Did I do the right thing?

A while ago I published a letter here – from a reader asking for input on her dilemma from myself and my readers. Someone figured out who she was, and posted a snarky comment which I deleted as soon as I figured out he was playing around and having fun. Before I deleted it, I was in touch with the letter writer, and she wanted to know who had written that snarky comment because it worried her. She asked me to check the IP address and see where the comment originated. I did so, and told her the state (not the city) the person resided in. I usually will not share anything about my commenters with anyone, but I felt this situation was an emotional one, and eventually I made the judgment call.

Now that person who was outed by this information (apparently the location gave him away) is royally ticked off at me. I could have shared his exact location, but did not. He says I should have a disclaimer: “you should probably write that somewhere on your blog! commentors locations given to whoever wants it based on ur judgement call”

I feel he was being ridiculous – I shared it with the author after a potentially hurtful comment was left on her post. If he didn’t want to be found out, he shouldn’t even have commented….

What say you, dear reader?

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  1. shualah elisheva says:

    i’m with you, hadassah.

    1. he opened himself up to a public forum by leaving a comment. fair and square. you have to request anonymity on the web – and even then, you’re not likely to get it. would we all love to remain pixels and nothing else? maybe. but the fact of the matter is – he assumed the risk.

    2. your house, your rules. his remark: “locations given based on your judgment call” smacks of a base misunderstanding of blog protocol. it’s your blog, and your judgment determines the content – including the comments. if the content of the blog ultimately reflects on you [as it does], then you’re entitled to govern the content therein. and, as a corollary, do with it what you will, which includes but is not limited to soothing the ruffled emotions of someone who put herself out there AND requested anonymity, which was potentially shattered by a public commenter who did not make such a request.

    in sum, tough luck to the gentleman. i’d suggest, next time he wants to snatch someone’s requested and granted anonymous mask away, he think back on this.

  2. You did the right thing.

  3. Shimon says:

    Not sure there is enough info here to decide. Likely that you made the right call but as usual the devil is in the details.

  4. bukin86 says:

    shualah elisheva –

    What I wrote in no way endangered this persons anonymity. Did you even bother to go look at the post/comment before you wrote this comment? Honestly….

    If the owner of the blog doesnt want certain comments she is more than welcome to screen them! I dont think its right to afterwards go out and give details to people about where the commentor is from

    • shualah elisheva says:

      your comment has been removed, so far as i know. furthermore, the precise blog post was not linked here – likely to further preserve the anonymity of the person involved.

      you’re entitled to your opinion of what is right, as am i – and i think that what hadassah did was perfectly within her purview as a blog owner and writer.

      if you have problems with the way in which she [carefully and adroitly] manages her blog, then don’t comment here. that’s your choice.

      • bukin86 says:

        thank you for admitting that you did not even look at the post before accusing me of trying to “snatch someone’s requested and granted anonymous mask away”

      • bukin86 says:

        wait a second… what about MY “requested and granted anonymous mask” or is that selective now?

        • shualah elisheva says:

          it wasn’t requested outright in your initial comment – at least not to my knowledge.

          and you are quite welcome! hope you’ve a wonderful shabbat.

  5. fille says:

    How can people be identified through their location? This would mean to assume that only one person lives in a city…

  6. Z! says:

    I do not think that giving away the location was appropriate. I feel that to write a response on someone’s board is to trust the owner of the board, not other readers, with their anonimity. As such, to me, that means the owner of the blog must keep these rules even more stringently than the their supporters.
    A reporter doesn’t give away their lead, a blogger doesn’t give away their readers/commenters/supporters. (even to hint)

  7. batya from NJ says:

    i agree with shualah that it’s your house & therefore your rules. like fille, i’m too am confused though as to how giving the state of the commenter identified the commenter b/c there’s defintely more than 1 person in each state…& in the future it’s probably best for commenters to try to avoid snarkiness & nasty comments…

  8. The internet is a public place. Pseudonyms and the like are in no way an assurance of anonymity. Sorry, that’s the way it is. It isn’t much better cover than someone yelling out from within a crowd, and hoping they won’t be fingered.

    I would have to give this more thought, but I’m inclined to think that the internet is not only a public place in common sense; but that it is so in halacha, as well. Comments made on the internet (as opposed to secure or private forums) may well be no different than comments published in any other media.

    There remains the moral or derech eretz question, I suppose. Since you were going to delete the snarky comment without publication, why did you feel it necessary to notify the ‘target’ of the comment? If she was at risk of potential danger or damage, even without the comment going up in public, then there may have been an obligation to inform her of the comment. But if no harm could come once you deleted the comment, then informing her altogether may have been iffy. (I don’t claim to paskin here, just thinking aloud.)

    In either case, when any of us put a comment out there in public, we assume all the risks that go with it. I don’t think the commenter can exactly cry ‘foul’. If he is ashamed to claim ownership of his comment, he shouldn’t make it. Or so it would seem to me.

    Personally, I’m in favor of people using real names most of the time.

  9. phyllis says:

    I have a comment policy on my blog. I forget exactly when I put it up but I know that it was in response to some meta-blog thing that I read about comments. Basically, it’s a CYA for annoying people like this who try to complain about things that are not their business. My comment policy is available by clicking on the tab at the top of my blog, which I think is enough notice for any commenter (as in, commenter beware?)

    Here it is if you’re interested:
    http://imabima.blogspot.com/2005/11/comment-policywhat-can-you-say.html

    You certainly can say in your policy that there is no such thing as a truly anonymous comment and we should all know that!

  10. Rebecca says:

    I think that once a person makes a comment and pushes the submit, that is it. If the person is unhappy with another on your blog, then that person should not read his/her statements or going a step further, do not read the particular blog. I think the person was just stirring the pot by complaining about what you did. Too bad there was no matzah balls and soup in the pot, then it might have been worth the comment. Now I am clicking on”submit”.

  11. I agree with your policy. I look at my blog as my home. I had a nasty comment on my aliyah blog…I deleted it. If it had happened in my living room, I would have ignored the person and not invited them back. This was particularly nasty because this person posted the nastiness anonymously. Have a backbone at least! But still, its your place and your rules. If they can’t deal…is someone making them come here?

  12. Duvii says:

    I don’t understand.

    If you wanted the Author to know, you could have given them the IP address so said Author could track it.

    If you did not want the Author to know who it was you should have said nothing.

    By giving the State, I don’t really understand your intention so I cannot tell you if you were right, wrong, ineffective or effective.

    What outcome did you want?

  13. ima2seven says:

    I think there are details to this situation that we aren’t being told. Depending upon the scenario, revealing the state to your friend might have been useless, informative, or reassuring.

    I am sure you used sound judgement, and at the same time sure that you can understand the frustration of the commenter.

    Having said that, I personally cannot imagine having any presumption of privacy when commenting on a blog.

  14. Shira says:

    I don’t know if you did the right thing or not. We don’t have enough details for that (was the letter writer feeling menaced? was there a threat? was there a history of internet stalking? etc).

    BUT….I do know that nothing on the net is anonymous. It’s tempting to think it is, but ultimately, anyone can be tracked down quite easily. I read somewhere that one should never post something you wouldn’t mind published on the front page of the New York Times. Because you never know, it might end up there.

  15. I agree with Shira. We do’t know enough about the case. But that still doesn’t mean that the comment writer had a right to privacy. My philosophy is don’t put out anything online that you wouldn’t want to be known publicly.

  16. kisarita says:

    Dunno if it falls into the category of Lashon Hara or not. But I would use the same principles to determine that, as the spoken word. He doesn’t get extra protection because he’s on the internet.

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