let facebook police YOUR comments

Facebook, that optional website that has successfully hornswoggled large swathes of the populace, including artsy intellectuals, into the belief that it is indispensable, nay, almost a public utility, continues to amaze and alarm -- if you are still living the free-range lifestyle outside the stock pen (all two of you). Here are some thoughts from Lauren Weinstein on Facebook's universal identity policy and how it has crept beyond the database into commenting systems of other sites:

It seemed pretty clear that Facebook has hoped all along to leverage a "one name, real identity" model into Facebook becoming a kind of universal identity hub, that users would broadly employ both online and in many cases offline as well. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said, "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity." This view is a necessary component of Facebook's ongoing hopes for real name monetization across the board.

Facebook's "universal identity" model thankfully hasn't really panned out for them so far, but they certainly moved to try push their real names methodology into other spheres nonetheless.

One obvious example is the Facebook commenting system, widely used on third-party sites and requiring users to login with their Facebook (real name) identities to post comments. A supposed rationale for this requirement was to reduce comment trolling and other comment abuse.

However, it quickly became clear that Facebook "real name" comments are a lose-lose proposition for everyone but Facebook.

There's no evidence that forcing people to post comments using their real identities reduces comment abuse at all. In fact, many trolls revel in the "honor" of their abusive trash being so identified. [This is dubious but let's move on -- tm]

Meanwhile, thoughtful users in sensitive situations have been unable to post what could have been useful and informative comments since Facebook's system insists on linking their work and personal postings to the same publicly viewable identity, making it problematic to comment negatively about an employer, or to admit that your child has HIV -- or that you live a frequently stigmatized lifestyle, for example. In some cases potentially life-threatening repercussions abound.

On top of all that, failures of these real name commenting systems give major third-party firms a convenient excuse to terminate existing comments completely across their sites, rather than making the effort to moderate comments effectively.

And much like the NRA's data-ignoring propaganda [Weinstein is comparing FB to the National Rifle Association; kind of button-pushing so I didn't quote that part -- tm], the deeper you go with Facebook the more ludicrous everything gets.

Facebook's system for users to report other users for suspected "identity violations" would seem not particularly out of place in old East Germany under the Stasi - "Show us your papers!"

Users target other users with falsified account identity violation claims, causing accounts to be closed until the targeted, innocent users can jump through hoops to prove themselves "pure" again to Facebook's identity gods. Many such impacted users are emotionally wrecked by this kind of completely unnecessary and unjustifiable abuse.

Trying to manage comments on an indie site is hell but consider the alternatives, oh ye tattered remnants of the blogosphere.