Archive | Anonymity

Anonymous Comments and Modern Tort Law and Antidiscrimination Law

There’s been a lot of debate about anonymous comments. Some journalists are calling on newspapers to not allow anonymous comments, and I understand the sentiment — anonymity sometimes does encourage rudeness and worse.

At the same time, modern tort law and antidiscrimination law can potentially make it very dangerous for people to comment under their own names. Consider, for instance, this post from the New York Post:

A 2009 study concluded that 45% of employers were checking social-networking sites before deciding whether to hire someone. That’s shocking: only 45%? (A similar study the previous year reported that only 22% of employers were checking. Note the trend, and how quickly it’s moving.)

The news gets worse: of that 45% who bothered to check, 80% subsequently decided not to offer a job to someone based on info found on the sites. Facebook: the great job killer of the 21st century.

As an employer, you’re taking a chance when you hire someone. No one wants to hire a dud, but the stakes are larger than that. What if someone has a history of, say, posting rude sex jokes about women on his Facebook “wall” and turns out to be much the same around the coffee pot at work? No sex-harassment lawyer is going to fail to tell the jury that the company would have known it was making a hostile-workplace hire if only it had Googled Mr. Rufus T. Pervinator before putting him on the payroll.

Now it may well be that employers would have searched for prospective employees’ online statements, and would have refused to hire employees based on such statements, even without the pressure imposed by the law. My sense is that there would be some of that, but not as much. At the same time, there’s nothing like [...]

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