by Paul Alan Levy
I am pleased to note (thanks to Wendy Davis for reporting on this change) that the Montana Standard has abandoned its plan to out anonymous speakers by default, but rather to delete their comments by default. The announcement of the new approach did not acknowledge the potential for liability, but acknowledged only that "such a change would not be fair to those who are either unaware of the pending change or have not contacted us."
It is too just bad that the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain was unable or unwilling to configure its software in a way that let the Standard change its policy about anonymous commenting while leaving existing comments online. Indeed, in testing the system for posting comments, I found that it is still possible to register for posting without giving a genuine real name (note the fifth comment on the article, which I posted under the pseudonym "Testing the new system"). So it may well be the commenters who are truly intent on concealing their identity will still be able to do so. It remains to be seen how the system will work after the changes go into effect on January 1.
I gather that the Standard considered a switch to Facebook commenting, but rejected that alternative as even worse than what it is doing (for example, because connection to Facebook implicates even greater privacy problems, as well as more effective traceability) and I certainly share that concern.