Editorial: a new commentarium for free and civil discussion

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Starting today, anonymous comments are no longer an option in Postimees. As before, all are welcome to keep on commenting but from now on as registered and identified users.  

As anonymous comments initially became available in Estonia at the turn of the century, it was seen as direct democracy. Ideally, this was supposed to be a place for discussion where all are involved and expected to express their opinions. Alas, this was not to be and the anonymous comments were used to insult and revile. Many chose to stay away. To find the good ideas posted by people become impossible as these got buries under the anonymous cursing and swearing. To find the ideas worthy of attention, the extra baggage will have to go.

In psychology, broken windows theory says a house forsaken invites people to do what they otherwise wouldn’t – steal, break, infringe. The theory says change of environment is sufficient to alter behaviour. Like if you clean up a street, people will become tidier.

Hopefully, it will work with the comments. Always, Postimees has triggered discussions, helped raise new ideas and maintained values. This has been our mission for decades and will continue to be so. Thus, Postimees sees it its task to keep cleansing the comments, develop civil discussion. Aiming to make the society healthier and better.  

We agree not with those who claim the closure of anonymous comments spells breach of freedom of speech or of expression. The latter is a pillar of a democratic society and will go nowhere. Rather, the anonymous commenting has killed the freedom of speech as people seeking polite debate keep away. They do not want to post anything as it is far from the collective brain hoped for.

By anonymous comments, the context of the news is distorted, disproportionally highlighting the ideas of some often small groups. This is wilful manipulation which will not help the society along. Anonymous comments do not reflect our life. 

In introducing the identified comments, Postimees is not alone. The contrary is true. Majority of the world’s dignified publications have dropped the anonymous comment option.

Postimees feels a sense of responsibility towards its co-authors, the people featured in the news and the journalists who are the most frequent targets of the anonymous commentators. We want to protect them from insults; we want to stand for human dignity.

The decision by Postimees to switch to identified commenting is a step towards enhanced culture of discussion in Estonia. We want passionate comments and criticism where needed, but under one’s own name. Being anonymous, be it often imagined, will regrettably boost behaviour contrary to general morals and norms of ethics.

In reality, being anonymous also lowers self control and creates the illusion of going unpunished. It weakens the feeling of responsibility for one’s words and actions.

Therefore, we call upon all to get registered in the name of improved opinion culture. A better and more influential opinion environment, and a society increasingly polite, is ours to build.