Random header image... Refresh for more!

Outing Anonymous Commenters

I was reading a blog a few months ago (I didn’t mean to sit on this question for months, but I forgot to write about it and was reminded by a posting on a listserv that triggered the thought again), and the person had gotten an anonymous comment.  It wasn’t that obnoxious in nature, just disagreeing with the writer.  Of course, there is really no such thing as a truly anonymous comment because most comment programs log the IP address.  Unless it’s your first time leaving a comment, a person can search their email for the IP address, see the last few times you’ve commented, and know exactly who Anon is.

That’s what this person did.  They got an anonymous comment (in which the person explained why they wanted to be anonymous) and wrote a post about it, outing the person.  Linking to the other person’s blog.

It left a really bad taste in my mouth.

The reality is that most people should stand behind their words.  Remaining anonymous should be reserved for whistleblowers or those confiding information that is delicate in nature.  There are plenty of reasonable explanations for wanting to post something anonymously.  Being a shithead is not one of them.

In other words, if you’re looking for the ability to freely speak your mind without having to face the person, you’ve abused the good will extended to anonymous posting.  It’s never okay to say crappy things to someone or about someone on the Internet, but I can stomach it a lot more if the person has the ovaries to stand behind her words.  I have no respect for someone who shouts hurtful things into a comment box and scurries away to hide behind the word “anonymous.”

So this walks a grey line: on one hand, the person should have stood behind their words.  They should have been transparent and admitted their feelings with their name attached.  And if they felt anxious doing so, that should have been their first clue that their words were simply unnecessary.  Her words were really just obnoxious for obnoxious-sake.  We should all use that internal barometer and choose not to speak when our desire is to lobby our words like a hand grenade and run away.

On the other hand, the blog writer is in the wrong for outing the person; a person who clearly states that they’re remaining anonymous because they’re going against popular opinion.  Not in a hateful, name-calling way.  But simply a “I respectfully disagree with you” sort of way.  This person isn’t a troll, trying to foment hate.  Trying to get under someone’s skin.  They simply have an unpopular opinion and want to express it. (Why?  Who knows.)

I swing back and forth on who I believe is really wrong here.  And it raises all sorts of other questions when trying to define the line:

  • Is it okay to out someone if they’re a troll?  Truly, unequivocally obnoxious?  Popping on your blog just to call you names.
  • Is it never okay to out an anonymous commenter?  Should we simply deal with the person directly and take everything out of the public arena of a blog post?
  • And what do you think of someone posting anonymously simply because they have an unpopular opinion and don’t want the rage of the community upon them?  Since y’all know we can get a little rage-y sometimes.

Let’s put it this way.  If an anonymous poster left a comment below saying:

“Melissa, I’m posting this anonymously because I know people will disagree with me, but this post was an enormous waste of time.  Why the hell do you overthink these things?  You should get back to writing about infertility and stop musing about stupid things like anonymous commenters.”

Would it be cool for me to write my next post outing that anonymous poster, linking to her blog, and yanking apart that sort of comment?  Is it ever okay?


1 Krystyn { 05.16.11 at 2:33 pm }

Great post Mel! This is how I see it…if you have to write something anonymously then maybe you shouldn’t be writing it at all. I am a firm believer that you must stand behind what you write.

2 bumpyjourney { 05.16.11 at 2:57 pm }

I have to say I agree with you. I don’t know exactly how I feel about it either. I don’t know if what the blog writer did by outing that person was create transparency or just add fuel to the fire.

I think that if you are not going to allow any anonymous comments on your blog, you should take that feature off. Or write a disclaimer that you wil be outed if you write anon. comments. I was ripped a NEW one once in comments b/c I was trying to give assvice to someone ASKING for assvice. I was using my medical knowledge and included disclaimers that I am not HER nurse or involved with her care, but had valid points and things to bring up with her doctor. I used my blog name, and I got some pretty nasty responses from people, and a nasty response from the blog writer in the comments for the post. I now think she was purposefully trying to create drama when advice came in that she didn’t agree with.

I let it all go and unfollowed her and haven’t looked back. Some people just need drama in their lives for what ever reason. I just wish we could all get along. (HA HA)

3 Betty M { 05.16.11 at 3:08 pm }

Having voiced unpopular opinions on popular blogs in my own name I can see why that commenter went anonymous. Popular bloggers can sometimes end up with a seemingly unthinking crowd of cheerleaders whose sole purpose appears to be to hound anyone who goes contrary to the blogger’s opinion. For me outing an anonymous blogger who disagrees with you (and I am not talking you Melissa just you the blogger) when you have a good idea that they will meet the wrath of a horde of your readers makes you no better that the anonymous blogger you got cross with in the first place.

4 Sharon { 05.16.11 at 3:22 pm }

I tend to agree with Krystyn: if you have to write something anonymously then maybe you shouldn’t be writing it at all. On my blog, I now explicitly state above the comment box that I’m not interested in reading comments which aren’t made in a spirit of support and friendship, after receiving an anonymous comment that was anything but (BTW, I did post about the comment but did not name the “anonymous” commenter, even though I could have).

One exception to this would be if the blogger has posted about a topic and opened it up for frank discussion. Doing that would invite disagreement, and depending on the topic, I can see why someone might then have a valid reason for choosing to remain anonymous.

One thing I’ve learned in over two years in this community: most blog posts aren’t inviting that type of debate. Most are just the writer sharing her feelings and/or looking for support/advice.

5 Calliope { 05.16.11 at 4:06 pm }

it’s weird- I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. I feel like for some posts anonymous is ok. If the spirit of the post (& the conversation prompt) is intended to be confessional – I would be ok.
But using my blog as a platform to speak without signing your name is uncool. I currently don’t allow comments from anyone that doesn’t have a valid e-mail address. I try to e-mail most unfamiliar people that comment – and if the comment bounces back then the comment goes away.

6 a { 05.16.11 at 4:08 pm }

I don’t really think that it’s bad to make an anonymous comment if you do it respectfully. And by respectfully, I mean that you comment only on the topic being raised, not on the writer or the writer’s family/friends/values/morals/ethics/etc. Unfortunately, on both sides of the equation, people cannot resist personal attacks… anonymous commenters and the writer and loyal readers. Because anyone who disagrees with my writings should either stop reading or not comment. Which is a bad system, in my opinion, unless you are looking for sycophants.

Now, most anonymous comments I’ve seen have been rude and off topic, and other commenters frequently respond in kind. So, when I want to respectfully (see above) disagree, I might see the attraction in commenting anonymously so I wouldn’t have to deal with the drama of people rushing to defend something that doesn’t really need a defense.

I hope this makes some sort of sense. I read all kinds of things, and it generally takes quite a while for me to decide that someone’s values are so diametrically opposed to mine that I must stop reading them. I appreciate differing points of view, because that helps me broaden my horizons. I want to hear what other people think. I don’t want people to think that they must agree with me.

7 HereWeGoAJen { 05.16.11 at 4:14 pm }

I can only think of one time that I left an anonymous comment and I emailed the blog owner and told her it was me. (I was commenting on something that was my husband’s business, not mine, so that is why I went anonymous for the general public.)

Now, I don’t think it is right to out an anonymous commentor but mostly because I don’t think two wrongs make a right. I think it is rude to leave an anonymous comment.

I’ve been getting some tougher than usual comments lately- people telling me what I ought to be doing and attacking my parenting when I am really not in a place to laugh it off like I usually can. And when I’ve tried to email that person back, it’s been a fake email address. And if you have to leave a fake email address, perhaps you should really not be saying that?

I don’t know, I don’t feel like my comment here really added anything to the discussion. I guess my point is that yes, sometimes people are self righteous assholes. But I didn’t out them on my blog, although for a moment, I was really tempted to. I decided that I was better than that, even though sometimes I get awfully tired of always having to be the one to take the high ground.

8 Marie { 05.16.11 at 4:25 pm }

Two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s my basic opinion. I do agree this is pretty sticky.

9 Dana { 05.16.11 at 5:03 pm }

I think the question about outing trolls – people who are purposely mean and only on a site to cause trouble – is tricky. I lean toward yes but I think it’s far more effective to just delete their comment or block them if they make a habit of leaving their bile on the blog.
The question about outing the anonymous commenter who was afraid to attach her name to what she thought would be an unpopular opinion, isn’t. If, as you say, she was respectful in her dissent, I think it’s unfair to out her in this way.

10 Queenie { 05.16.11 at 5:06 pm }

I’m going to disagree, and I’ll stand behind my disagreement!

If a blogger ONLY want comments that are supportive and identifiable, they can turn off anonymous comments. Heck, they could turn off comments altogether, if they don’t want to hear from people who might disagree with them. But is that really what blogging is all about, just finding people who agree with you?

I do think there is a culture of attacking those who disagree. It’s basic human nature to lash out at those who disagree with or criticize us. It’s those hours, days, weeks later that we finally cool down enough to realize maybe that other person has a point. The reality is that there are times when it is appropriate to disagree, to raise an alternative point of view, and yes, even to criticize. (I’m NOT talking about trolls who throw stones just to throw stones.) I sometimes comment anonymously when I’m in a hurry and don’t feel like going to the (minor) trouble of signing in. But I’ve also commented anonymously in other circumstances, such as when I’ve felt a blogger was intentionally unkind to another blogger in a way that deserved calling them on it. The times that I’ve commented anonymously, I have done so because I want my words to stand alone so that perhaps they think about them, rather than to start a back and forth with me, because it’s not about me. It’s about saying that words have impact, and that theirs hurt someone else. I therefore think a judicious use of anonymous commenting can be useful. But, if someone is going to go to all of the trouble to track me down via my IP address so they can have it out with me, I’m fine with that, too, I suppose.

11 tash { 05.16.11 at 5:29 pm }

I read a blog that’s now defunct where they had a personal, rather vicious little troll. Nothing threatening, but needling, irritating, stupid comments that showed a lack of understanding and a desperate need for attention. Now. I think everyone knows that ol’ threat “you’re not really anonymous,” but I think few people really understand what that means (or if they’re like me, they need to run to someone tech savvy and ask them to please track someone down). But I honestly think a lot of people think it’s hollow. So this blogger let go enough personal information publicly to let the troll know she was onto her, but not so much that everyone else could then sic the troll (although she had everything from the person’s blog to their work phone number. She was good). And that person never bothered her again.

I guess I personally wouldn’t have gone to that distance publicly, but I probably would’ve let the anon know privately that they weren’t so anon and were wasting their time attacking *me* when I knew perfectly well who they were. I still encourage anon blogging tho, because I think sometimes you want to say something and don’t need everyone knowing your business. Sometimes a post makes you want to open up, but you’re not ready to in a way where you put your name on it.

12 Denver Laura { 05.16.11 at 5:42 pm }

I am with HereWeGoAJen: I’ve left an anon response just so my business wasn’t airing but sent the blogger a followup up email explaining why and giving more detail around the particular question.

On the flip side, I’ve disabled it on my blog. Mine isn’t large enough to get targeted by trolls and I like to keep it that way. I’d like to allow it due to some of the sensitive nature of foster care but I just can’t bring myself to do so.

I’ve read some of the outing of trolls, which I think backfires since they like that kind of attention. The internet has pulled a sheet of anonymity over some rather nice people in person to where they feel they can say and do anything online.

There was one time where in a private bb where a IFr made a comment that I agreed with that many others found offensive. I still stand by my opinion but I KNEW it would outrage some people so I just emailed her my agreement instead of posting anonymously.

I figure if you don’t want those comments, turn that feature off. If you allow them, be prepared. If you post anonymously, be prepared to be found out. You are NEVER completely anonymous online.

13 Tigger { 05.16.11 at 5:51 pm }

I’m also of the opinion that people need to own their words. If it’s not something you’d want to own, perhaps you ought not say it. I often have a hard time not saying “Didn’t your mother teach you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, get your damn hands off the keyboard” to most anonymous commenters.

That being said, I also think the blogger was in the wrong. This should not have been addressed in a public arena. To do so was just inviting drama. Do I think we have the right to address Anonymous in a blog post (dear Anony: your comment hurt me very much and here’s why)? Yes. But to say “the person who left this comment that was so hurtful blogs over here – sic ’em, y’all” is just wrong and falls under the “if you can’t say anything nice…” rule.

14 L. { 05.16.11 at 5:54 pm }

I think the best thing to do is not engage in arby bargy if you can avoid it. It is rude to say “this post is an overthinking waste of time”, you can just wait for the next post to be more to your liking, and stop reading if they aren’t. Receiving that comment would sting but they are entitled to an opinion, I’d rather leave it hanging there like the gaff it is LOL There are nicer ways to say it you can lend your name to, like “I don’t worry too much about this sort of thing, I find it isn’t worth the energy” – gets the point across. I think the anonymous commenter who doesn’t want their identity found out because they have a relationship with the blogger and other readers should not rely on maintaining it by being nastier than necessary but NOT being called out. They should know they can be called out. So I would advise and recommend not calling out but nasty anon, they can call you out, mmkay? 🙂

Private info/confession anon is very different in my book. I think the blogger had an ethical obligation to respect that.

15 Kasey { 05.16.11 at 6:20 pm }

I disagree with the thought that “if you want to be anonymous you shouldn’t say it” – if you want to be anonymous because you’re going to be hurtful and disrespectful, you should think twice. But if a blog allows anonymous comments, the blog owner has zero business piecing together anonymous’ identity. And linking back to that person’s blog? Shameful.
If you want to “out” an anonymous commenter, then maybe you email them and start a conversation, but I don’t think you cross that line. It’s no better than someone “outing” an anonymous blogger – especially in a community that is usually loving and supportive, there is no place for that kind of petty BS.

16 aisha { 05.16.11 at 7:58 pm }

I had a troll on my site five years ago. They attacked anything I said. They said hurtful and hateful things. They then would use my comment box to jump over to blogs of those who left comments supporting me. I finally figured out thanks to IP addresses. . . that it was my best friend of 13 years. We were highschool friends, college roomies, and now she was trolling my blog and that of my friends. Hurt doesn’t begin to describe it as it was such a blow to me, but what I did was: let her know that I knew it was her and let those whose blogs she had harassed that it was my friend and to please just ignore her and block the IP address. I did write a post about trolls: http://aishaiqbal.blogspot.com/2006/03/on-trolls.html but I never outed her by name. I don’t know why, but the thought never occurred to me.

My thoughts, it’s wrong to not stand by your statement [unless its the reasons you stated], but its also wrong to out someone in this way generally speaking. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

17 mrs spock { 05.16.11 at 8:18 pm }

I went private partly because of trolls- and I still get them on my frugal blog. Always, without fail, about my c-sections and formula feeding. those that read my blog know I wanted the exact opposite, but that I didn’t get it, and I am OK with it. The women that come from Our Bodies, Ourselves, instead of being the crusaders for women and children they claim to be, are really just out to claim motherhood supremacy by randomly spewing garbage at other women. I got tired of seeing my blogged linked to and torn to pieces by every natural childbirth “proponent” or “lactivist”. Every time I would try to politely engage them or fight their fiction with my facts, they deleted my comments or ignored them. They hid behind these anonymous hit and runs like cowards. When I knew I would never be able to nurse my daughter safely for both of us, I went private to avoid those virtual punches in the face all over again.

I never outed those people on my blog, even though I found them on their own blogs. Being rude and crude is not my style.

18 Audrey { 05.16.11 at 10:18 pm }

If someone trolls you once or twice…let it go. If they ae harassing you and making you feel uncomfortable on your own blog…heck yeah out them for the devious hate monger that they REALLY are. If a person simply has a different opinion and is afraid of backlash…leave them alone. If you just want to have your ego stroked you aren’t worth reading and if you don’t really want a discussion you shouldn’t allow comments on the post at all. And if you feel the need to out anonymous posts…just don’t allow them on your blog.

19 Battynurse { 05.16.11 at 10:37 pm }

I have a tendency to just skip commenting on something if I disagree with the popular opinion etc. It’s often easier than starting a bunch of drama. I also truly believe that if you believe in something enough to say what you’re thinking you ought to have the balls or ovaries to stand behind what you are saying. I have gotten a few anonymous comments that to me were really hurtful. One was from someone who had misinterpreted something I had said on another blog and I felt bad that I couldn’t go back and explain. The other was just flat out hurtful. Truly, if I could figure out who that person was I likely would have outed them. I can’t say that it would have been right but it may have made me feel a bit better. Again though, this wasn’t for a difference of opinion, it was for a really hurtful comment.

20 Esperanza { 05.16.11 at 11:41 pm }

I agree with Kasey (and anyone else who may have said it) – if you have the anonymous feature on your commenting section then you should allow anonymous commenters without tracing back to them. If you don’t like what people are saying anonymously disable it. That seems like best way to deal with it, otherwise it feels like you’re allowing people to post under the assumption of anonymity when you’re not and that seems duplicitous and disingenuous.

Of course I do think people should stand behind their words. The one reason I might comment anonymously (and I’ve never done commenting like this before but I have posted on a board anonymously for this reason) is to protect my partner or a third party from being identified. Of course on the board I use my real name and email and I sometimes meet up with mothers there so it felt differently than if I were commenting under my blog name.

There recently was a post that really rubbed me the wrong way and I was going to post a comment explaining that. When I saw that all the other comments were positive I thought, very briefly, about commenting anonymously (I don’t even know if that would have been possible on that blog). In the end I decided that if I didn’t feel comfortable saying it with my blog name and link I shouldn’t say it at all. I would hope others would do the same unless extenuating circumstances required them to comment anonymously. I’m not sure what those circumstance might be but I assume they exist.

A very interesting idea indeed.

21 chhandita { 05.17.11 at 1:47 am }

I had a bad encounter with Anon commenter recently. It was hurtful and led to a few tears. But I have no intention of trying to figure out who the commenter (i have an idea though). I don’t want to give that person that much power over me.

22 Colleen { 05.17.11 at 2:33 am }

Thought provoking post and comments. Just as I think there are bloggers that are maintaining pen names there are some anonymous posters that post anonymously because they are just dipping their foot in the blogging pool. Not everyone is married or a partner or single that is fully supportive and in agreement with every thought that comes into the other’s head. Some of us are still silly people maintaining our true selves privately and only sharing parts of ourselves with others as we trust them. So hope you see there is yet another reason for valid anonymous comment, and don’t think it is just not having the ovaries to put your name behind the comment, although that is a clever line that I can’t believe I haven’t thought of before. I don’t like trolls either. Regardless of our views there is something of caring, compassion, respect, empathy that are supposed to have greater reservoirs in us as we mature.

23 MrsH { 05.17.11 at 2:47 am }

I agree with you in that anonymity should be reserved to delicate topics that would otherwise expose too much of that commenter’s life. Otherwise people should leave themselves available for conversation if THEY have initiated the heated topic by writing something controversial.

24 Stink-bomb { 05.17.11 at 3:31 am }

Two wrongs never make a right and the person who outed the anon commentator is in the wrong here. If they didn’t want people to be able to make comments anon then they shouldn’t have that feature on their blog. That’s like taking a child to a candy store, letting them see everything they COULD buy and then telling them that in fact they can’t have anything.

The blogger only outed the anon commentator because they said something that disagreed with the majority – if they had of agreed with the majority and the blogger then they wouldn’t have been outed.

Re this:
“They simply have an unpopular opinion and want to express it. (Why? Who knows.)”

Why not? So because you don’t agree with the majority you’re not allowed to voice your opinion? Put it out there? Comment on a blog post? Meh sorry but that’s ridiculous – if that were the case there would be A LOT that I couldn’t comment on because my views tend to differ from the majority – that’s the way I roll and I’m not going to stay silent just because I have a different view.

If you post a comment on a popular blog that disagrees with what the majority have already said or are saying, it can turn into a lynch mob – I’ve seen it happen so yes sometimes it’s easier AND better to leave that comment anon – so why leave the comment I hear you ask? Well just like the “majority” wanted their “popular” opinions heard, so do the “minority” and really BOTH opinions should be heard, NEED to be heard to obtain balance in the blogosphere.

I’ve always said if you want fairyfloss and rainbow shitting fairies type happiness and positivity, perhaps the blogosphere isn’t for you – it’s diverse occupied by varied people that will and do give varied opinions, thoughts and comments.

25 mash { 05.17.11 at 4:36 am }

I still stand in amazement at how people want only good comments on their blogs. We are on the INTERNET for heaven’s sakes. The world wide one. We need to take the good with the bad, and get that there are people who see things differently to us! If I get comments I don’t like, I delete them and move on with my life. Why are people putting themselves out there and then responding so viciously when it doesn’t go their way?

26 Colleen { 05.17.11 at 9:55 am }

By the way, really amazing site. Your technical and organizational skills extremely impress me. Love the helpful links along the side as well as the impressive organization you did for IF/Loss Blogroll. I thought previously I was fairly technical but never knew about seeing the ip nor using email to try to uncover the actual identity. In my house I feel pretty safe just using a hidden version of chrome to do blogging and commenting as rest of family sticks with the IE that came with the OS. My husband seems to lack skills, poor dear, to access voicemail or the internet from his phone. The only people I am really hiding from are the real world family members and semi-friends that would want to use what I post or comment to make life a little more trying.
Agree with mash that part of the beauty of the internet is the ability to absorb other people’s perspectives. Nastiness has no place, but alternate perspectives are what educate and broaden us. Agree best option is to delete the offensive comments–not the differing points of view written with some level of tact and awareness, but the ones that are just nasty and really don’t provide context to the opposing point of view, versus going on the offensive.

27 Michelle { 05.17.11 at 11:59 am }

I TOTALLY agree with you. Stand behind your words, whether they belong in someone’s camp or not. You can still do that while being respectful of differing opinions…it’s when that gets lost where things get hairy and out of control. I do not agree with the public ‘outing’ of someone.

Once I figured out a couple of my ‘anons’, I emailed them personally and asked them to not comment on the blog any more, or to use their name. I also blogged about ‘anons’, because I believe in standing behind whatever comes out of your mouth.

Trolls are a whole different story. They can f-off as far as I’m concerned. I am happy to track them down and share my opinion of their ‘hate’, whenever the opportunity arises.

28 Barely Sane { 05.17.11 at 4:38 pm }

I think there is a time and a place for anon comments and there is a time and a place for outing someone but I still believe it’s a case by case basis.
For instance, when I first started reading birthmom blogs, I found I wanted to lend support but I was so scared of how I would be received and so I posted as anon. Eventually, as I got to know the bloggers and got comfortable, I began to post as myself. And for the record, my fears were totally unfounded.

I find that when I do disagree with something someone says, I either don’t comment or I choose my words carefully because as others have mentioned, I have to be accountable for them. It has never occurred to me to ‘out’ an anon poster, nor did I feel compelled to ‘out’ the trolls that recently invaded my blog. I did post about the incident, but I never named names because otherwise, I gave them power over me and I wasn’t willing to do that.

Of course, I also don’t allow anon posts on my blog either so I have taken away that option. While I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, I do expect a certain level of decorum and if a poster can’t do that, well…. don’t bother commenting.

29 Kristin { 05.17.11 at 9:01 pm }

I think both people were wrong in that situation. The person who commented should have the huevos to stand behind their comment. If it’s what they truly believe what they are saying, put their name behind it. And, I think it would have been perfectly ok for the blogger to search out the person and start a dialogue about the anon comment but outing anonymous on the blog was wrong too.

If someone is truly being a troll, evil, mean, and fomenting hate, I have no problem outing them in a post.

30 Allison { 05.17.11 at 10:21 pm }

I have a general rule: if I have been a long-time follower of a blogger and have a relationship with her, then I will respectfully post a dissenting opinion. RESPECTFULLY. And I will follow up on it. If I’m bouncing around and see a hot topic (or if it’s someone I’ve been reading but have never posted on), even if I feel strongly, I won’t comment.

I use blogging as a support mechanism and want to support others. I can play devil’s advocate with the best of ’em, but you have to know when the blogger is in the ‘frame of mind’ to accept it. I think long-time followers get up in arms when a new person comes in and acts like they know the blogger’s entire story.

We can get a little territorial like that.

Also, as a non-techy who suddenly had a couple of nastygrams and didn’t know how to trace, and who didn’t think her blog was worthy of attracting such attention (much less then ALSO being attacked in a different blogger’s comment section altogether), I think the lesson of ‘turning off Anon comments’ can be one that isn’t truly learned until you’ve been there.

Or maybe I’m just that naive. I’ve been called worse. 😉

31 Mad Hatter { 05.17.11 at 11:46 pm }

I’ve written a post about this and in it I likened anonymous commenting to a drive-by shooting – bloggers or regular commenters may have nicknames, but we all know each other’s identities and where we live, so to speak. I think by virtue of being anonymous, a comment is immediately suspicious to a blogger the same way a stranger at your door wearing a potato sack over their head would be. I think disagreeing or suggesting other options should be a matter of course in the comment section of a blog, but the delivery of such comments should be carefully crafted regardless of whether they are anonymous or not. In fact, I believe an anonymous commenter should be especially careful in light of their potato sack. After all, is the purpose to be nasty and obnoxious or to diplomatically state your opinion, perhaps persuading others to see a different point of view?

I’ve responded in a post to an anonymous commenter for commenting about me and my choice of an RE on another blog, but I never would have outed them. (They e-mailed and apologized, by the way.) I think that would be where I would draw the line.

32 MC { 05.18.11 at 1:14 pm }

Just a quick technical note of caution – using the IP address to track down a commenter is not a fool-proof method. If I’m surfing/posting from work, you will get the gateway IP of my employer, not the internal IP of my computer. In a company of several thousands of employees, it is not inconceivable that several people may be reading/frequenting the same blogs.

And when it comes to accessing the internet from home, my internet provider (one of the larger providers in Canada) also uses a gateway and assigns internal addresses to users as they log onto the network, so the IP you would see for me would be somewhere in Missisauga (the provider’s headquarters) rather than my home.

And of course there is also the possibility of multiple people in the same household using the same computer to surf/post etc.

That being said, I personally think both people are in the wrong. The anonymous commenter should not use anonymity as an easy way to leave a hurtful or attacking comment, and the blog owner should not fight fire with fire (at least as a first response).

A great discussion for sure!

33 Anonymous..haha { 05.18.11 at 2:13 pm }

I sure wish I was as tech savy like some of your commenters seem to be. I had a really bad experience with a troll (the word troll actually seems too nice.) They left awful anonymous comments on my post about my son’s circ. (I now know better than to write about a topic like that.) I engaged them. Not being mean, but responding in a way that I am sure pissed them off. Enough that they took the time to read my entire blog, gather info, figure out my last name, then use the internet to find the names of my in laws and their address. They printed my blog & twitter feed and mailed it to their house. Said I was making a fool of them on the internet or whatever. Made it seem like my blog was all about them. They were in maybe 2 out of 150 posts. The posts were old. We had no contact with them for many yrs, but when my son was born, the doors opened slightly. Well, my blog being sent to them closed the doors forever. Even though I stand by what I wrote as completely 100% the truth and I was writing about my feelings surrounding what happened….I think the way it was outed and portrayed to them was what made them so upset. Like they were publicly being laughed at.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now I get to have this person hanging over my head all the time reminding me they know who I am. They even stalk my twitter and when I said on there that we were planning a vacation, they again posted my first and last name on my blog and said I am stupid for talking about my house being empty. (Which really felt like a threat.)

I took off anonymous commenting and they made a fake blogger profile. I had to add comment moderation just to stop them from posting my last name in the comment section for everyone to see.

I haven’t addressed this at all on my blog because I felt like maybe ignoring it would make it stop. But, it’s been months and they have put a lot of time and their own money into hurting me. (They printed and mailed my blog! I don’t have time to go to the post office to mail packages for people I love let alone people I hate!)

34 Billy { 06.13.11 at 5:32 pm }

Sorry but I’m tired and about to go to sleep, so haven’t really read what other people wrote.
Anyway, while I never write/wrote a comment without a name (or so I believe I haven’t..) I do think it is okay to do so if you have an unpopular point of view. As a very shy and timid person, I truly don’t understand your “why? who knows”. Of course as long as it is not a hateful/mean comment..
[and I will add that there were times when I thought of posting anonymously when it was a new blogger and they were in a very difficult time infertility wise and I wouldn’t want them to happen to my blog and see my joyfully talk about my daughter. But either I decided not to post, or I did with my name.. but still it was a thought and another reason for posting anonymously)
As for the question of outing – well my first thought was that it is such a bother and who has time and or energy (assuming I know how to do so, I don’t..) for such. But if yes, well it is okay in my opinion to out a troll, it is not okay to out someone just because they posted anonymously.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author