YouTube head of Product Dror Shimshowitz told Wired last May, “We’re working on some improvements to the comment system.” Well, YouTube’s “secret weapon against the Internet’s worst commenters” has arrived: asking people to use their real name.
Site users noticed a new prompt over the weekend when they tried to make a comment on a YouTube video. The prompt asked them to publish their comment under their real name. The feature works by taking the potential commenter’s name from their Google+ profile.
Google has been on a campaign to incorporate Google+ into YouTube, and this appears to be the latest step. When Google announced the integration of its social network into the video-sharing site in May, many users were angry, including actor Wil Wheaton and best-selling authors John Green and Neil Gaiman.
This latest form of integration has caused an equal level of outrage. “This totally freaks me out,” danielbum912 wrote in the Google product forums on July 21, echoing similar sentiments. “I don’t want it.” Two days later, a blog post by videogame artist and podcaster Jim Youkin shot to the front page of Reddit, prompting articles by Time and Betabeat on real-name feature.
Youkin didn’t seem optimistic that the controversial feature would improve the quality of YouTube comments, writing
“While removing anonymity may make some YouTube commentors (often held up as one of the most trustworthy examples of the Internet Fuckwad Theory at work) think twice about sprewing bilious nonsense all over YouTube videos, if previous attempts to ‘unmask’ users for the sake of curbing ‘bad behavior’ are any indication, YouTube/Google may be have an uphill battle on their hands.”
Users can opt out of using their real name by picking one of six options, which include “My channel is for a show or character” and the more troll-friendly option, “My channel is for personal use, but I cannot use my real name.”