Here’s your question for the week on Idea Lab. Many people think that anonymity is important online for people who are whistle-blowers or would not speak out if they were identified. But the flipside of that is that many people use the protection of anonymity to lob insults and ad hominem attacks at opponents and turn civil conversations into flame wars. What happens if you try to pin down people and make them use real names in forums? Does that bring more civility? That’s certainly the case at Front Porch Forum, where people must use their first and last name, street name and email address with each post on the closed neighborhood email forums. (I wrote about them recently on MediaShift.)
So what’s your take on forcing accountability in online forums? How far would you go, and what’s your experience in this regard with running forums? When do you think anonymity has its place?