Video: Former Gov. Angus King endorses Sun Journal verification policy

LEWISTON — Former Maine Gov. Angus King endorsed a new online commenting policy of the Sun Journal Friday.

King, an independent who served as governor from 1995 to 2003,  lauded the decision by the Sun Journal editorial staff that will require all those who comment on stories on the newspaper's website to do so under their own names.

"The anonymity provided online peels away civilized discourse," King said Friday praising the newspaper for leading the way despite criticism from some who have said the move is an attempt to stifle free speech.

In late 2010 King expressed reservations about sharing a column he penned with the newspaper saying he didn't feel it was fair to subject himself to anonymous attacks online when he was willing to put his name to his words.

The former governor's observations were part of many considerations the newspaper's staff considered before changing its policy to require online comments to be posted under real names.

The new policy will be in effect starting Feb. 1, 2011. To learn more about getting a verified account on SunJournal.com, visit sunjournal.com/verified.

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Judith Abbott's picture

Sun Journal verification policy

I agree with the verification policy. If you feel that you cannot use your really name and you need to hide behind a pseudonym, then maybe you should go to a chat room.

AL PELLETIER's picture

honest, accountable posts

Rock on sthistle !! Nicely written and based on fact, good for you.
When I joined in this forum several months ago, I scrolled through many ridiculous post until I found some decent dialog that pertained to the original letter and when I joined in with a comment always signed my real name trusting that my comments did not offend, insult or embarrass anybody, something called common courtesy . Now perhaps I won't have to waste time and what little energy I have left trying to avoid junk.

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

For the sake of clarity

I find it entertaining that those making comments below news stories can make the astonishing leap that they are just like the founding fathers of the U.S. or the like the anonymous authors of the Federalist Papers.

My guess is few making this point could even site a single sentence from any of those documents or would even know that the authors of those documents were, in fact, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

The debate over the formation of the Constitution of the United States and what form of government we would adopt in those early stages was the substance an important and defining debate. I seldom find the comments of the anonymous comments here rising to that level of sophistication.

Instead, the anonymous commentary we often see on the internet has no resemblance at all, either in style or substance, to the content of the Federalist Papers.

Those who have argued the most vigorously on this point are usually not using their anonymity to elevate the conversation to a higher standard but as a means to avoid embarrassment for posting absurd statements not based in fact or as a means to utter - online - often foul and demeaning insults against their fellow posters.

Anonymity here is used largely to be snarky and snippy and to seek a degree of retaliation against those who have provided fact-based commentary that you find disagreeable.

These behaviors are further compounded by the well-known practice of establishing multiple accounts and a plethora of online identities all belonging to a single individual.

This practice is especially prevalent among political operatives, who cannot establish grassroots support for their causes or their candidates - instead they turn to the fabricated support of their alter egos in a practice known as astro-turfing.

In some instances we have found a single person to have as many as 5 different accounts, appearing to respond to each other, all posted from the same computer and same distinct ISP address.

To all those who argue American democracy is based largely in anonymity, you are forgetting one our most cherished and important historical correspondences with the British Government, signed by its authors at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

The last line reading: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

Below the signatures of 56 men appear including Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Penn and Benjamin Harrison among other American luminaries of the day. Many equate this document to America's birth certificate.

Taking just the parts of American history -- out of context -- that support your case or snippets of the Constitution, also out of context, to bolster your ability to continue the practice of lying online or make false accusations against each other while assigning false motives to those who gather and create the content, provided to you free, on this site is far more troubling, more problematic, more of a slippery slope towards supporting a discourse that is increasingly uncivil and inflammatory than any result of having your real name beside what you write is.

To that end for decades writers of letters to the editor of this publication and others have signed their names to their opinions, including their criticism of this publication and those too are openly published.

We are not afraid of criticism nor are we quashing anybody's ability to have free speech, you are free to even have anonymous speech, we are just not going to use our resources to support it in our space online.

Nobody is stopping you from starting your own blog or web site written under your varying, multiple and assumed identities. Have at it. You are free to do that -- we, however, believe credibility depends on accountability.

Some here are angry because they are being denied the ability to make false statements or statements they cannot substantiate with evidence and fact.

So now they assign false motives to the Sun Journal's decision to clean up its commenting sections and our attempts to ensure a more civil and meaningful discussion that is more accessible, respectful and welcoming to others in our community.

They say we are quashing their rights to free speech - on the contrary we are enabling others to speak freely knowing those who join the conversation here will have the honor of their names and personal reputations on the line. We believe that creates a higher standard and will lead to a more enriching discussion.

Those so outraged by our attempts to do this are welcome to move on, start your own blogs, spend the time, money and resources it takes to collect, process, verify and present accurately the information we call news.

You can seek advertisers in the free market economy to support your online products, as we do, including your own online commenting swamp and you are welcome and invited to compete against us for eyes on your pages.

We believe in the competition of the marketplace but based on the quality of the comments we see from those hiding behind anonymity here, I sense we have little to worry about.

For all the others who are taking the time and making the effort to verify their status we thank you for supporting us in our goals.

We thank you for being readers and for understanding our intent on our commenting changes has nothing to do with quashing free speech or advancing any specific political agenda.

We thank you for not prejudging our motives and for not jumping to unfounded conclusions or making unsubstantiated allegations so distant from the truth they would be laughable if not so fantastic in their fabrication.

Bob Stone's picture

I am in favor of

this new policy and of the editorial board summarily replaced by the actual writer of the editorial. Let's make this a fair playing field.

Jerome Young's picture

In reading thru the comments,

In reading thru the comments, I must say, I have Never ever ever heard the LSJ accused of being REPUBLICAN. Or, an appendage of the HUGO Chaves regime. wow. That rates a 6 on the old chuckle meter.

Jerome Young's picture

Mrs McG that was an

Mrs McG that was an extraordinary post. Well thought, and expressly articulate. And quite true. The problem is with these forums, like all of them, the comments have become base, off topic, and in the words of Mr Rhoades "withering" which really encompasses the decision.
If there is any question of my motives, I disagree with the editorial board probably BEFORE they apply their fingers to keyboards, but the comments and arguments here are mostly off topic, banal and absurd. So, I applaud the decision to verify identities. If you don't want to be identified with what you write......don't post here. Simple.

Brad Blake's picture

Oh, Please, Mr. King

Angus King is such a phony manipulator. Whenever things don't go his way, he whines. I am so tired of his presense in this state. I wish the carpetbagger would finally pack up and leave. This hypocrite never missed an opportunity to get a photo op or sound bite when he was Governor extolling the wonders of our beautiful state and its natural resources. Now he is a wind developer, intent on destroying miles of ridgelines in the Roxbury and Highlands regions with sprawling industrial wind sites that do nothing but line his pockets with Enron-inspired RECs and taxpayer subsidies for an electricity source that doesn't work. Have you ever heard this guy's stump speech about Maine becoming uninhabitable? It is such BS it is laughable, yet his accolytes continue to believe. What I say to Angus King is "Bunk!" Get a thicker skin if you are going to be out there scamming the people of Maine. Some of us are on to you, Mr. King!

There is no censorship being

There is no censorship being instituted here, merely accountability, which I know can be rather harsh for people to accept.

Lisa Lindsay's picture

Or maybe

Angus King has a vested interest in comments made here about his Independence Wind projects in western Maine. That's OK, but let's not pretend that the guy has a deep concern for what the Sun Journal does for any other reason.

AL PELLETIER's picture

great move staff

Wow! I can't wait to read all the posts in the morning. If they are nasty I hope they identify themselves and "preaves" get ready to push the "banned" button.
Al Pelletier

Mike Wendell's picture

My thoughts

I don't mind the verification. I did mind the process how it occurred though. I know I had to jump through hoops over and above what the stated policy is to get my account verified. I had to do this because I do not have access to a phone during the day. I wound up having to borrow a cell phone from a local homeless man that I know and work with to call I believe Pattie while standing outside of a local library.

Having said that, I note that a telephone number is listed on my account. I don't recognize the phone number and hope that it's not visible to anyone else. It's one thing to list a full and legit name on a comment. It's another to publish a phone number though.

I do hope though that someone at the SJ will get around and fix the issues with the Captcha though that I;ve pointed out a couple of times now. Lower case and CAPITAL letters should not mix on a Captcha. It's too hard to tell a c from a C. Or at the very least remove their usage from those accounts who are registered.

Steve Bulger's picture

Spam???

Patti,
Won't that open up the forum to more robo-spam???

Steve Bulger's picture

If you remove Captcha

won't you open the forum to more robo-spamming?

Mike Wendell's picture

Not really. - Captchas are

Not really.

- Captchas are readable. Just looking at this site and the spam that it gets will show you that.

- Considering that only verified folks are going to be able to post comments, the spammers are going to have to deal with a phone call from the SJ before they spam. Do you think they're going to go through that?

Another letter with an issue: Y. Or is it a y? edit: Yup, didn;t get it right. Try #2

Mike Wendell's picture

I don't see it on this

I don't see it on this comment so I guess you're right. But some days it takes 3-4 tries to get it right because of the lower/upper case issue or because my eyes are tired as noted up above.

Could not agree more!

Could not agree more! Captcha is the worst thing to ever come to the Internet!!! My poor eyes get so tired LOL

It's a great idea

Honestly, what could possibly exemplify free speech better than to back up your own thoughts and words? Ask Gov. King mentioned, only on the internet can you "hide" and make comments, positive or negative. The last couple of decades have shown a lot of entitlement by people and a severe lack of accountability. It is by far time for people to take responsibility for their actions and words and become the adults they want society to see them as.

Public figure or not,

Public figure or not, millionaire or not, everyone is entitled to the same rights and treatments. Just because we as a society chose to treat them differently does not make it correct.

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