Mary Hill explains why she should be permitted to comment in the Gazette

By Mary Hill

March 20th, 2022


Mary Hill, a person we have not succeeded in satisfactorily identifying, took exception to our decision to restrict her commenting privileges in the Gazette because it looked like she was commenting using two different names.  She asked if she could write, in a respectful manner, a comment to what you today published stating a different point of view to yours.  The following is what she wrote:

The Gazette is in the process of putting in place a set of rules tat should prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.

“Hello, I am Mary Hill. I am not Margaret Riley. Margaret (Maggie) is my life partner. Not that that is anyone’s business. Though the Gazette seems to have made it everyone’s business.

I am writing this in response to the two Gazette pieces that have put Maggie and me through the wringer

Contrary to the thoughts of the Gazette’s editor/publisher, and I am sure some of its readers, Mary and Maggie are not one and the same.

Having straightened that out I must ask what would it matter if Mary and Maggie were indeed just one individual using two different identities to make comments in the Gazette? I don’t understand what the problem would be.

The editor/publisher is correct. Other publications do require authentication of who you are, as do many on-line retailers when one wishes to change account settings for example. Authentication is generally achieved by one of two methods. 1. via sending an email to the account holder’s designated email address. That email may either have an “authenticate” button or provide a code to be entered on the application. 2. via a need for the user to pick out of a line up of six pictures all those pictures that have a common feature.

Why do they require the authentication? In the email check cases it is a security check to ensure the account provider is indeed dealing with the account holder. The picture line up method is there to ensure the site is dealing with a warm bodied human and not a bot.

In neither circumstance does the account provider seek to confirm the identity being used is the actual legal identity of the account holder. Even providers like OLG allow for alternative identities to be used.

So why is that? The simple answer is to allow the account holder to maintain their complete privacy. What is the difference in placing a bet with OLG, or buying product from Amazon, or making a comment to the Burlington Gazette as either Steve Smith or James Jones. There is no difference.

The editor/publisher has said in his article he “needs to know” who the individual actually is. What’s the individual’s legal name, phone number etc. I ask the editor/publisher to explain here to the Gazette’s readers just why he needs that information? Does it have a bearing upon the validity of the comment submitted? Is there a legal requirement? I think neither. The Gazette’s editor/publisher can contact the commentator by email to assure himself the person is a real human and not a bot.

Even using my real name of Mary Hill exposes me to trolling, harassment and unwanted attention. I have heard stories of Gazette commentators not only getting hate mail through their email but also through the Canada Post mail. How does someone get a personal address? Generally it’s quite easy if one has a land line phone. Just go to the 411 look up website, put in the name and city, and bingo addresses pop up. An example:- an advocate for real names only appears to be Cathy Lanc, who commented righteously on both Gazette articles. Cathy I believe know where you live and your phone number. Does that concern you? Not that I would, but it would be easy to troll you. Maggie and I do not publish our phone numbers or our address in any “phone book”.

There are examples galore where an employee, prospective employee has, in my view unfairly, lost their job due to posting material on-line, sometimes years previously, that sat counter to how their employer saw the world. Using a pseudonym eliminates that concern.

As a result of the Gazette’s original article, both Maggie and I have had our personal lives made way more public than we would have liked. It is now obvious that we share more than an internet connection. Our status was our private concern. The Gazette has made it quite public. I question has the Gazette overstepped PIPIDA by publishing our names, email addresses and IP address without our consent. I have no desire to rake the Gazette over the coals, but it just shows how one’s identity and privacy can be easily exposed and potentially cause other issues. It shows how important it is to protect that personal information.

Our social environment is so completely different today from what it was just a few years ago. In the old days you write a letter to the editor of the G&M. It got published. But once hard copy newsprint in which it apperaed had been tossed into the garbage, it to all intents and purposes was gone from public scrutiny. Now, it is on the web forever. Even if you have a change of heart you cannot erase it.

So those are my views. But I think what is more important than my views is for the editor/publisher to explain or justify just why “he needs to know” the personal identity of a commentator.

  • What benefit does the Gazette or its readers get by the editor/publisher knowing the commentator is Jim Smith and not John Smith or James Jones as submitted with the comment? Answer, absolutely none.
  •  Why does the editor/publisher find the use of a nomme de plume or pseudonym, a practice used extensively in literary and journalistic realms for donkey’s years, to cause him an issue in this day and age. Answer, I have no idea.

All the editor/publisher has said is

“I still do not know if Mary is not the same as Maggie; just saying they are is not enough.  I need to KNOW that they are.”

Why is it not enough?

Why does he need to know?

What is his justification for that need?

He does not say.

I doubt he will. Why do I doubt that. Simple. Because there is absolutely no justification he can give.

Editor/publisher please provide your reasoning. Just saying you need it does not make it a valid need.

Editor/Publisher, please reinstate Maggie’s and my commenting privileges.”

Will you publish it?



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10 comments to Mary Hill explains why she should be permitted to comment in the Gazette

  • Bruce Leigh

    I’ve been away for a couple of weeks down south on March break. I’m now catching up on my Gazette reading. What a storm in a tea cup this whole thing is. As someone has already commented, what’s important is what is being said, not who is saying it.

    What is important is that what is being said is not hurtful or hateful. If it is hurtful or hateful the editor/publisher can consign the comment to the bin and it never sees the light of day.

    In my view there is no valid reason the editor needs to be aware of the actual name, phone number or address of the comment provider. Certainly private information should not be published without consent from the individual.

    Can we all move on now and discuss LIb/NDP alliance and how that potentially screws the PCs.

  • Sharon

    We all know Pepper is nosy of who people are.
    My comments have also been restricted for quite some time now. I fill in the required name and email. So why is that Pepper? Didn’t like my opinion because it differed from yours? Wouldn’t be the first time!

    Editor’s note: Ms Picken does not appear to understand what it is that journalists do. They ask questions; they turn over rocks to see what is underneath; they want to know why. Ms Picken had no problem with all the questions when the school closings were top of the agenda. We are not currently restricting comments from Ms Picken.

  • perryb

    Sorry Mary, but you should agree that online media are plagued by all sorts of characters who hide anonymously behind fake names to do all kinds of mischief. Purveyors of fake news and propaganda. Commenters who seem to argue with each other, but are the same person.
    Conversely, letters to print media go straight to garbage without a verifiable name address and phone number. (yes, I do use perryb here; it has been my verifiable nickname for decades, but my letters to the G&M, Spec, etc are fully identified.)
    It is unfortunate that your private life became exposed, but Mr. Parr has a duty to preserve the integrity of his publication, which offers the privilege of reader comments.

  • Denise W.

    Nice to see this posted. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I do not think Mary is just explaining why she “should be permitted.” But also, rather asking, why was she restricted. Anyway, nice to see that protocols will be amended for the future. I can see some need, to prevent various forms of misuse and it is a very difficult task.

  • Fred Untermeyer

    Mary – in just about everything that I’ve seen so far our viewpoints differ. But in this I completely agree. The Editor has absolutely no right to publish your email and IP addresses; you have legal recourse should you so wish. And his need to know is misplaced. He needs to ensure that the comments are not slanderous or cross a boundary not encompassed by responsible free speech. Nothing more. It is the nature of the comment that is important – not the identity of the commentator for the love of Pete. We need to be careful that we don’t ward off legitimate and healthy exchanges of opinion over ill-placed due diligence.

    • Except Fred there is a need to know who a person is when they have crossed the line of acceptability in terms of the laws we Canadians live under. We have no objection to putting our email address in the public’s hands. If we did we would not do it. In order to get accountability for comments that are not only distasteful but can cause someone reading it irreparable harm we do need to know who they are. If you feel strongly about someone or something and want the right to say it publicly you must identify who you are. Otherwise you do not have the strength of your convictions and are simply using a comment section to vent about all the things in life that have lead you to the position where you don’t care about what harm you may cause another human being, which is a very sad place to be in. We must all have heard of someone, or know someone who has suffered so badly from the printed or spoken word “more powerful than the sword” they have taken their lives. Don’t want to be held accountable, don’t use a medium for expressing yourself in a manner that can bring harm, find another way! We are all entitled to our opinions but not spewing out our darkest thoughts in the Gazette or any other paper.

      • Fred Unterlander

        Anne and David:

        One of the things that I dislike most is when people put words in my mouth – arguing things that I did not say nor would ever say. My point is that it is the comment not the commentator that is the important factor and that, in my own words not yours, the Editor “.. needs to ensure that the comments are not slanderous or cross a boundary not encompassed by responsible free speech.” Where in that do you find justification for thinking that I would ever countenance “spewing out our darkest thoughts”? Frankly I was offended when someone said that with Anne running for Mayor the City gets ‘two whackadoodles for the price of one’. I would never say anything even remotely like that.

        • That statement was one we never saw. The accountability issue was a much darker thought than that. Nobody said you agreed or disagreed just that in our opinion there does need to be an ability to obtain accountability when required..

  • Hans Jacobs

    It’s Pepper’s “paper” and he can require whatever he wants as long as it’s legal. The Golden Rule is: “She, or He, who has the Gold makes the Rules”.

  • Hilary Durrant

    Wow, what an article. There I was thinking that the only people who wrote on here were the oldies of medium wealth and some do gooders.
    Mary you have caused a stir.
    I wrote in some time ago regarding this issue, the editor quoted some of my comments in an e previously article. Sorry Mary I haven’t got time to go through past articles. Have too much to do at the moment.
    However, what I would like to say, I comment on other online news feeders, and have never come across this pedantic stance from an editor.
    It is incredible in this day an age, as you say as long as you are not a bot, does it matter what name you use. Part of my mate’s email address is ‘Janejustlookinggorgeous’ and her best mate who she lives with is ‘anniejustlookinggorgeous’. They also share the same IP address. They have never had any problems, mind you they have never commented on the Burlington Gazette!
    Please editor and some of your readers, please come out of the dark ages and see life as a 20 year old. Try thinking back towhee you were that age, and remember that you found the older generation frustrating as they too didn’t go along with ‘modern day thinking’. Each generation thinks theirs is the best.