[Guest post by DRJ]
Note this Updated Post dated 11/30/2007.
Update 11/26/2007: The blog discussed below, Investigate the Media, makes the following claims [emphasis supplied]:
“Why would SFGate do such a thing? Because ever since public input was first allowed at SFGate, many commenters who had their comments deleted would come back onto the comment thread and point out that they had been silenced for ideological reasons — i.e. they weren’t sufficiently “progressive” — or because they had pointed out ethical lapses at SFGate and the Chronicle. Or any number of other reasons that the Chronicle did not want known. So, to pacify these problematic commenters, the SFGate moderators came up with a very clever and underhanded coding trick to prevent deleted commenters from ever finding out that they had been silenced.
Now, I’m certain that there are plenty of comments on SFGate that indeed merit deletion, and plenty of commenters who say patently offensive things. No question about that, and no one is questioning the Chronicle’s right to delete such comments. But there are many other comments that get removed for no apparent reason, except for their political stance, or because they strike too close to home — pointing out flaws in the article’s reporting or writing itself, or ethical or moral misdeeds on the part of the Chronicle editors or management. Deleting comments such as those would be bad enough, but the Chronicle really crossed the line with their new technique of essentially lying to any commenter who has been deleted by not allowing them to even know they were deleted — so they don’t subsequently complain.”
I thought this was important although I did not do a good job making that point. (Touche’, Christoph.) Today, however, I realized that Investigate The Media only has one post. That makes me curious and, as a result, I’m updating this post to reflect my concerns.
I also have a new post here.
The Instapundit notes a hilarious World of Warcraft commercial starring Mr. T and Star Trek’s William Shatner. I guess the Star Trek reference was still with me when I read this entry about mysterious comment deletions at the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, because my first thought was that the Chronicle has discovered a cloaking device for comments:
“The San Francisco Chronicle has recently activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website, SFGate.com. Here’s how it works:
If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle’s goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I’ll give evidence below showing how they do this.”
A graylisting feature apparently deletes some comments automatically:
“[UPDATE 2, Sat., 11-24-07, 2:20pm]: Anonymous Reader Documents “Graylist” of Banned SFGate Users Who Don’t Know They’re Banned
An anonymous commenter has just documented that, at least in some cases, the comment-deletions on SFGate are automated; that all comments from certain users who have been secretly banned from the site are immediately deleted automatically; but that such deletions are not visible to the banned commenter himself. Thus, he never knows that he has been banned.”
LGF says ThinkProgress does it, too.
How ironic that champions of free speech would use technology to block speech they find offensive. It reminds me of the criticism of President Bush and the Secret Service for “quarantining dissent” in free speech zones reserved for protesters at Bush speeches.
So if you’re keeping score:
Quarantining protesters for security purposes = Bad.
Cloaking comments to shield readers from dissenting views = Good.
Automatically graylisting commenters who regularly submit dissenting views = Priceless.