Glover writes: "The internet is supposed to be the great engine of democratic expression. It has broken the old stranglehold of the Press and enables everyone to have a say. Anybody with a view, and the ability to put it into words, can become a blogger, or post comments in response to an article or blog.
He adds: "It is good that columnists should be examined, and responses are sometimes enlightening. There is, however, a downside to free-for-all debate. Some commenters resort easily to crude abuse, either against the columnist or a fellow commenter, without disclosing their identity. Under the cloak of anonymity, and in the certain knowledge that there can be no comeback, a few are eager to deliver insults and put the boot in. Extreme comments are supposed to be removed by newspaper websites, but a lot of colourful stuff remains.
"Admittedly no one has to read this stuff. But why do newspapers publish it? Surely it is a civilised principle that if you are going to attack a writer or other commenter you should avoid extreme abuse and, perhaps more important still, write under your own name...Parts of newspaper websites have become alternative reality playgrounds where people throw rocks at one another from behind bushes. They can be coarse and intolerant places.
"Newspapers have allowed what should be a civilised forum for debate to turn on occasion into unedifying rough houses. Sometimes things can turn seriously nasty, as when commenters made threats against the Daily Mail's Jan Moir after she had written what they deemed a homophobic article.
"Editors seem increasingly to want their columnists to make a stir, and are liable to judge the success of an article by the number of postings it receives. In fact it is easy to create a rumpus. A brilliantly argued and informative political column might attract few comments, and be no worse for that.
"You can't outlaw abuse, but I believe that a basic requirement of having a posting accepted – as it would be of having a letter published in a newspaper – should be to supply a real name."
- In May, The Independent's online editor Martin King explained why the paper was stopping anonymous postings on its site. He claimed : "Websites have been encouraging cowardice. They allow users to hide behind virtual anonymity to make hasty, ill-researched and often intemperate comments regardless of any consideration for personal hurt or corporate damage."