The Star-News


They won't be silenced

Sat, Oct 01 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

When two weeks ago I wrote about The Union-Tribune's decision to change over to a Facebook verification system for posting comments, I thought I was done jabbering about it for a while.

I was wrong.

I was emailed a link alerting me to the whereabouts of the jettisoned anonymous commentors, the "outcasts, people on the edge, trolls and crazies, with a few normal people thrown in for good measure."

Signedoffsandiego.com was born about the same time the UT's new policy came into play and nearly 8,000 comments have been posted in the last two weeks.

The site's creator says its purpose is to give a forum to people who don't feel comfortable voicing their opinions without anonymity.

Good for them.

Some people want to vent and don't want their families, friends, co-workers to know what's really on their mind.

I get that. People, including families, friends and co-workers can be intolerant, petty, vindictive or unforgiving when they learn your opinions are different from theirs.

There also had been occasions in which insiders, be they government workers, private sector employees or "people in the know," have posted tidbits of information about a particular story that provides further detail or insight. Whistleblowers (for lack of a better term) rightfully don't want to jeopardize their safety or careers for making public comments that could get them in trouble.

And still, there were other occasions (that seemed more often than not) where people just wanted to make outrageous comments for the sake of getting attention. Well, what can you do about that?

While I understand the UT's right, as a business, to run their outfit however they see fit, I don't agree with their reasons for doing so.

The change came about, in part, because, as the paper's executive editor said, online exchanges could degenerate into "childish, hateful or racist speech."

Again, as a business manager, if Jeff Light doesn't want his company associated with that kind of behavior, OK.

But if the news organization was also making the changes to protect its readers from hurt feelings and offensive comments, well, thanks for nothing.

Last I checked no one was forced to read the comments. Years ago I resigned myself to the fact that most comments, anonymous or otherwise, weren't worth my time. I stopped reading them.

But never did I consider or hope that the "outcasts, people on the edge, trolls and crazies," be outted or simply forced into extinction."

I'm glad they found a home.


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