This is slightly old, but I just became aware of it last evening.

In July, LIN Media rolled out a comment system based on Facebook Connect. WISHTV.com was one of the first adopters. This expanded their base of potential commentors from a few thousand to a million instantly.

And apparently it brought chaos. As blogged the following day: Whoopsie. How did this happen? Why did users not self-censor their thoughts to a level that most parents could live with?

I suggest there are a few elements:

  • An exceptional story. The shootings that are referenced in the links above are the same ones I commented on the day they took place, and while my blog post was not supportive of Indiana Black Expo for its history of violence, I did not descend into out and out racism. (Although that's a matter of opinion)
  • A new system. Regular comment-writers probably did not realize that their old stored credentials which showed only a username had been replaced by their new (and also stored) Facebook credentials. They were not expecting their name to be associated with their comments.
  • Racism Itself - It isn't always clear what is racist and what is not. I'm sure there are at least a few people who would say any condemnation of Indiana Black Expo is racist.

Publishing on the Internet with one's real name is still a relatively new idea. Based on the responses to Jason's original blog post, a number of people remain uncomfortable with it (or at the very least, uncomfortable with Facebook).

It would be an interesting experiment. If everyone published under their real name, people with obscure names would seem to be at a disadvantage. People searching for "Chris Smith" become increasingly unlikely to find the right Chris Smith.