ERR Says End to Anonymous Comments Imminent ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The chief executive for ERR told the press that the news organization is planning to make an about-face from its current policy of allowing readers to post anonymous, unauthenticated comments.

"At some point, it will be inevitably have to be done," said Margus Allikmaa in Postimees. "We are very, very seriously considering the possibility of ending anonymous comments, and quite soon."

He cited "hate speech" as the main reason.

Still, the plan hinges on a search for the "right technical solution" - presumably one that would not alienate readers, said Allikmaa.

He suggested that ID card authentication would be one possible way, but said he said the system should not require commenters to log in for each comment.

Often unmoderated and drawing immoderate entries, the free-for-all world of Estonian online comment sections have often been criticized by those in favor of more civilized and transparent dialogue where every opinion can ultimately be linked to a real-world identity.
There have also been several prominent civil and criminal court cases revolving around online comments. Ferry company owner Vjatšeslav Leedo successfully sued an outlet for damages, and in a separate case two commenters received suspended sentences for insulting a senior judge while the outlet was not held liable.   

Both of those cases involved Delfi sites. But Delfi vies with for the country's most visited online news site and is mindful of the link between free comment and popularity. Delfi editor-in-chief Urmo Soonvald has spoken vehemently in favor of anonymous comments, saying they provide a secondary source of information for readers, notwithstanding a few bad apples. 

Eesti Päevaleht, one of the country's larger dailies, owned by the same corporate group as Delfi, introduced a system in 2010 that required users to authenticate themselves by ID card. It proved unpopular, with comments on most stories dropping to near zero, at the same time that Postimees retained anonymous commenting with only very basic anti-spam controls.

As Eesti Päevaleht and Delfi content started increasingly converging in 2011, the daily phased out the restrictive policies.

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