June 9, 2013

Atheist Revolution Protects Commenter Privacy

privacy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
PZ Myers, an atheist blogger who writes on the Freethought Blogs network, recently announced that he will publicly reveal the identity of anyone who leaves comments he does not like on his blog using a pseudonym. He goes so far as to say, "...I won’t hesitate to expose your IP address and email." Although I believe this is a serious mistake on his part, I do appreciate that he has made this policy public so that potential commenters can accurately appraise the risks involved in commenting on his blog before they do so.

As Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True) recently noted in an excellent post, this announcement is likely to raise questions from potential commenters on other blogs. He's right, and so I'd like to follow Dr. Coyne's lead in disclosing my own policy when it comes to the privacy of commenters at Atheist Revolution.

I welcome comments from those who prefer to use pseudonyms when commenting at Atheist Revolution. I recognize that there are many valid reasons someone would want to comment under a pseudonym. I also recognize that the potential harm resulting from publicly outing (i.e., doxxing) someone is both substantial and impossible to foresee. For these reasons, I endorse the following portion of Dr. Coyne's pledge and will apply it here:
under no circumstances will I reveal your name, email, IP address, or other personal information to other commenters. Nor will I reveal them to anyone with one exception: if a comment appears to threaten physical or other harm to someone, including me, I will report the information to the proper authorities.
I recognize that there are plenty of effective ways of dealing with trolls, individuals who repeatedly violate the comment policy, and those engaging in other forms of bad behavior here. Publicly "outing" them (e.g., doxxing) is not something I am going to do.

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