The Martha’s Vineyard Times is changing its policies and systems regarding online comments. Beginning today we’re moving from a system allowing completely anonymous postings to one requiring participants to log in via a Facebook account. Facebook policies require that a real name needs to be attached to each account, promoting transparency within their community and, via our use of their system, within ours as well.
Our continuing challenge with regard to comments is to balance the major objectives of The Times’ web comment policy – encouraging wide participation, maintaining the lightest possible (but still rational) hand in moderation, protecting unpopular ideas and expression and providing a safe and secure environment for commenters. The purpose of the change is to favor and increase spirited discussion about ideas and issues while discouraging personal disparagement as a tool for debate.
Finding the right balance among these objectives has been a vexing issue from the outset but we’ve hung in and learned from our experience; we’ll continue to watch and listen. We think that raising the threshold by requiring commenter identities meeting Facebook’s for participants is a reasonable step and will serve our broad community well.