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in Massachusetts the Sun Chronicle puts a price on free speech

July 10, 2010

I wrote an article a couple of week ago about internet forums and the problems that Masterchef was having with theirs you can read that  article here, well it would appear that they are not in this alone in dealing with this problem of rouge comments appearing in the comments sections of their website . I was alerted to this posting at the Sun Chronicle website from Massachusetts stating that they are reintroducing comments on their articles apparently the comment section  have been off the air for a few months due to inappropriate comments from some anonymous readers, you can read the full article here. So it appears they took the knee jerk reaction and just pulled the comments section, well after a couple of months absence it’s is back but now with a twist. Under the new arrangement to be able to comment you now have to register, no big deal accept this time you need  to register with a valid credit card and a incur a one off charge of 99 cents for your right to exercise your right to free speech well at least at this internet site.

To enforce this change, all posters will be required to register their name, address, phone number and a legitimate credit card number. The credit card will be charged a one-time fee of 99 cents to activate the account. The poster’s name as it appears on the credit card will automatically be attached to the poster’s comments, as will the name of the community in which they live.

I can understand what they are attempting to do, but I don’t care how much it actually is 99 cents or 1 cent I am not handing over my credit card number just to leave a comment. Like I have said previously,

“The problem that these forums face is they will encounter comments that are not reasonably minded; some are racist slurs, hate speech, religious vilification, spam or any other sort of unsavoury, unwanted and most definitely uninvited speech.”

However although requiring registration is appropriate demanding payment for them to authenticate your identity is not. I still think that this approach is wrong and that it only stifles speech and removes a problem that the Sun Chronicle don’t really want to deal with by applying the appropriate resources, that they no doubt did with physical letters to the editor. I also wonder how the issue of credit card theft, and the rights of the people who post now that any aggrieved party can petition the courts to have the Sun Chronicle release the identity of any poster of comments.

Like I have said I always post comments under my name but I can understand why some people may choose not to want too, I applaud the Sun Chronicle actions in reopening the comments section just question the fashion and method that have chosen to use.

What do think leave me a free comment here, love to hear what you have to say.

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