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"Anonymous Coward" is a term applied within some online communities to describe users who post without a handle; it is a dummy name attributed to anonymous posts used by some weblogs that allow posting by people without registering for accounts. The practice originated on Slashdot, where the mildly derogatory term is meant to chide anonymous contributors into logging in. Some weblog engines such as Scoop use the term "Anonymous Hero" instead, perhaps to avoid the name's confrontational nature. Others use stronger varieties, like Plastic.com's "Anonymous Idiot", and SuicideGirls' "Random Fuckbag".
On systems where all users who are not logged in share one such account name, confusion may often result in discussions. It is also notable that in Slashdot's moderation system, "Anonymous Cowards" post at a default score of zero, which means that their posts are hidden from the default view unless they are moderated up by other users.
Slashdot, Scoop and Plastic (when so configured) allow even logged in users to post anonymously, thereby providing selective anonymity (e.g. to avoid embarrassment, or legal repercussions). On Slashdot and Scoop these posts are still associated with the user (so that they can't moderate their own posts), and might not be safe if Slashdot receives a subpoena.
Variations on the name "Anonymous Coward" are also sometimes used by trolls to mock the dummy name and/or confuse other users into thinking that they are posting as Anonymous Coward.
In Barrapunto, a Spanish-language clone of Slashdot, the anonymous user was Pendejo sin nombre, "asshole without name". The editors later thought it too offensive and changed it to Pobrecito Hablador, literally "poor little talker", that was also one of the pseudonyms used by Mariano José de Larra, a Spanish journalist in the 19th century.
Obviously, some communities do not allow anonymous posts, while others do. Wikipedia allows anonymous editing, but does not label users Anonymous Cowards (anonymous users are labeled by their IP addresses in order to distinguish one anonymous user from another); Slashdot permits the practice and employs the label; Meatball Wiki permits the practice but discourages it.