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.