"Topix, a site lightly trafficked in cities, enjoys a dedicated and growing following across the Ozarks, Appalachia and much of the rural South, establishing an unexpected niche in communities of a few hundred or few thousand people — particularly in what Chris Tolles, Topix’s chief executive, calls “the feud states.” One of the most heavily trafficked forums, he noted, is Pikeville, Ky., once the staging ground for the Hatfield and McCoy rivalry. “We’re running the Gawker for every little town in America,” Mr. Tolles said."
"As journalists ... We were taken in by both MacMaster and Graber, but we also tracked down the truth about both of their identities. What did we do wrong and what did we do right? Here are some of the lessons we learned."
Matt Zoller Seitz: "Some media outlets have decided they've had enough of the endless juvenile trolling and hate-mongering, and have either adopted a stricter moderation policy ... But for all the downsides of comments-thread anonymity, there's a major upside: It shows us the American id in all its snaggletoothed, pustulent glory, with a transparency that didn't exist before the Internet. And in its rather twisted way, that's a public service."
US news sites are reigning in anonymous user comments. Some interesting examples, including the paper that requires a credit card payment to confirm identity.
"The Sun Chronicle, a Massachusetts paper, will charge would-be commenters a nominal one-off fee of 99 cents. But it has to be paid by credit card, which means providing a real name and address."
Jack Riley: "what we're trying to achieve with the new comment system is bigger than just the (admittedly excellent) [Disqus] system we're putting in place. It's about first of all letting people authenticate their commenting using systems with which they're already familiar (in Facebook's case, that's 400 million people worldwide and counting), and secondly, it's about restoring your trust in our comments section, so that some of the really great submissions we get on there rise to the top, the bad sink to the bottom, and the ugly - the spam and abuse that are an inevitable adjunct of any commenting system - don't appear at all."
Indy online editor Martin King: "Websites have been encouraging cowardice. They allow users to hide behind virtual anonymity to make hasty, ill-researched and often intemperate comments ... So we have changed our logins to encourage comments from individuals or even official bodies using their Facebook or Twitter accounts – with other options for Yahoo or Open ID log-ins. There is also a Disqus option, where your account must be validated through your e-mail."
Adam Tinworth says lower traffic and no anonymity "opens up the possibility that what News International are actually trying to create is, in essence, a private members' club. There will be a limited number of people joining in on discussion, largely around content. They will be identifiable, and they will have paid an entrance fee to get in there. This is, in fact, a community model, just one that differs from the wide, inter-connected community model we're used to on the open web."
"In another radical departure, the sites will only allow subscribers to comment under their real names. Those wishing to comment anonymously will have to make a case to editorial staff for doing so."
Martin Nisenholtz: "Identity is, in my view, a fundamental building block for engagement. I think Facebook has now proven it to be true. ... Where I think The Times can differentiate here is in the quality of the answers, and more generally, the conversation. The secret to that is real identity. And for the first time, thanks to Facebook, we have such a system at scale. But many other services built on top of identity can be similarly engaging, from vastly improved, more relevant reviews and comments to a structured hierarchy of contributors for Times Topics. The publishing community must begin to think about building emotional connections like these in our day-to-day work. This is not a sideline to our business model: it is in the center."
"A judge in Halifax has lobbed in a reminder that Internet anonymity has its limits. After considering for only a few minutes, the judge told Google Inc. to give up information about a person who had used a gmail account to disseminate allegedly defamatory information about senior fire officials."
"By unmasking an anonymous poster at its companion Web site, The Plain Dealer finds itself in an ethical quandary, stirring a debate that balances the public's need to know against the privacy concerns of online participants."