Home » Media » Currently Reading:

Commentary on comment moderation

November 22, 2009 Media 14 Comments

It is not often an editor for our hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, makes stories from coast to coast.

Huffington Post:

A school employee lost his job after he posted a one-word vulgarity in the comments section of an online article at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Globe and Mail:

According to Greenbaum’s blog post (which was mirrored on his personal blog), someone posted a comment on a story in which they used a colloquial or slang term for female genitalia. It was deleted, but then was reposted. Greenbaum says he noticed that the comment alert from WordPress showed that it came from a nearby school. So Greenbaum called the school, and they asked him to send them the email with the comment, which he apparently did. About six hours later, he says, the school called and said that an employee had been confronted and that he had resigned.

Ars Technica:

There are many things that are disturbing about this situation, starting with Greenbaum’s apparent willingness to brag about it publicly—are we five years old here? “Ha ha, someone posted naughty words and I got him fired!” There’s also the question of whether Greenbaum has done (or would have done) the same for other vulgar comments posted on the site—surely this isn’t the first time someone has used a NSFW term in the comments of a story. “Of all the comments that you guys choose to ‘narc on,’ for lack of a better term, you chose one that was actually kind of funny […] Vulgar, yes, but nowhere near as offensive as some of the racist stuff I’ve seen of here,” one commenter named Karen wrote.

How does he decide what’s a tattle-to-the-employer comment versus a merely annoying one? We tried to ask Greenbaum these questions but he declined to comment.

There are many more.  Greenbaum says he didn’t identify the individual, he just informed the school that has the IP address where comment came from.  The school figured out who used the p-word twice.  In defending his decision to contact the school he says he couldn’t just ban the IP address because that would ban anyone from that school that wanted to comment.

STLToday.com uses WordPress for their blogs — the same software I’ve used here for the last three of my five years blogging.  Greenbaum’s excuse shows either 1) a lack of understanding of the software or 2) a is a complete lie.  The WordPress software includes a section in the settings where an administrator can list words or IP addresses that if matched the comment is held for moderation.  Had that same person used that word in a comment here the comment would have automatically been held for my review.   “Banning” the IP address doesn’t mean that persons can’t access stories and comment.  It just means any comment from that IP address would be held up for manual approval.

I see the IP address of every comment on this site.  I generally only know that you use say Charter or SBC for internet access.  I do see employer names at times too but I’ve never contacted one.

I saw a comment somewhere by a person  suggesting this was just a PR stunt by Greenbaum and the Post-Dispatch to increase web traffic.  We have only the word of one person — Greenbaum.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist but it is plausible.  The poll this week asks what you think Greenbaum should do: resign, be fired, or keep working.  Remember your comment will be held for review if you use course language.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Todd says:

    If the “p-word” involved is the same one I'm thinking of (i.e., also a term for a cat), that's a pretty mild epithet to fire someone over.

    Personally, I avoid posting blog comments from work, since there is an obvious trail back to a work computer, and I wouldn't want my random spoutings to reflect on my employer.

    • That is the word. The person that supposedly made the comment wasn't fired — the person resigned when confronted by his employer. The employer new about the comment from a call from Greenbaum.

  2. G-Man says:

    Of all the vile nonsense that gets posted in those comment sections, that's an extremely mild word to tattle about. This Greenbaum character should go away and take the STL Today comment section with him.

  3. G-Man says:

    Of all the vile nonsense that gets posted in those comment sections, that's an extremely mild word to tattle about. This Greenbaum character should go away and take the STL Today comment section with him.

  4. mmnewman says:

    Greenbaum provided information including the ISP address documentation and the time of the postings to the school/employer. This allowed them to narrow it down to an individual. Everything about this situation says he violated the paper's privacy policy.

  5. fak3r says:

    “I’m not a conspiracy theorist but it is plausible” – I'm with you, I'm still waiting for more details, and yeah, the technical side of it did raise my suspicion. Of course my second thought was why would the guy resign? Plus if this really did happen, I want EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) to chime in on this, and it would be (another) good reminder to people that you're never… well RARELY anonymous online.

    fak3r (st. louis)

  6. stlsig says:

    I see no reason to justify what the editor at the post did. However, I'm not sure he should lose his job. I'd much rather see him go and get this man his job back and then write a story on the lessons that we can learn from this type of incident. Then on top of that, the Post needs to fully respond to their readers and explain how this happened, why it happened, and how it will be avoided in the future. I personally think the post has no journalistic integrity anyhow, so this incident only further solidifies that feeling.

    In my mind the bigger story is really about how we all chose to use the comment section on websites. While part of me feels that anonymity on the comments is a good thing, I think it allows for far too much ignorance and far too many posters try and frame their opinion as fact. I'm sure there are executives trying to hatch this out now, but how does a website like the post go about allowing posters to comment while holding up some form of integrity and civility in the comments section? I think the comment section of the Post is like Sports Talk Radio, it's an extremely small segment of the populous that is always angry and mad no matter the topic.

  7. Mac says:

    I tweeted him, asking what is was like to be a tattle tale…he never tweeted me back.

    Seriously, you're gonna tell on someone for using the p word? I know for a fact Mr. Greenpooper hears worse things than that every Wednesday night at his church bingo games….

  8. david says:

    For those of us who have heard about this story, the next time we think about leaving a comment on a P-D article, we'll think twice about doing so. Maybe that's what the P-D wanted (their comments are, in general, a cesspool), but that seems like an odd position for a newspaper to take. One would expect them to be a little more supportive of free speech rather than tattling to your employer if they don't like your comment.

  9. Check out http://stltomorrow.org

    The St. Louis metropolitan area is a classic study in polarization and could benefit with increased levels of understanding in such issues as race, sexual orientation, class, geography (city vs. county), religion, etc. The Post-Dispatch acknowledges this in maintaining a blog titled, “Conversations on Race” yet surprisingly fosters an anonymous commenting environment that encourages the spread of ignorance which serves to further divide us.

    Our aim is to compile a running list of stltoday.com comments to highlight that this problem is no mere exaggeration and needs to be addressed. Additionally, that the Post-Dispatch admits it is too lazy to effectively handle this problem is not only disheartening, but irresponsible.

    As anyone familiar with A-A knows, the first step toward sobriety is to admit that one has a problem. Consider this an intervention to help the Post-Dispatch and similar media outlets realize this and establish environments that promote civil discourse through greater accountability and community moderation. After all, this is how civil societies operate in the real world. Care to join it?

  10. manishfusion says:

    It's good to know your stand towards this comment thing going on. I've visited some design sites before that I find have repetitive comments from visitors, might be one of those you were pertaining to.

    good deals

  11. But at the same time, IP address isn't enough for anyone to draw a conclusion as to who posted it. Computers can be shared, and public computers are there.

  12. summer222 says:

    See your post feel great, thank you for sharing, continue refueling -[url=http://www.cheapoloshirts.com/replica-freak-milan-1840.html]cheap Freak Milan Pants & Shorts[/url]

  13. summer222 says:

    See your post feel great, thank you for sharing, continue refueling -[url=http://www.cheapoloshirts.com/replica-freak-milan-1840.html]cheap Freak Milan Pants & Shorts[/url]


Comment on this Article: