My assertion: Daily Mail uses fake commenters on (at least one of) its stories. My evidence: below

In my previous post, I noted how the Daily Mail’s site hides comments that are unfavourable to one of its stories, and instead, in its “few comments” (which is all you see initially, unless you click on “View all”) showed comments that were favourable – or at least not vitriolic about it.

But the commenters’ names seemed a bit odd. Now, you can pretend to be anyone you like with the Daily Mail comments system – it’s not like The Guardian, where you have to register (though of course you can “be” anyone with that, but you have to create a consistent set of personae if you do). But if you’re going to give a full name and address, well hell, why make it up? Eh? Especially if you’re being complimentary about the paper you’ve come to read online and, um, compliment?

The three non-vitriolic commenters, let’s remind, were:

  • Amberdallas, Waco, TX, USA
  • Marcie, Tallahassee, Florida
  • Sue Timbers, Baldock, England (Update: I subsequently received separate evidence that Sue does indeed exist. My apologies for this misrepresentation.)

Do these people really exist?

-Is Marcie real? No way to disprove it: there are bound to be women called Marcie living in Talahassee.

-Amberdallas? Nobody of that name, and nobody named “Amber Dallas” appearing for a search around Waco. In my opinion, that’s fake. The Mail is welcome to rebut that by publishing the IP of the commenter.

-“Sue Timbers” in Baldock? A BT directory search shows nobody with the surname Timbers living in Baldock. A Google search turns up just two results – that story, and this one. My opinion? I don’t think Sue Timbers exists. Again, the Mail is welcome to rebut this by publishing the IP of the commenter. (Update: note comments above. Sue Timbers does exist and has commented at the Mail.)
Other, unfavourable commenters who give full names and general addresses are much more easily found. “Kate Smart” of north Wales pops up commenting there in the past. “Morgan [le] Fay” in Alabama pulls up lots of numbers on Google. There does seem to be an Angie [Angela] Bear in Elysian, Minnesota. (Although I can’t find a “Barrie Bichols” in either West Burton; and there’s only a “Nancy Jervis” who’s an alumnus author in Fort Lauderdale.) “Jessica Landreth” exists in Portland (she’s on Amazon). There are plenty of people called “Amanda Lucas” in Essex.

In short, the uncomplimentary commenters seem to exist. The ones who aren’t, who might be tracked down, are suspiciously hard to find.

Perhaps the Mail, which is generally really good at tracking down fakery, would like to make us all feel more comforted by putting our minds at rest. Because it would be awful to think that in cases where the paper version is out of tune with its readers’ feedback that it tweaks the view passing readers get of what its commenters actually think of the stories that appear there. And it would be dreadful to think that it fakes comments.

11 Comments

  1. The Mail has done a couple of stories about our area (Ealing) that I and numerous locals tried to comment on – mainly to say that the stories contained a lot of inaccuracies (the stories were essentially as fake as the comments you found…). Strangely, none of our comments were ever added to the stories (as a test, one guy did place a complimentary comment, and, amazingly, that did get through…).

  2. I would hardly call it “compelling” evidence. A quick google search based on a hunch doesn’t swing it for me.

  3. Have you ever heard of fakenamegenerator.com ? It’s great. It’s how I came up with my name, address, phone, and Mastercard number (not valid). And even the email address works! Fake too.

  4. So people who wish to be either ex-directory or choose another telephone provider stop existing?
    Sue Timbers is a very real woman.

  5. Charles

    Monday 8 October 2007 at 9:28 pm

    @Rob: prove it. You made the assertion – back it up. I’ll be happy to correct.

  6. oops! lol

    Thanks to Rob for making me aware that I was in danger of not existing – maybe an apology to the Daily Mail is in order??….

  7. Charles

    Monday 8 October 2007 at 10:33 pm

    @”Sue Timbers” – whois on suetimbers.co.uk gives: Registrant's address: Attn Rob Leigh / 96 Chichester Road / CR0 5NB / Croydon / Surrey

    That’s not Baldock, which is where the “Sue Timbers” of the Daily Mail comment comes from, allegedly.

    The IP address doesn’t prove anything – Rob Leigh: PlusNet (Sheffield); “Sue Timbers” (sorry, but you’ve been so invisible, Ms Timbers, that Google has never heard of you or your Baldock domicile before) is on Tiscali, which doesn’t prove anything either.

    Posting here really isn’t proof: you can pretend to be anyone on the form. Point me to a picture of someone who checks out as Sue Timbers on Flickr standing in somewhere that’s identifiably Baldock. Or email me (via the contact details) a phone number. I’m still unconvinced.

  8. Well Sherlock, I registered the domain for Sue, is that particularly odd? I’ve registered other domains for people and I assure you that they exist too. There must be more people without google entries than with, since when was a phonebook or search engine entry proof of existence? Whether you accept the truth is of no consequence since if you’ve failed to find any “proof” it’s simply a matter of your lack of success in searching. If I added anything into the arena it I’d be compromising Sue, to what ends? Simply to stop you cooking up a conspiracy theory? Sorry, that’s not sufficient reason to show you you’re wrong. I suggest that you simply accept that the people you’ve claimed are “fakes” actually exist and contributed to the Mail website.

  9. I happened upon this story because I finally became so frustrated with the Daily Mail that I did a search to see just whose comments actually make it. I have posted many comments and NONE of them have EVER shown up. Some were good and some were bad. At first, I thought perhaps they limited comments from people in the USA, but I am convinced that I am lacking something. I’d like to think that having written 4 novels and possessing a degree in English might qualify me to pen a sentence or two…I am pretty sure I have proper noun/verb agreement; however, nothing I have ever written has been published. I have even checked back the next day, in case it took a bit of time for the comment to pass inspection, but NOTHING. Perhaps I’ll fake my name and town just to see what happens.

  10. I really don’t think they are faking comments.. sure they probably screen out unfavourable ones, but I think the reason lots of people’s don’t get published is because of the SHEER volume they receive. I suspect that a few hours after the story has been posted they don’t bother to upload any more comments because it would take too long to read through them all. The few times I’ve had a comment published is when I happened to be browsing at about 2am when the stories for the next day appear and I commented then. Maybe they only consider the first few hundred comments or so that are made? Commenting later in the day has never resulted in a comment published in my experience.

    The bigger point, though, is how funny it is that 90% of Daily Mail commenters are, to put it bluntly, uneducated, narrow-minded, insecure, morons! It is a truly ghastly newspaper whose site I only visit because my job demands I keep up with ‘celebrity’ gossip and tabloid opinion and the vindictive, thoughtless, idiotic comments left on the majority of stories (especially when a female celebrity is involved – e.g. why has she gained weight, why isn’t she with her children etc.) make me a bit ashamed to be British.. I envisage fat, unattractive Middle England-ers slumped in front of their computers with nothing better to do than insult people in a particularly annoying, prim, right-wing moralising way, whose lives are infinitely more successful than their own.

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