Comments: Moderation and Anonymity

Dakota Free Press reserves the right to delete comments at whim, but will use that right sparingly. Dakota Free Press assumes no responsibility for illegal content (e.g., libel); commenters retain sole legal responsibility for the content of their submitted material.

Cuss words are generally unnecessary.

Given my experience that anonymous comments foster unneighborly, unproductive, off-topic ranting, I generally delete anonymous comments. Very simply:

  1. Leave your real name with your comment.
  2. If I don’t recognize your name, and if you don’t provide a hyperlink to a profile or other identifying information, I usually delete the comment.
  3. If you don’t provide a functional e-mail address and reply to my inquiry as to your identity, I almost always delete the comment.
  4. If you have something to say but are unwilling to say it publicly, send your info privately, and we can talk.
  5. Don’t like it? Get your own blog. It’s easy, it’s free.

Dakota Free Press recognizes that some citizens want to participate in public discourse but are afraid that other citizens may retaliate in some fashion against them for expressing unpopular views. Dakota Free Press does not share such fears and urges all citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights respectfully yet fearlessly.

Many institutions forbid anonymous participation:

  1. The Madison Daily Leader, as well as nearly all newspapers, will not publish anonymous letters to the editor and requires verifiable contact information with every letter.
  2. The school districts I have worked for will not act on anonymous complaints.
  3. The legal system permits witnesses to testify anonymously only in the most extreme cases where a clear threat to the witnesses’ safety can be demonstrated.
  4. People who show up at public meetings wearing masks are generally viewed with suspicion.

Possible exceptions: Dakota Free Press reserves the right to let stand anonymous comments of remarkable wit, intelligence, or verifiable newsworthiness.

In general, Dakota Free Press frowns on anonymous comments because they represent a weaker form of civil discourse. As members of a community, we should speak with each other as equal partners in the great endeavor of maintaining and improving the quality of life in the city and state we share. Even when exercising the privilege of anonymous commenting, readers should moderate their own comments by the following criteria:

  1. Would you be willing to say these same words in a face-to-face conversation with the person to whom you are directing your comment?
  2. Would you be willing to say these same words in person with other people listening?

If you think I’m picky, feel free to compare comment policies from NPR, Huffington Post, and New York Times.



4 Responses to Comments: Moderation and Anonymity

  1. You know who I am ( I hope)

    You have (most of) my E-mail addy

    Do I still have to use my name?

  2. MC, you may continue to comment as MC.

  3. Darla Drew

    I will respond to a couple questions posed on this site. First, I owned my own band booking agency for 25 years. I started it in 1979 when I was 22 years old. The music business changed and I worked a series of jobs including running a grant called “cherish the Child” a grant to increase the use of computers and technology by Headstarts and Early Headstarts in rural Western South Dakota.

  4. Porter Lansing

    Excellent criteria, Mr. Heidelberger. Especially when the moderator himself at the War College posts under an anonymous nom de plume, about half the time.
    There’s an incredible amount of cyber bullying that goes on on SoDak political blogs and most wouldn’t do so if they were using their real names.