Why I won't contribute to The Guardian's "Comment is Free" site
I'm no fan of its print manifestation, but The Guardian's recent new media awakening has been a joyous sight to behold.
They have realised that the future of their brand is online. Tick. But they're treating the net as more than just a new distribution platform for their existing content. They're intent on melding the enduring values of the Guardian with the participative potential of the web. Respect.
To this end, the paper (??) today launched Comment Is Free, an aggregation of all The Guardian's commentators and columnists.
As you'd expect, the site comes with an invitation to its users to add their comments. All good.
I duly posted a comment about an excellent piece on a recent visit Guantanamo by Clive Stafford Smith, lawyer for the British detainees.
I then read another column, and was intrigued to see that the Guardian was automatically publishing my geographic location next to my comment, based on my IP number.
It's a neat idea. Publishing the geographic location of commenters will add useful and enrichening context to the debates. It should reduce the risk of troll fests.
But it's not a risk free approach - particularly if you're a user posting contentious comments from a country with a repressive regime.
Having said that, The Guardian could mitigate this risk by clearly warning users that their location will be published next to their comments. They could also allow users to opt-out of having their location published, albeit at a cost of having their posts tagged as being from someone who won't allow their location to be published.
They don't give a clear warning. They don't allow an opt out.
Sure, there's some weasel text hidden to the left of the text entry box. But it's far from being clear, and there's no preview step before the post is published to the world in perpetuity.
I predict trouble, and until they fix the issues above I'm avoiding posting any more comments to the site.
I'd recommend you do the same, particularly if you live in a country with a regime which might take issue with your comments.
As Stef put it: comment is free, privacy is priceless.