New Commenting Policy

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I will not publicly discuss the recent scandal so as not to pour salt on wounds that are very open right now. I have, of course, discussed this with friends and rabbinic advisors. I have much to say but now is the time for my silence. If you feel the need to discuss it (within this blog’s commenting rules – link), please do so on last Friday’s post (link).

However, this blog is undergoing a change effective immediately:

This blog has, in the past, allowed anyone to comment under any alias. The only limitation is that, on rare occasions, I ban people who have seriously violated the commenting rules.

Effective immediately, commenting requires registration. This will not stop anonymous posting — nothing will — but will add a barrier. Pseudonyms are still allowed, for reasons that are clear in our tight-knit community.

I refer readers to my proposed internet guidelines (link) and my internet shiur (link) for my suggestions of best practices regarding commenting.

I recognize that this may take some extra time initially. I ask that you please cooperate so that we can have a more productive conversation.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

40 comments

  1. Note that we will be adding the ability to sign in with your Google or social media accounts but that might take a week or so. My attempt to do that today crashed the site.

  2. Earlier there was a problem with registration, but that has now been fixed. To register for an account go to https://www.torahmusings.com/wp-login.php?action=register . The only information required is your emails address and an user name.

  3. Perhaps you should also mention… [edited – this is no longer true but I cannot discuss it in public due to threats]

  4. Good decision. We should all learn from our mistakes.

  5. I agree with the policy and commend you for it.

  6. thanks for the easy to remember password.
    🙂
    btw it’s a sad commentary imho that this was necessary

    KT

  7. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Test

  8. Nachum Klafter

    Wise decision, as always. Yesher Koach.

  9. Good decision. Two suggestions for tweaking it.
    1. People can comment only under one name.
    2. The name used should be unique; i.e., if someone is using anonymous, it should be followed by a number or some other description.

  10. lawrence kaplan

    Joel: You can change your password. I just did.

    I agree with my brother’s suggestions.

  11. Thank you for your suggestions. I’m still learning about the comments system and what it allows. If anyone knows more about WordPress comments and has specific suggestions, please e-mail me.

  12. lawrence kaplan

    On second thought, I am not sure I agree with my brother’s first suggestion. Let’s say I post, as I usually do, under my own name. However, for whatever reason, I wish to make an anonymous comment. Shouldn’t I be allowed to do so and use a pseudonym?

  13. Currently, in order to do so you need to register another pseudonym with (I believe) another e-mail address. That holds you somewhat accountable but allows for flexibility in the scenario you described.

    Of course, the problem is that you can easily sign up for numerous e-mail accounts. However, if subpoenas are ever issued, they can eventually be tracked back to you.

  14. Test

  15. Test to see if my name shows up

  16. Good idea. I would be interested to hear the views of your rabbinic advisers on commenting anonymously, if you care to share them. I believe, at a minimum, people should be strongly encouraged to use their real names. It would eliminate a lot of problems, being that people would sense they’re being held accountable for what they write. Yaakov asked the malach for its name, while they were wrestling, and the malach refused to answer. Maybe there’s a precedent there.

  17. Testing, testing, 123

  18. Great it works

  19. Test.
    They really are my initials. Honest!

  20. “Joel: You can change your password. I just did.”

    How?

  21. Shaul- Not sure after the first time, but when I logged in the first time, there was an option to change the password at the bottom of the screen. I’d imagine that you can log in through wordpress and alter your profile to change the password.

  22. Why don’t you just use Disqus? You can set it only allow registered comments.

  23. Fotheringay-Phipps

    I think it’s a step in the right direction. Unfortunate that it’s necessary, but necessary it is. (I used to comment on the Seforim blog, and there was someone there who would deliberately post all sorts of nonsense under the name Fotheringay-Phipps, and it was hard for me to get the blog owners to take action and sort it out.)

    I agree with JK’s second suggestion. I’m not sure of the first.

    LK: “Let’s say I post, as I usually do, under my own name. However, for whatever reason, I wish to make an anonymous comment. Shouldn’t I be allowed to do so and use a pseudonym?”

    That’s a good point. But the flip side is that allowing multiple allows for Broyde-esque sock-puppetry.

    EP: “I believe, at a minimum, people should be strongly encouraged to use their real names. It would eliminate a lot of problems, being that people would sense they’re being held accountable for what they write.”

    It can be a bit more complex than that. For example, in my case, I’m only partially anonymous. People who only know me through blogs don’t know who I am (at least I hope they don’t 🙂 ). But I freely tell people who know me IRL that I post on MBs and blogs as Fotheringay-Phipps, and any number of such people also read these blogs.

  24. Logged in using a pseudonym linked to an email address which cannot be identified with me. Not a strong barrier to anonymity, sock puppets, etc. …

  25. I think your new policy is a mistake.

    True, you will now have a more serious cadre of commenters, and probably (though not necessarily) less vitriol. On the other hand, you will no longer have freewheeling exchange of ideas. No longer will you be able to claim any true forum for debate exists on your blog. The comments will be populated largely by fairly like-minded commenters, with more or less homogenous veiwpoints such that they have no concerns about the loss of anonymity (however illusory it was to begin with.) 500 comments will be a thing of the past. This blog’s readership will greatly decline, and another, with no such restrictions, will soon emerge as the place for people to gather and argue.

  26. But the flip side is that allowing multiple allows for Broyde-esque sock-puppetry.

    This is still possible, you can log out and then log in with a different name. The blog owner will know this, but he already knew you were posting from the same IP address. I guess making this process marginally harder is some sort of gain.

    Anyway, since when is sock-puppetry such a threat to the content of this blog (beyond perhaps being a moral failure by the puppeteer)? Issues are not decided here by majority vote. Frequently one articulate writer comes out well from a disagreement with five people who disagree with him. And we have long since been suspicious of name-dropping, for example, the comment posted in R’ Henkin’s name a couple months back (on partnership minyans I believe).

  27. Shlomo2596: I guess making this process marginally harder is some sort of gain

    Precisely the point.

    the comment posted in R’ Henkin’s name a couple months back

    No, that was him. He comments here occasionally and sometimes e-mails me the comments as well.

  28. Fotheringay-Phipps

    shlomo: “This is still possible, you can log out and then log in with a different name. The blog owner will know this, but he already knew you were posting from the same IP address. I guess making this process marginally harder is some sort of gain.”

    I don’t now what’s possible. Someone else suggested it. I was just commenting on the advisability or disallowing it.

    “Anyway, since when is sock-puppetry such a threat to the content of this blog (beyond perhaps being a moral failure by the puppeteer)? Issues are not decided here by majority vote.”

    Issues are not “decided” at all, but support from other commentors definitely has an impact. That’s why people make these types of sock puppets to begin with.

  29. Issues are not “decided” at all, but support from other commentors definitely has an impact. That’s why people make these types of sock puppets to begin with.

    If that’s the issue, a better solution might be the implementation of like/dislike counters. Personally, I think that’s pretty silly though. The discussion should be driven by quality not quantity.

    FWIW, I think Gil made a wise choice. The system he has chosen provides the flexibility for almost anything that was previously possible, with some needed hysteresis and accountability.

  30. agree somewhat with DF above. i don’t know if his dire forecast is accurate, but overall, i think there will be a decrease in discussion

  31. I suppose this is the main blogspot for Torah discussions. One would have expected many more rabbis to be using it. I see no reason to be anonymous except that there is a ban on the net in some quarters. I cant see this bringing any decrease in ‘sensible’ discussion. I am not sure what the password problem is my machine stores it so I never have to remember it. Do so many people use multiple machines all the time.

  32. Nachum Klafter

    People can still post with a pseudonym (as F-P will continue to do) and people can even create multiple names, though it will be a bit of a tircha create multiple accounts with multiple emails and also to log in and log out. I think that overall it will encourage people to be posting mostly in the same name.

    A major nisayon for internet activity is that people don’t behave with the same restraint when they are anonymous.

    One motto I heard form a very pious person is that “you should always act as though everyone you know can see what you are doing.” That means that using your own name or at least a consistent pseudonym makes it more likely that you will take responsibility for your manner of writing. Yes, we are supposed to be primarily motivated by our knowledge that HKBH is watching, but imagining that everyone we know is watching is a useful way to achieve that. This is similar to Pirkei Avos: עין רואה ואוזן שומעת וכל מעשיך בספר נכתבין.

  33. test.
    ftr, i just created an email address to do this. i’ve long assumed that a motivated person could figure out who i am in real life, certainly if they had access to any metadata (is that an appropriate term in this context?), but they would have to actually try, and connect some dots. didn’t quire feel comfortable using my real email, which contains my name and removes all the effort…

  34. IH said “FWIW, I think Gil made a wise choice…”

    Mark this down for posterity!

  35. No, that was him. He [R’ Henkin] comments here occasionally and sometimes e-mails me the comments as well.

    Yes, you said so at the time also. But until you said so, we had no way of knowing and were suspicious.

  36. test.

  37. A subpoena will be meaningless if someone masks their IP Address with an anonymous proxy (which are free and a dime a dozen), tunnels through multiple foreign anonymous proxies, uses a VPN, uses the Tor Network or a multitude of other simple, easy methods to make an IP Address meaningless and ineffective to track a comment to an indovidual or even to determine if Poster A and Poster B are the same person.

  38. Anonymous posting is clearly important in many cases, however, I caution that if it extremely important that you maintain an anonymous identity that you do not leave clues about that a good investigator could tie you back. I would also advise being careful about the types of “tricks” used that would not cause you to violate laws concerning the use of the internet in general and specifically related to your access point(s). There is no telling how committed a person may be to figuring it out. And to the point, having civil discourse will also mitigate people trying to ascertain who you are at all costs.

  39. R Gil, Jlan- Thanks for the advice. I changed my password to something I can remember. And Klc7Je3x6Jg4 is now availible for the taking.

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