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Real names-only policy on YouTube draws criticism

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youtube-real-id-480.jpgGoogle is rolling out a real-name policy on its video sharing website YouTube, believed to be a move to clean up the tone of debate in its comments section. (

Google has begun rolling out a new, real-name commenting policy on its video website YouTube amidst debates about online decorum, free speech and privacy.

YouTube comments have developed something of a unique reputation all their own, up to the point where they have been lambasted and critiqued on several blogs.

An entry on Urban Dictionary defines YouTube comments as "insane, rambling argument[s]" and "the ultimate example of human stupidity."

In what some believe is an effort to curb the vitriol, Google has begun to synch users' profiles and usernames with their Google+ profiles - including their real name and display picture. By adopting the new policy, users' uploaded videos, comments, and up or down-votes on other videos will appear with their names as listed on Google +.

The change is still optional, allowing users to forgo the change by clicking "I don't want to use my full name" when prompted.

The change also includes content previously posted under their old username. Google included a "review your content" function that allows you to choose whether to associate them with your newly minted real name profile.

But is it working?

Gizmodo's Leslie Horn wrote that despite the initial prospect of a person's real identity helping to calm the level of rhetoric, comments on YouTube since the policy launched three weeks ago "continue to be just as horrendous and offensive as ever."

Beyond that, debates about how real names affect online privacy and free speech have arisen. A discussion thread on Reddit attracted more than 1,400 comments - some in favour of the policy, some against, and others who believe it won't change a thing.

"I'm so torn. I love usernames and anonymity, but YouTube comments are the one place that could really benefit from people feeling like their comments have consequences," wrote TheCodexx.

"People aren't awful on the internet because they can't be traced; people are awful on the internet because the chances are low they'll never interact with this person again," wrote undeadgoat.

And in an article on Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jillian C. York wrote that a real name requirement online would create problems for groups that feel safer using a pseudonym, including political dissidents, survivors of domestic abuse or members of the LGBT community, especially teenagers.

Past attempts to introduce mandatory real name profiles have yet to catch on when it comes to large online communities and networks. Google+ originally required real names only for users, but backed down in January.

When videogame development studio Blizzard proposed a mandatory Real ID system for all of its players and members on their discussion forums in 2010, players lashed back en masse, forcing the company to make it an optional feature instead.

If you have an account on YouTube, have you adopted the real name policy? Should it be made mandatory, kept optional, or erased entirely?

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: POV, Transparency, World

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