CBC will stop allowing anonymous online comments, management of the public broadcaster announced on Thursday.


Jennifer McGuire, CBC's general manager and editor in chief, said 'in the interests of encouraging civil conversation CBC will not allow the use of pseudonyms.'

All commenters will be required to use their real names instead of the current practice of allowing pseudonyms.

The policy change comes in the wake of a complaint by a group of prominent New Brunswick francophones over what they considered hateful attacks on the province's French-speaking community.

A national committee has been reviewing CBC's commenting policies for months, but has fast tracked its decision following the complaint, officials said.

"We recognize the limits of a 'real name' policy," Jennifer McGuire, CBC's general manager and editor in chief, said in an Editor's Blog published on the website late Thursday afternoon.

"However, in the interests of encouraging civil conversation CBC will not allow the use of pseudonyms."

No timeline for the change has been given.

"We are letting our users know this is coming but it will take some time to ensure we make this transition smoothly," McGuire wrote.

University of Moncton law professor Michel Doucet, who had organized the letter signed by 120 New Brunswick francophones, promptly reacted to the announcement with a post on Twitter in French, saying he is "happy with the outcome."

Michel Doucet

Michel Doucet, law professor and director of the International Observatory on Language Rights at the Université de Moncton, is pleased with the CBC's decision. (CBC)

Reached shortly after for further comment, Doucet said he felt the change in policy will have an impact.

"I think people, when you have to put your name, it's easy to hide behind a pseudonym and say anything you want, but when you have to put your name, people will think twice," he said.

Doucet said he had a meeting with CBC executives earlier on Thursday, and felt that the letter he had sent to CBC had helped to speed up the change in policy. 

"I think CBC was already doing a reflection on how to deal with their comments section," said Doucet. "They wanted to make it on a par with what's being done with Société Radio-Canada. So they wanted to do that. But it is certainly a direct result of the letters being sent."

Rosella Melanson, one of the signatories and a former executive director of the now-defunct New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women, also responded with a French tweet, saying "Yay."

The letter had called on CBC to overhaul its handling of online comments to be "more discerning" and filter out those that "attack the minority community."

Some of the examples cited in the letter included comments about an "Acadian mafia," calls to "banish all the French" out of the province, and a comment that said languages commissioner Katherine d'Entremont appeared "demonic" in a photograph.

Commenters should not be allowed to hide behind pseudonyms, they had argued.

Last week, CBC's senior director of digital news, Brodie Fenlon, had responded to Doucet, saying "more changes are needed, and will come."

But Fenlon had noted permitting commenters to use pseudonyms allows for an inclusive platform for all voices, including victims of crime and whistleblowers.

Requiring commenters to use their "'real names' does not guarantee civility," he added, pointing to the signed, yet hateful messages commonly seen on social media.

In November, CBC temporarily suspended comments on stories related to aboriginal issues due to the inordinate number of comments that regularly contravened its guidelines and constituted hate.

As of January, CBC now ensures all comments are reviewed by a human moderator before publication.