110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Commenters must use Facebook account
By Jen Horton
posted Jul 16, 2013 - 10:03:45am
The Cook family took an undeserved beating via anonymous comments on our website when we posted a news story about their DeLand restaurants.
So did the Booth family when we posted a story about 23-year-old Parker Booth's untimely death in an automobile crash.
And, who can overlook the bigotry in the comments on stories about Marlon Brown's death under the wheels of a DeLand Police Department squad car, or the George Zimmerman trial?
It's time for a change in the way The Beacon handles comments on the Internet.
As of today, we're testing a Facebook-comment plug-in that requires the people who comment on our web stories to post with their names and faces.
Let me tell you why.
We at The Beacon take very seriously the right to free speech — yours and ours.
In 2008, we redeveloped our website, and included a commenting feature that enabled online readers to instantly react to our stories and interact with each other.
We looked forward to the feedback and community discussion, as well as the opportunity to learn from readers what was important to them in local-news coverage.
We've enjoyed a lot of what our readers have said over the years in their comments. Many times, the comments reflected brilliance and beautiful insight. Many times, we gained a important perspective from outside the news room.
We installed the website comment system with a hands-off philosophy. Our concept was: "Say what you want, just as if you were in a coffee shop ranting and raving with a friend."
We did not want to censor, nor be involved in determining of the rightness or wrongness of our readers' opinions. That included the ability to post anonymously. We didn't want to inhibit readers who feared recrimination.
Over the years, this freedom has caused some problems. The comments are getting worse. The ugliness has been overwhelming at times, and it's time for us to change.
To work well in democracy, freedom must be matched with responsibility. Instead of responsible community discourse, however, the combination of freedom and anonymity on our website served as troll-bait.
(A troll is defined by the Urban Dictionary as "One who purposely and deliberately [that purpose usually being self-amusement] starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers."
A troll just wants to light a fire and watch the Internet world burn.
I had to talk to the Orange City mother of a dead 12-year-old when commenters on our website started nastily criticizing the way she had chosen to memorialize her son. I had to talk to the stricken aunt of a dead 23-year-old whose death was being used as fodder for hate speech.
You have the right to hate. You have the right to say whatever you want. You can have no manners and speak ill of the dead. It's not my place to teach you my version of right and wrong.
It is my job to keep The Beacon website a respectable, and respectful, community forum, as our print edition has been for more than 20 years. We can no longer have anonymous commenting on our website.
Following the model of some of the biggest publications in the world, including the The Miami Herald and National Geographic Magazine, we're rolling comments into a moderated Facebook platform.
Commenters will be required to post via their Facebook accounts.
You can post anything you want — as you. We can delete your comment it if it violates our terms and conditions. Your opinion stays on your Facebook wall, but it will be removed from our news story.
We know people can create bogus Facebook identities. However, that's a lot of work, and it's not complete anonymity.
Plus, readers can turn off comments posted via a particular Facebook account. These comments won't show up on these readers computer screens when they read Beacon web stories, even though the comments will show up on everyone else's.
Comments made using our old system will remain on the stories until and unless they are deleted.
We hope you enjoy the new platform.
We hope you continue to share your thoughts and feelings.
We'll be watching and learning. This might not be the perfect solution; if it's not, we'll change again.
If you don't have a Facebook account, and don't want one, we still want to hear from you. The Beacon is proud of the fact it publishes every usable Letter to the Editor we receive.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love or hate our new system? Post a comment here, or send email to email@example.com.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
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