolutists have no leg to stand on. There is no Constitutional right to type on Internet message boards. Huffington runs a private company, and corporate America has broad latitude to restrict speech. Many commenters engaging in abusive behavior on company time, which they may be less inclined to do if their employer knew this.


In addition to bullying, anonymity increases spamming. In some cases, human beings typing their political message on various message boards under various screen names. This is “astroturfing,” designed to create the illusion of broad support for an agenda. The other form of spamming is the traditional overloading of websites with advertisements for everything from Viagra to mortgage refinancing. Spammers should be brought out of the shadows and held accountable.


Huffington’s decision will not have a chilling effect on free speech. It will force people to engage in less reckless, thoughtless and irresponsible speech. If people wish to use profanity, they should do so openly (although quality sites ban profanity outright).


There are times when anonymity has a legitimate purpose. Online support groups such as meetings of battered women would be one. Removing anonymity would prevent victims from coming forward, and increase the chances of abusive stalkers finding their victims.


Reasonable people should be able to conclude when anonymity is appropriate and when it is a cover for bad behavior. Also, this is not a government edict. Huffington is a private businesswoman making a decision that she believes will benefit her business. In a rare decision, it seems she is actually increasing quality while simultaneously increasing the potential for profits. By making her site more “respectable,” she is gambling that she will gain many more visitors to offset the ones she will lose.


Commenters may not like to hear this, but they vastly overstate their own importance. Most people who read articles do not comment. Most people comment when they disagree with the author. In other words, the commenters not only often fail to reflect the writer’s target audience, but often run counter to it. This makes the opinions of the silent majority far more important than the angry, hateful commenters. Many sites would gladly accept a drastic increase in visitors even if it meant absolutely zero commenters.


Huffington has done much to lower the discourse in America. She has encouraged the worst elements of human behavior by not reining it in. She has finally decided that enough is enough. Her motives are irrelevant. She is absolutely right to do this, and deserves praise for finally doing what other sites have not done.


A true honest national discussion about issues is far superior to hurling insults back and forth. Transparency encourages the best of our society while secrecy encourages the worst of it.


Huffington is right, and deserves praise for her decision.


For the sake of a better society, we should all hope her new approach succeeds and spreads to as many controversial sites as possible.




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