CBC anonymous online comments ban: P.E.I. reaction
'My position on online commenting is that it should basically be abolished'
CBC has announced plans to ban anonymous comments from online stories, which has led to reaction from people across the country, including here in P.E.I.
"I'm glad there's been movement on the part of CBC to curb the vitriol of online commenting. My position on online commenting is that it should basically be abolished," said Yvette Doucette, who doesn't think the ban goes far enough.
Doucette works with the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada, but said she was speaking to her personal opinion, not that of the organization.
She has raised concerns in the past about online comments, specifically in stories about newcomers to Canada.
"We saw the tone take on an additional layer of nastiness and just become really horrible," she said. "I would characterize them as just hate-filled comments."
"They don't put forward anything that's penetrating commentary. If someone does have something that's profound or important or meaningful or significant to say about an issue, they could do so on a blog, they could do so on their Facebook, they could do so in a letter to the editor," she said.
Dave Cormier, manager of the office of student engagement and retention at UPEI, said he believes CBC should continue to allow comments, and is hopeful this ban will have a positive outcome.
"I think that's the place of the national broadcaster — is to host a discussion," he said. "There is no news story that is going to be able to take all sides of the story, and having that other voice — that public voice … can be really good."
He said he's had first-hand experience with removing anonymity from online communities, and said it makes a big difference.
"One of the things that we found over and over is when people use their real names, it changes the way they interact," he said. "Any time you force people to present their opinions from their own identities, it's going to improve the discussion."
Change spurred by group in N.B.
The move to change the commenting policy was spurred by a complaint from a group of prominent New Brunswick francophones over what they considered hateful attacks on the province's French-speaking community.
"It certainly encouraged us to move along a little bit in implementing the change," CBC spokesperson Emma Bedard told CBC News: Compass.
"It's something that we'd been considering, I want to say, for quite some time now. A committee was struck back in January to take a closer look at our moderation practices. But the complaints that were brought forward by the group in New Brunswick, like I said, encouraged us to move along a little faster."
Doucette raised concerns about how the new policy will be enforced, and the resources that will go into ensuring commenters use their real names.
"I don't understand the point. I don't understand why we would have taxpayers dollars going to police online comments," she said. "If there's no comments, then there's no work that has to be done around that and there's no resources that have to be spent on that."
Bedard admitted there will be some challenges to enforcing the policy.
"We recognize that it will not be easy to enforce and frankly a lot of other sites have had difficulty with that, and we recognize that there won't be a perfect solution," she said.
"Whether a person chooses a name that sounds like a real name that isn't their own real name is something that will be difficult to enforce but, that said, we are asking for transparency on the part of the people who use our sites and we're hoping it's a good first step in the right direction to making the conversations that happen in those spaces much more civil."
Bedard said there has already been lots of feedback — and much of it has come in through online commenting.
"There are others who are concerned about free speech, and censorship is another word thrown around there, but the point is not to censor people and it's certainly not to limit free speech. That's something that, as a public broadcaster, we believe in," she said.