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Leaving a Comment? That'll Be 99 Cents, and Your Name 377

netbuzz writes "Anxious to lift a ban on comments brought about by incessant trolling and anonymous slander, a Massachusetts newspaper has begun requiring two things of online readers who want to leave their thoughts on stories: a one-time fee of 99 cents and a willingness to use their real names. Says the publisher: 'This is a necessary step, in my opinion, if The Attleboro (MA) Sun Chronicle is going to continue to provide a forum for comments on our websites.'"
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Leaving a Comment? That'll Be 99 Cents, and Your Name

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  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by GruntboyX ( 753706 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:56PM (#32917456)
    I guess speech is no longer free.
    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Funny)

      by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:57PM (#32917476)

      but it is still free as in speech! :)

    • by f1vlad ( 1253784 ) Works for Slashdot
      When was it free?:)
    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:59PM (#32917518)

      Except that you never had free speech rights on someone else's website?

    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mashhaster ( 1396287 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:01PM (#32917552)

      The first amendment to the constitution doesn't obligate a newspaper to print any anonymous inane bullshit one may send in. I don't see how this is much different, paywall aside.

    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:01PM (#32917556)

      Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one

      -- AJ Leibling

    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Funny)

      by HycoWhit ( 833923 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:03PM (#32917590)
      At .99 cents--its considered to be Value Speech! For a few bucks more they will throw in fries and a drink.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 )

      The Supreme Court has clearly stated that spending money is equivalent to free speech, and since equality is commutative that must mean that free speech is equivalent to spending money. It's really quite logical.

  • hello! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by knappe duivel ( 914316 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:57PM (#32917466)
    posting here is still free
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:58PM (#32917480)
    Slashdot has for a long time had a way of filtering the trolls out, why can't a newspaper have their own scheme to do so?
    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:06PM (#32917670) Homepage
      Slashdot's system relies on its huge popularity.
      • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:26PM (#32918014)
        People often times end up being modded -1 I disagree. Some of the most insightful comments around here end up categorized as funny, flamebait or troll. Mostly because a lot of the people with mod points are mindless morons that seem more interested in suppressing speech than encouraging it. Not sure whether I'll get modded Troll, Flamebait, Insightful or Interesting, the suspense is almost palpable.
        • I've noticed this especially when it comes to discussion of politically charged topics. This site is a really awesome forum for technical discussions and disagreements. As soon as we get started on healthcare or foreign wars, the inappropriate Mods come out in force.
        • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:52PM (#32918476) Journal

          Slashdot's moderation system is basically a meritocracy, or if you prefer to think of it this way, a syncophantocracy. Anyone who says a lot of things that the existing mods want to hear gets karma points and is then allowed to mod, eventually. If your viewpoints don't line up with the herd and you can't express them with a certain level of politeness, you're screwed.

          But, overall, the system only sucks in that it's only marginally better than anything else out there. It's imperfect, but it relies on collective intelligence or ignorance as opposed to being the viewpoint of a small band of people. Still highly imperfect, but less imperfect than any other system I've heard of.

          Sure, there are abusive mods, and there are bad moderations, but the bad moderations tend to be fixed over time, and the bad moderators tend to fail metamoderation and remove themselves from the moderation gene pool.

          It still means that if you post an anti-(insert viewpoint here) and get a bunch of pro-(insert viewpoint here) moderators on your case, your post will be machine-gunned into oblivion soon. But, by and large, so will their moderator points.

        • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @05:40PM (#32919876) Journal

          Getting downmodded (or upmodded) due to disagreement with the groupthink is typical when your comment is itself purely emotional, or, if factual, does not provide any proof for that. Basically, if you say "Linux sucks", you will be downmodded, and a large number of those downmods will be the "disagree" mods, but is it really a big issue?

          But if your claims are factual, the overall tone of the post polite, and you back your points with references, you are much more likely to be upmodded even when advocating opinions that are unpopular here.

          The real problem with the moderation system isn't with unreasonable downmods, IMO. It's with unreasonable "+1000" upmods. For example, in any RIAA story, you can post something along the lines of "RIAA can go suck my dick!" in response to some post detailing the abuses, and get heaps of Insightful mods. More generally, for any topic on which /. has a strong group opinion (Linux & OSS, SCO, MS, religion & creationism etc), purely emotional or unsubstantiated FUDish posts that go along with that opinion are upmodded just as fast as those that go against that opinion are downmodded.

          I suspect the reason for this is the existence of "Insightful" mod, because it is really bordering on "+1 agree" by definition, and many people seem to use it pretty much that way.

      • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @05:06PM (#32919490) Homepage

        Not just it's huge popularity - but it's moderator pool drawn from it's huge registered userbase. Larger, I suspect, than any but the largest of national daily newspapers - think the LA Times, NY Times, the Washington Post...
        But that doesn't prevent trolling, it just moderates them below the average users viewing threshhold. (Browse at -1 sometimes, it's eye opening.)

    • by cyber0ne ( 640846 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:08PM (#32917698) Homepage
      Slashdot doesn't filter them out very effectively, it's forever plagued by them. What it does have is ways for knowledgeable users (it's entire userbase) to reduce the noise and bring out the signal, all the while knowing full well what trolls are and how to ignore them. A local newspaper has a much smaller and much less savvy audience and needs to actually filter it out somehow, which can be exceedingly difficult if even possible at all.
    • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:09PM (#32917714)

      Slashdot has for a long time had a way of filtering the trolls out,

      What system would that be, homeslice? The moderation only works on posts that are of the generic-troll or meme-troll variety -- like "HOT GRITS" or "OBAMA is a N1&&3r" or somesuch. When trolls troll from a point of view, then it becomes much more subjective. Meta-moderation is very much a crapshoot and not evenly applied.

      Obviously slashdot has its own cultural norms and when you come here you simply have to be aware that there's going to be some verbal abuse. A newspaper, on the other hand, doesn't really want that and doesn't want to dedicate its services and infrastructure to hosting shouting matches. The draw for a newspaper is the story, not the argument itself; this is where a newspaper and a forum are different. Any conversation on the article should facilitate understanding, perspectives, and critique of the article, and not be a sort of vanity contest. did a very interesting article recently on the average anonymous poster []. And to be honest, I don't see why these people spout off about half the crap they do. They just want attention, and it isn't a newspapers job to host vanity projects.

      • by putch ( 469506 )

        A newspaper, on the other hand, doesn't really want that and doesn't want to dedicate its services and infrastructure to hosting shouting matches.

        uh...have you seen any of the opinion pages of the major papers? but, all kidding aside you're right. but at the same time so many of these outlets (especially smaller ones) have simple flat comments. even a moderately advanced system (with threads and some kind of reputation based promotion) would help solve a very large portion of the comment problems.

        but c

    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:30PM (#32918076)

      Of course, "troll" is in the eye of the beholder. Slashdot's system enforces a monoculture of thought as restrictive as any I have seen on the internet. Now maybe that what people want and it's moderately democratic in the way it is done, but to claim it's a bastion of free speech and acceptance of varying opinions and perspective is a huge misrepresentation.

  • Someone is taking the phrase "Money talks" a bit too literally, huh.

    Although, I've always wanted every time someone says "that's my 2 cents", that he's charged 2 real cents.

  • you aren't dealing with sophisticated tor and proxy users and ip spoofing, you're dealing with the local technically barely literate cranks. so just enforce ip bans. or even cookies. these guys are sitting at home on one computer, not even in a coffee shop. and you're probably only dealing with 12-24 committed griefers only, so its not an endless problem

    finally, i was always a fan of the rubber room (there may be a better term for this technique):

    once you've flagged the committed griefer, make it so his comments only appear to him. oftentimes these hacks will comment freely and continually for months on end, completely oblivious to the fact that no one is reading their comments except themselves

    • until someone links their article to stumbleupon or god help them 4chan.
      • if they aren't in eastern MA or RI, deny them the ability to comment

        yes, the attleboro expat in san francisco will be severely saddened at being unable to comment on a story from back home

        but that sounds like a fair trade off for effectively blocking a stumbleupon or 4chan trollpocalypse

    • (I'm the Systems Manager for a local newspaper, and also had to deal with administration of local forums) Even in my smallish town, the trolls are quite able to get around IP bans and more (many are still on dialup, but we have had some utilize proxy services, or SOCKS proxies - I knew I shouldn't have written that guide a few years back :P). Beyond that, we also get trolls who aren't even living in the area anymore.

      As far as the rubber room, while it's a good idea, many papers don't have staff capable of developing systems like that, and are using CMSes not developed in-house. Hell, many small papers don't even HAVE a "web guy/gal" to manage the site. Still, it is feasible that it would function well once implemented.

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <{ge.ten.atadet} {ta} {reteps}> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:01PM (#32917550) Journal

    and a willingness to use their real names.

    Somewhere in this country, there's a Hugh Jass who feels silenced.

  • ALL CAPS? (Score:5, Funny)

    by HycoWhit ( 833923 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:05PM (#32917640)
    Can I a pay a little extra to make my post all caps?
  • 100 cents is too much to poast an internet. All internets should be poasted for a discounted 99 cents.

    • The 99 cent fee is for a one-time validation of your ID. After that point, you're free to post as much as you want.
  • My local newspaper site, [], is pretty new to comments. They disable them on crime stories I've noticed but anything doing with politics, the proposed high-speed rail service between Madison and Milwaukee, or state workers will attract trolls by the dozen. It makes reading the news stories like taking a walk through Craigslist's Rants and Raves section. When it turns to /b/ I'll just quit reading I suppose.

    The concept of paying to comment seems a little too far though. That said, I'm all for havin

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      I have to ask this. The stories about hi-speed rail. Are the trolls you are speaking of really trolls or people that you disagree with?
      An example of a troll is someone that says this is another of Obama's communist plans.
      Some one saying that it will be a waste of money is an honest disagreement.

  • by Alan R Light ( 1277886 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:17PM (#32917848)

    Naturally, the newspaper in question has a right to do this, and especially if they are a small paper they may feel they don't have the resources available to consistently moderate user comments. Traditionally, newspapers confirmed the identity of people who wrote letters to the editor - which also is helpful in eliminating spoofing.

    However, there is certainly a downside. Sometimes, the things that most need to be said require anonymity. When the prevailing dogma - whether secular or religious - precludes the truth, those who wish to speak the truth must take steps to protect themselves. Slashdot has found a pretty good way of reducing the impact of trolls while both preserving anonymity and allowing the use of pseudonyms that allow regular posters to develop a good reputation without revealing their true identity.

    I hope and expect that most online media will follow Slashdot's example, rather than the example of the Sun Chronicle.

  • Fair enough (Score:4, Informative)

    by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:17PM (#32917858) Journal
    If you want to use the newspaper's soapbox, you have to play by their rules.

    If you want to post anonymously and for free (although this is a one-time ninety-nine cent fee, so it doesn't exactly break the bank) then there are lots of venues in which to do so.

    Different parts of the internet offer different ways to screen out trolls, with varying degrees of success and with varying costs and benefits. Some newspapers impose lengthy delays (and incur significant costs to themselves) on comment posting to allow for their own moderators to screen comments. Slashdot has a moderation system which is generally good at elevating comments supportive of our constituency's preferred varieties of groupthink, but which may handle less-popular viewpoints less well (even when expressed cogently, politely, and coherently, such views face a toss-up between up- and down-moderation), and which also allows well-written posts that don't appear within an hour or two of the story to disappear from the radar of most readers.

    And this isn't exactly a new concept for newspapers. Are there any serious newspapers with appreciable circulation numbers that allow anonymous letters to the editor in their print editions?

    See also: The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, Penny Arcade []. Maybe this is the right solution to the GIFT problem for this particular institution. I look forward to seeing if this is effective in improving signal-to-noise.

  • What with the recent spate of popular reading devices, (iPad and the followers soon to come), not having keyboards in the first place, one almost gets the impression that these papers want people to shut up and listen. And then shut up some more.

    So there's three levels at work here. On the top level we have the primary motivation for this. . .

    "Hey, if we publicize contentious issues which are designed to engage people on an emotional level, then we can expect to see a fuck-ton of cash come our way as peop

  • It cannot be denied that the discourse will certainly be more civil with real names. I suspect the fee is not a money-raiser; it's so it can be checked that the name is real, by virtue of it matching a valid credit card.

    Where does that leave people that would rather remain anonymous so they can express unpopular views? In a hard place. OTOH, it is quite routine that Letters to the Editor are written with real names.


  • by dustin_0099 ( 877013 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:25PM (#32917980)
    I don't want future employers googling me for my political views, so I want to use a pseudonym, but I'd be happy to give them my full name to activate the account.
    • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @04:44PM (#32919148) have a point. I mean, our paper has always been very strict about verifying the identity of writers of letters to the editor. So what's the difference? Google. No employer is going to sift through thousands of newspapers to see if you wrote any LTE's they don't approve of. But googling? Oh heck yes, in a heartbeat.

      I still agree with the newspapers on this, but it sucks that some people will be--justifiably--afraid to speak up.
  • Stewbacca is my real name.

  • If I pay money to post, am I allowed to post whatever I want?

    Presumably, everyone who can qualify via cc is an adult, so will there be any moderation for language or general douchebaggery? After all, if you pay to be there, shouldn't you be able to say whatever you want?

    I'm sure some people would love to have a forum where they don't have to watch their language and can speak as strongly as they wish, knowing that only people committed enough to pay money are able to involve themselves in the conversation.

  • Harrrr! (Score:3, Funny)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @04:52PM (#32919308) Homepage Journal

    "incessant trolling and anonymous slander"

    First, newspapers suffered from "incessant trolling and anonymous slander" always. They dealt with it by limiting the number of pages given over to 'letters to the editor'. "incessant trolling and anonymous slander" BY the editors was considered expempt. of course.

    Second, North Attleboro (and Mass by extension) is pretty much ALL "incessant trolling and anonymous slander". What the hell are they gonna put up on the blog now? Movie reviews and cat stories? Welcome to the Massachusetts experience. We don't call them 'Massholes' in Maine for no reason.

    ps - You can't slander a Massachusetts politician. The truth is an absolute defense.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2010 @05:06PM (#32919486)

    It's as if a million trolls suddenly cried out, and were silenced...

  • Paying to comment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dugeen ( 1224138 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:27AM (#32924154) Journal
    I'd never pay any platform simply to allow me to comment. If money is to change hands, I'm the one who should be paid since I'm increasing the value of their product with my carefully considered opinions. I wouldn't comment under my real name either - the legal arena for false accusations of libel, false accusations of terrorism etc is already heavily biased towards the state/the combatant with the most money so I am in no hurry to provide information that would make it easier to connect me to my comments.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll