It is good practice to ask users to register in order to be able to comment. This requirement is important not only in view of the legal liabilities highlighted in this section, but also as an initial hurdle to dissuade aggressors and machine-operated accounts.
News organizations have adopted different approaches to user registration, in part depending on the environment in which they operate and the number of attacks targeting them. Some news organizations have also gone as far as to only allow users who have a paid subscription to post comments. In defining which registration approach fits your needs, the following four criteria should be taken into consideration:
- Keep bots out: Machine-operated accounts not only generally do not contribute to a “healthy conversation”, but they are also not a proper reflection of the views and opinions of individual members of society. As such, their comments have little to no value for you.
- Dissuade aggression: Experts have noted that the perceived anonymity people enjoy in the online sphere leaves space for socially unacceptable behaviour, including aggression. Some type of registration may help remove that perception of total anonymity. Also, moderators will have the possibility to reach out to registered users who have acted in breach of community guidelines if they need to talk to them directly.
- Protect anonymity: At the same time, anonymity helps enable freedom of expression, in particular in restrictive environments. Don’t force users to reveal their real name, as this may hinder their ability to comment freely and you may lose important information and opinions. Real-name registration has not been shown to limit attacks more than other types of registration and is therefore not advisable. Allow your users to choose a nickname which will appear with their comments.
- Be inclusive: One of the dangers of allowing only paying subscribers to post comments on your website is that it may promote the creation of echo-chambers. By allowing all users, not only paying subscribers, to comment, you are more likely to receive a variety of opinions and ideas on your comments page, which is likely to better reflect the spectrum of the society in which you operate and stimulate a much-needed open public debate.
We recommend that you use a two-step verification system that can include, for example, a simple email registration verification as well as a Captcha test using pictures.