How do you trust websites when they edit their comments?
December 5, 2005 5:34 PM   Subscribe

How can you trust websites that include a comments section but delete comments that disagree with the original poster?

This question has nothing to do with MetaFilter, first and foremost. I've run into a couple of internet sites who often point me to developments or ideas or products that are new and/or interesting. Just recently I've found a poorly crafted entry which was inevitably filled with a couple of critical comments. Later I discovered that these comments were deleted.

I found the comments to be accurate in their depiction and should have stayed up to balance the site. But instead they were gone. After an event like this, I find myself a bit apprehensive to trust websites in general that edit themselves with such blatant bias.

How do you continue to trust websites knowing that they could be misleading you with such a subtle coercion?
posted by SeizeTheDay to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
You don't.
posted by teg at 5:42 PM on December 5, 2005

What do you want here, psychological tactics that allow you to trust the untrustworthy? What a bizarre question.
posted by godawful at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2005

posted by apple scruff at 5:47 PM on December 5, 2005

that was re: teg's comment.
posted by apple scruff at 5:47 PM on December 5, 2005

Best answer: Would you stop reading a newspaper or a magazine if they filtered content? Well, they do filter content and you probably will not stop reading them. The only difference here is that you're getting a glimpse behind the curtain. Whoever is running the site in your example has decided to tamper with the information in order to push their biases. I'm not debating wether this is right or wrong, but it isn't surprising because it occurs in so many messages in so many mediums. If this is difficult to accept then there's always the option of starting your own website. Otherwise, it's best to just read with a critical eye.
posted by quadog at 5:50 PM on December 5, 2005

After running my own website, after having to manage web server security for myself and others, I don't trust any one website, period.
posted by Rothko at 5:59 PM on December 5, 2005

If what you're asking is how can I trust any website with comments knowing that they might have deleted the most critical comments...

Google them and see if there is criticism elsewhere on the web.
Try posting some criticism, if it's deserved, and see how it's accepted.
Have a little faith. Just don't invest your retirement money.
posted by teg at 5:59 PM on December 5, 2005

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine maintains an online archive of the web. For example, (Oct 22 1999).
posted by ryanrs at 6:25 PM on December 5, 2005

posted by scottreynen at 6:26 PM on December 5, 2005

that was re: godawful's comment.
posted by scottreynen at 6:26 PM on December 5, 2005

Isn't this the kind of thread that gets deleted soon anyway?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2005

What kind of question is this, anyways? A rhetorical one?
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:51 PM on December 5, 2005

Oh. AmbroseChapel just did that one, did he.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:54 PM on December 5, 2005

Trusting the internet is a bad idea.

Yeah, everyone knows that television, telegraph, and telephone are the only media that can be trusted.

Or if you really want the truth, don't trust anyone who hasn't at least bought you a drink or something.

Anyway, the question has everything to do with metafilter. You can generally trust the moderators here (or at least I can, some of the time, more than most other places) and the reason why is about the only reason you'll ever find to put any kind of trust in websites or any other kind of source of information: a long and well-proven record of not lying very much.
posted by sfenders at 8:19 PM on December 5, 2005

Best answer: There are a number of blogs I used to read and comment on but stopped cold when I noticed that some comments were disappearing without any explanation. And when the blogger was asked what was up they pretended not to know anything about it.

The internet's too big to spend time wondering if what you say will be deleted without cause. What pisses me off more than deletions is when people change your comment to make you sound like a total idiot. That's happened a few times too, the editing is more damaging than the deleting.

sfenders is right, history is everything. Its part of the reason why I do like this place, that and you all are about the funniest sumbitches I've ever not met.
posted by fenriq at 8:51 PM on December 5, 2005

Would you stop reading a newspaper or a magazine if they filtered content? Well, they do filter content and you probably will not stop reading them.

I stopped reading what is essentally my state's only daily newspaper when I caught them mangling Reuters articles and omitting attribution.

I stopped watching Australia's most popular morning show when one of the regular on-camera "talent" was shown to be plagarising as well as inciting racial hatred. (He still works there.)

Any website that deletes honest decenting opinion (as opposed to trolls) isn't worth visiting again.
posted by krisjohn at 11:45 PM on December 5, 2005

People can do what they want with their own websites (within reason). There's not necessarily any obligation not to delete comments. We do not have an innate right to publish our words on other people's websites as we see fit.

But if you happen to prefer the kinds of websites that do encourage that kind of participation, and you don't care for the way that website deals with comments, you choose to visit different websites.

It's not rocket science.

What is this website coercing anyone to do, exactly, by deleting comments?

krisjohn: you're quite right to boycott that publication and program. But plagiarism and filtering content are very different. A newspaper picks and chooses which letters-to-the-editor to print. Hopefully, they do print a proportional number of supportive/dissenting letters. But it's up to them to do that--they have no obligation to print them all. Comments aren't the same thing, but they are similar.
posted by lampoil at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2005

Lobotomize yourself. Failing that, strike yourself on the head repeatedly leading to loss of conscious and diffuse cerebral injury.

Or, become extremely intoxicated on ethanol or another CNS depressant.

All these maneuvers may assist you in trusting websites that are prima facie untrustworthy. On the other hand, they may impair your ability to operate the computer.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2005

How can you tell they deleted them? I'd have to reckon appx 100%, give or take 0%, of printed-matter publications filter letters they receive. Does that make them obligated to publish all of them in the letters section? It's not censorship, it's editorial license.

Failing to recognize that the webmaster has the authority to remove anything from the site he pleases, beckons: what makes you think you really have any say in the matter?
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:54 AM on December 6, 2005

Response by poster: I was hurt when I found that the websites I trusted all these months had been caught editing comments. It's one thing to filter content; it's something altogether different when you edit reactions to said content, especially given that your forum is setup to allow open commentary.

One of these sites (among many I've caught now) is

At a site like this, that often recommends software, I'd like to hear valid opinions that counter the original recommendation. People need to hear all the various facets of truth, no matter how ugly, especially when you use a site as a method of "selling software".

The reason why websites are different than various public media is because websites allow real time reaction to their stories, recommendations, ideas, etc. The open comment form exists (and connotes) open opinion and reaction. If you were going to simply edit these comments, why bother allowing anyone to post anything? Why not simply tell people to e-mail their opinions and say that you'd publish the best of the e-mail?

It's disingenuous, at BEST, to allow open comments and edit them without notice. You control information, you control reactions to said information, and you have the insidious ability to manipulate opinion this way. Thanks for all the comments folks. It was informative.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2005

> It's disingenuous, at BEST, to allow open comments and edit them without notice.

And as long as those who notice it don't publicize it, they'll get away with it.

What other sites have you caught doing it?
posted by niloticus at 12:30 AM on December 11, 2005

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