Social Media

St. Louis Today violates commenter trust

The St. Louis Today staff did it again.

The site asked a question of its readers: what was the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten. Evidently one person posted “pussy”. A crude answer, true, and a little vulgar, but also on-topic. At the most you’d expect the comment to be deleted, perhaps the person banned, if they’ve made a habit of writing semi-vulgar comments. What happened, though, is astonishing. In St. Louis Today’s Kurt Greenbaum’s own words:

someone posted in reply a single word, a vulgar expression for a part of a woman’s anatomy. It was there only a minute before a colleague deleted it.

A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.

About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.

The title of the article at St. Louis Today is “Post a vulgar comment while you’re at work, lose your job.” A more appropriate comment would be, “We get people fired because they write the word ‘pussy’ in a comment.” And Kurt Greenbaum hasn’t a clue why people are angry. What’s sadder is that Greenbaum is the Social Media director for the paper.

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