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Where is the accountability for anonymous Town Forum posters ?

Original post made by Peter Carpenter on Mar 7, 2010

When a person posts on Town Forum using their real name any interested reader can immediately, in the age of Google and the internet, verify their existence, their place of residence, their employment, their work history etc, in order to properly evaluate their posted comments.

When people post on the Town Forum using anonymous names there is no way for the reader to establish any source credibility, to verify that they actually exist, to know where they actually live, to know what contributions or transgressions that have made in the community, to know if someone is paying them to pose as a resident of a particular community, etc. This problem is compounded by the fact that a number of anonymous posters use multiple names to post multiple comments on the same topic. And these anonymous posters are free to engage in scurrilous personal attacks on posters who use their real names without any accountability.

What are your thoughts on the dramatically different standard of accountability between posters who use their real names and posters who use one or more anonymous names?

Comments (15)

Posted by brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:20 pm

brian is a registered user.

I don't have a problem with it. It's the nature of the internet. If you really have such a problem posting with others who you know nothing about and can't Google, don't post. Get yourself a column in the Almanac and you can say whatever you want and you can set it up so your opinions aren't commented upon.

It seems to me that what this is really about, is that you ended up on the losing end of an argument and you're not happy about it.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian offers a perfect example of the problems of anonymous posters.
He claims to live somewhere in Menlo Park. Who is he/she? Where does he/she really live? How can we calibrate his/her comments? What has she/he done for our community?

Brian states:"I don't have a problem with it." Of course Brian doesn't, because for Brian there is no accountability, no responsibility and, hence, no credibility. He/she can post whatever they want and there is no way to verify its truth or accuracy.


Posted by brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm

brian is a registered user.

Who is he/she? Where does he/she really live? How can we calibrate his/her comments? What has she/he done for our community?

What business is it of yours? If you can't calibrate the value of my comments then don't read them or don't give them any credence.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian states:"Who is he/she? Where does he/she really live? How can we calibrate his/her comments? What has she/he done for our community?

What business is it of yours?"

Yet this very same anonymous poster DEMANDED answers about me on these same issues and he and others then provided those answers based on my total personal transparency.

Clearly the anonymous posters claim and really enjoy a different standard of accountability.

How well Brian states it - "what business is it of yours"

Work remembering when we read the comments of anonymous posters.


Posted by brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:25 pm

brian is a registered user.

Peter writes: Yet this very same anonymous poster DEMANDED answers about me on these same issues and he and others then provided those answers based on my total personal transparency.

WRONG! I demanded nothing of the kind. You are confusing me with some other poster.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian states:"WRONG! I demanded nothing of the kind."

The record shows the following -


Posted by Brian, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:40 am

"I also have to wonder, as one who doesn't even live in the city but is obviously excercised about this, did you have some financial stake in this project? Are you a freind of the developers? Just curious."

The anonymous posters also researched where I and my wife have worked many years ago ("former high-tech and bio-tech execs from such places as Alza"), my wife ("Actually its Peter's wife who is the smart one") and where we live live and the used those facts to make scurrilous personal attacks.

Clearly Brian and his/her anonymous fellow posters believe that facts about me are their business but facts about them are not.

As Brian so clearly states ""what business is it of yours"?

As this thread proceeds I look forward to the Brian and the other anonymous posters continuing to dig their own hole.

If the readers are interested in the truth then it is their business to know a great deal more about these anonymous posters.


Posted by john p johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:55 pm

john p johns is a registered user.

Brian has unwittingly presented a persuasive argument for posting with one's own name rather than anonymously.

Brian proclaims Mr. Carpenter is wrong and that Mr. Carpenter has him confused with "some other poster".

This is precisely Mr. Carpenter's point. Without knowing who is saying what, we are unable to filter out biases, we are unable to ascertain the reliability of the source of the posting.

When I attended college, my English teacher taught us to read about the author. When he admonished us to do so, he was intent upon sharpening our critical thinking skills.

To expect one to be pursuaded by the thoughts and words of an anonymous poster is to accept those words at face value, to be gullible. This is not a sign of respect for the readers of this post.

Mr. Carpenter's admonishes us to take responsibility for our posts by using our real names. I concur. I would only add that the readers of this post are deserving of nothing less.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2010 at 6:52 am

Brian is a registered user.

Peter:

there you go twisting the facts again. nowhere in that quote is any "demand" to know anything. I asked a simple question, you responded. I identified where I live and what my opinions were. If you need to know more about me, that's just too bad. If you can't judge the veracity of my comments then move on to the next post or don't read them.

Because we live in a small community annonimity in posts allows people to present ideas that might be quite counter to what others in their community think without fear of being ostracized. Again, if you don't know who the poster is or know anything about them and that is important to you, all you have to do is move on to the next post.

Judging from the number of people that post without using their names, I suspect it will stay that way and if it doesn't you and a very few people will be left to post your thoughts.


Posted by john p johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2010 at 8:04 am

john p johns is a registered user.

Dear Brian

If you have some spare time, do a search on this website with the words, John Johns, Finance Director, Atherton.

When you do you will see a host of articles that say some things about me that to put it mildly are not terribly flattering.

I know from a very bitter personal experience what it is like to be ostracized by a community that I held close to my heart.

I can tell you there is only one fate that is worse. It is to be made to fear that I cannot speak my mind, to be robbed of the one civil liberty that we Americans hold above all others, the freedom of speech. To post anonymously is to fear the repercussions of speaking one's mind.

Meaning no disrespect I feel the need to remind you that we do not live in the former Soviet Union, where speaking freely would land one in a gulag. We do not live in North Korea, nor is this a south american dictatorship. This is Atherton, California a small community in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Think about it. If speaking out on an issue that is important to you will lead to some sort of social exile, then is the community you fear being exiled from really worth being a part of?

I for one believe that Atherton is a community worth being a part of, but not if it means that we feel the need to compromise on our civil liberties for fear of expulsion.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2010 at 8:36 am

Brian is a registered user.

John:

I am very sorry for the pain you have suffered. But, your experience only goes to emphasize the need for the ability to post in an annonymous fashion. While it is nice to think that we should be able to say what we want without being ostracized, your experience demostrates that the facts are otherwise. I live in Menlo Park. I own a business here and I cannot afford to have something I post here have an effect on my buisiness, because if it does, I won't be living here any more. I, like you, love my community. But I'm also a realist when it comes to these things.


Posted by john p johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

john p johns is a registered user.

Brian

Your point is well taken. I have learned that in life we have many responsibilities and that these responsibilities are sometimes in competition with one another.

We have responsibility to society, we have business obligations, we have responsibilities to our families.

You are right about one thing, we have the right to freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to be heroes.

I think Mr. Carpenter has raised a legitimate issue and that is worthy of debate, impassioned debate.

I am sorry that Mr. Hine has chosen to restrict this post to registered users. Had he not imposed such restrictions, I suspect we would have heard more on this topic from anonymous posters telling us the reasons for wishing to stay anonymous as you have.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:28 am

Brian is a registered user.

John writes: I am sorry that Mr. Hine has chosen to restrict this post to registered users. Had he not imposed such restrictions, I suspect we would have heard more on this topic from anonymous posters telling us the reasons for wishing to stay anonymous as you have.

I suspect you are correct.

Mr. Hine: how about unlocking this thread and letting non-registered users post?


Posted by Peterfcarpenter@gmail.com, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:38 am

I am travelling today and unable to comment at length.
I started this topic and I chose to limit it to registered users in order to avoid the trash talk that otherwise degrades a good discussion.

Sent from my iPhone


Posted by Renee Batti, news editor of The Almanac
on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:39 am

Renee Batti is a registered user.

John, a person who begins a thread has the ability to restrict comments to registered users. None of the editors restricted this thread, which means Mr. Carpenter chose to do so.


Posted by john p johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm

john p johns is a registered user.

Dear Ms. Batti

I am aware of an individual's ability to restrict comments. Mr. Hine has taken the liberty of restricting comments on another post, that being the post I wrote regarding identity theft. Mr. Hine allowed my post to stay up after I wrote another post objecting to taking it down the first time.

Perhaps Mr. Hine would consider unlocking the two posts I wrote so that people feel welcome to comment, anonymously or with their real names, registered or unregistered.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


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