New (Discretionary) Comment Policy

I’ve decided to add a new comment policy for certain situations where I think a particular person commenting should be more transparent about his or her own identity. This policy won’t apply in all situations and will be applied on a discretionary basis.

Here is the policy:

When requested, I will require certain people who comment to provide all of the following information:

  1. A real first and last name in the name box (not a pseudonym like “Papas Fritas” or something).
  2. A social media account (e.g., Facebook or Google+), professional networking account (e.g., or LinkedIn), or personal/professional website, which lists the same name provided in the name box.
    • In certain instances, I will further require that the linked website has a facial photograph of you. Such a photograph must come from a website of restricted access (e.g., a work or university profile), and not a website like Facebook, since such photos can merely be uploaded and might not be your own.
  3. An email address that matches at least the first initial and the full last name provided in the name box. Please note the following:
    • The same email address must appear on the social media account, professional networking account, or website, and be visible to public view.
    • The email address must come from a server of restricted access (e.g., a work or university email address). Otherwise, someone can create a fake email address on AOL or Yahoo and apply it to someone else’s name and website.
    • I will send a confirmation email to this address, to which you must reply, in order to confirm that you are not simply posting an email address that actually belongs to someone else.

I am making this requirement (in certain instances), so that both myself and the readers of this blog can know the real identity of certain individuals who comment. Situations in which I might want to know someone’s real identity include (but are not limited to):

  • The same person has been posting comments for a long time (and while not explicitly violating the Comment Policy) has in one way or another been irritating myself or other people commenting on the blog.
  • A person claims to have academic credentials, but posts under a pseudonym (in this kind of scenario I may specifically require a link to a profile on a university website, or at least an account).
  • A comment thread has been dragging on for a while, and I eventually want to know the identity of the person who is participating in it.
  • A person asks a question that will require a considerable amount of time and energy for me to respond. In such a situation, I may require the person to post such information, so that I can at least know the identity of the individual asking the question.
  • A person posts a particularly rude or inflammatory comment, which reflects poorly on his or her character, and then tries to hide behind a pseudonym. To be sure, most such comments will violate the Comment Policy, and most will be deleted (without acknowledgement). But every now and again one comes along, where I think the individual illustratively deserves to be called out. In such instances, I will temporarily block the comment (but still make its posting visible to public view), and then challenge the individual to provide his or her personal information (usually with a photograph). I will then see if they have the courage to do so. I doubt many will actually have such courage, but we’ll see.

Comments that are probably safe from this (discretionary) policy generally include the following:

  • People who do not provide their names, but who have been commenting here for a while, and who have generally behaved in a civil fashion (this applies to all ends of the spectrum, as far as theological beliefs are concerned).
  • A comment (from a person who is posting for the first time) that is generally civil and substantive in terms of its content, and doesn’t drag on for too long in the discussion thread.
  • Short comments, which only offer minor contributions to the post they are under, or simply include things like “good post” or “congrats” or “get well soon,” which generally don’t generate much more discussion.
  • Someone whose identity I know, even if they post under a pseudonym, and who would normally be willing to identify him or herself, if another person asked.
  • Any comment or thread that (for one reason or another) I don’t think the identity of the person commenting is terribly pertinent to the substance of the discussion.

I’m adding this policy because there have been a handful of instances over the years where I have wondered, as someone working toward my PhD in an academic field, whether I should spend my time interacting with certain individuals who don’t even post under their real identities. Now I have a policy in place to make sure that they do, or that they stop commenting.

I anticipate that most people who comment will be unaffected by this policy.

-Matthew Ferguson

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4 Responses to New (Discretionary) Comment Policy

  1. Jon says:

    ituations in which I might want to know someone’s real identity include … A person claims to have academic credentials, but posts under a pseudonym (in this kind of scenario I may specifically require a link to a profile on a university website, or at least an account).

    As a world-famous scholar with degrees from Harvard, Oxford, the Platonic Academy, Hibbings Community College and a few semesters as an exchange student on Mars, I strenuously object.

    The proprietor of this establishment may command me to cease such claims, but I say to you, eppur si commento!

  2. Panpsychist says:

    Keep in mind that people can have legitimate reasons for using a pseudonym. I, for one, used to work partly in Education, including teaching in highly-religious schools, so that posting atheist comments could potentially get me in trouble. I don’t think that will be relevant to the rest of my career, although who knows. Anyways, my point in general is that people can have good reasons to hide behind a pseudonym.

    • Celsus says:

      That’s why the policy is discretionary. I mostly want to use it for people who are misbehaving in ways that they would normally not act like in public, and are using the Internet as a tool to mask their identity. I don’t really like how the Internet changes people’s behavior. People say things all the time to others on social media, blogs, and email, which they would not have the courage or empathy to say to someone’s face. It’s similar to the manner in which it is easier to inflict pain to a person across the planet by pressing a button, but more difficult mentally to do so with your own hands. I want to take a stand against this trend by demanding more transparency in certain situations. But, if someone can offer an explanation for why they must remain anonymous (and if they can follow netiquette to begin with), then I can certainly waive this policy (or not apply it to begin with). It’s not a hard rule. But it is certainly something that I will apply with fair severity to trolls.

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