Disappearing Comments On Huffington Post

Many people who post on Huffington Post get frustrated because their comments disappear or seem excessively moderated. People often take this personally and complain that the moderators are being unfair and are picking on them. In reality, posts are rarely banned for the reasons people think. In most cases, your post disappears because of software errors or filtering software that is completely impersonal. In fact, you have a great deal of control over how much your posts are scrutinized and whether your posts are displayed.

I don’t work for HP, but I do have a lot of experience building web sites and writing computer software. With some experimenting, I’ve figured out how the HP’s software works and what things get your comments displayed and what things will get them blocked. Here are the details:

1. WORDS. There are certain words that will get your post automatically flagged for moderation. If the software detects any one of the words, the following message will be displayed at the top of your post:

“This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.”

If you refresh the display, your comment will disappear and won’t be displayed until one of HP’s moderators has reviewed it. This may take one minute or several hours. When the post is finally approved, it does not go to the top of the comments. It is inserted into the comments in a slot that corresponds to the time you posted it. That means that your comment is usually dozens of pages back when it finally appears, so no one will see it.

The way to avoid getting the “comment-pending” message is to avoid words that will be flagged. For example, avoid using obviously obscene words and scatological words. Potentially insulting or threatening words will get you flagged. Remember, the software isn’t smart; it doesn’t know if you want the bill to “die” or want the person you are arguing with to “die.” As a result, you need to be careful with words like “kill,” “death,” “die,” “bury,” “stab” etc.

Insulting words, racist words, and even words referring to various religions can get your post flagged. Again, the software doesn’t know if you are being anti-semitic when you use the word “jew,” so to be safe, it automatically flags it no matter what your intentions were.

The tricky part is that some words that seem perfectly ordinary will get flagged. For example, the word “henry” is flagged because it an obscure sexual reference. (Note: there is a collection of potentially propblematic at the end of this article.)

2. CAMOUFLAGE. If you have to use one of the sensitive words, you can disguise it from the software using various tricks. For example, you can spell the word creatively so the software doesn’t recognize it:

Chit = shit

You can also substitute non-alphabetic character the a human would recognize but the computer would not:

he// = hell or h8te = hate

Finally, inserting punctuation in a word can make it unrecognizable to the software:

de.ath = death

This is probably the easiest to because you don’t have to think much: just insert a random period, dash or underscore in the questionable word and the software won’t be able to recognize the word and won’t trigger the censorship software.

Inserting a period works because it breaks the word into pieces and the software cannot recognize the pieces. For example, if you insert a period in the word “Lied” like this “Li.ed” the computer sees it as two separate words “Li” and “ed.”

Be careful where you put the period other wise you might not fix the problem. For example, if you the period here: “Lie.d”, the computer will see it as the two words “Lie” and “d,” so the computer still sees the offensive word “Lie” and will flag your post.

3. LOST POSTS. Sometimes your post will appear initially and then will disappear. It won’t be marked with the “pending” message; it will just disappear. Here is what happen with those posts:

When you press the “Post Comment” button, two things happen:

A. First, the software embedded in the web page displays your comment in your own browser. Since this software is running on your computer, the comment is displayed quickly without any need to talk to the Huffington Post Server.

B. Second, the same software sends a copy of your comment back to the Huffington Post server so it can be stored in a database and displayed anytime a particular page is displayed.

If anything goes wrong when the comment is sent back to the server, your comment will be lost and won’t get stored in the database. Even though it appeared in your browser, it will disappear as soon as you refresh the page.

There are several things that can cause your comment to be lost. First, if the server is very busy, it may missed the comment. A server can only handle so much traffic. When the maximum traffic is exceeded, the messages will simply get lost. You will normally see this problem when an article is getting lots of comments.

Another cause is refreshing the page before the message has been sent. For example, if you press the “Post A Comment” button and then immediately refresh the page, your browser may not have finished transmitting the comment to the server. Refreshing the page causes the browser to drop what it is doing, so the comment never gets sent.

It is best to wait a few seconds after you post a comment before refreshing the display. The same thing applies when you see the yellow box at the bottom of the page that says:

“New comments on this entry 340- Click to refresh.”

Clicking on it this yellow box causes the display to refresh, so you should also avoid clicking on it for a few seconds after you have posted a comment.

If you think your post has been lost, wait a couple minutes and refresh your browser. Sometimes the server is slow to put your post in the database and it will appear later. If it doesn’t reappear, just re-post the comment being careful not refresh the display for at least 15-seconds. That will usually solve the problem.

4. WRONG PAGE POSTS. If you go through your profile and navigate to one of your old comments, you might end up on the 100th page. If you then decide to post a new comment at the top of the page, your comment will initially go to the top of the 100th page. But if the page is refreshed, the comment will shift to the first page. If you are still on the 100th page, the post will seem to disappear.

5. SCROLLED POSTS. Posts can also disappear, not because they are lost, but because they are scrolled off the first page before you see them. The first page of comments usually has about 40 posts. If you post a comment and more than 40 comments come in, you post could be on the second, third or even fourth page before the browser refreshes the page.

When traffic is heavy, your post maybe on the first page for less than a minute. Since most people don’t look beyond the first page, your post may not be seen by more than a few people. To maximize the time your comment appears on the first page, wait for the “yellow box” to appear on the bottom of the window, click to refresh it and then post your comment immediately.

6. FULLY MODERATED ARTICLES. Some articles are “Fully Moderated.” That means every post will be held up until it is reviewed by the HP staff. There is nothing you can do about this and everybody is the same boat. It makes it hard to have a conversation with anyone, but Huffington is just being carefully with an especially controversial topic. If you are frustrated, go to a different article that isn’t fully moderated.

I’ve been gradually collecting words that will trigger your post being flagged. Some of them are pretty surprising:

Evil, Dick, Henry, Trans, Ugly, Kill, troll, Jew, Jewish, Vile, Moderators, McNutt, Rove, Nut, Rove, Blows

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Article by elfish

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  1. Morgaine says:

    Thank you for the information, and it’s great to have specifics from the software angle.

    I worked for a few years on the old ACLU message-board system associated with AOL. It was a totally free-speech environment via an agreement ACLU negotiated with AOL. We moderated our own boards. AOL and its TOS Department did not issue TOS complaints or pull posts.

    At that time, AOL message boards could be controlled by the “owner” of the site associated with it, and they set their own rules. Some of them were very, very censured–for opinion, not just for words.

    We got a lot of AOL Refugee groups from the main AOL MB system, so I’ve heard reports of MB censorship of many types, from many groups.

    In addition to the “word-” or “phrase-oriented” MB software moderating, a more nefarious and aggressive type of problem with missing posts can occur when posting in a section or page where a clique of like-minded posters will flag the posts of those with whose opinions they do not agree.

    This is not an issue of vulgar or offensive words or subject matter, nor is it an issue of the “on-topic” requirement of some MBs. The clique simply does not agree with a poster’s opinion.

    On Huffpo, any poster can flag any post as ‘abusive.’ ‘Abusive’ in a posting situation is often a very subjective call, and if there is a clique of posters flagging basically middle-of-the-road posts as ‘abusive’ because they don’t agree with the post’s opinion, it can tie up posts for a long time. It probably increases the chance of a poster’s posts being deleted simply because moderators review more of a poster’s posts. It may negatively impact a poster’s standing with the MB moderators and administration.
    I don’t know if the abuse of abusive-posts reports impacts a posters’ Huffpo MB account status, but I have experienced fellow posters having their accounts cancelled after being the victims of an extended period of time during which they their posts were flagged by a clique as abusive when they were not.

    In my experience at huffpo, this problem is only encountered in certain sections. One section where the clique is very intolerant of a dissenting opinion is in the Style section; specifically comments for articles reporting on First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion style (i.e., what she wears, her hairstyle, etc.).

    The clique operating in these comment boards are simply intolerant of any type of non-flattering statement about Mrs. Obama’s attire. These are not crude or mean statements, just comments on how a different skirt length might be more flattering..or whatever. The clique’s responses to the dissenting posters almost immediately go to personal attacks as rebuttals of opinion.

    Sometimes members of the clique will actually post they had repeatedly called huffpo to report the “abuse” and in an attempt to get the posters’ account cancelled.

    Sadly, sometimes I see a long-term poster disappear from the MB, and sometimes, if I run into them on another message board outside of Huffpo, the poster will say their account was cancelled after they experienced an extended clique “attack” session in the Style section.

    The “clique” attacks are very obviously meant by the clique to drive a poster with a dissenting opinion off the message board. If the poster refuses to be driven out of the comment section by the clique, the clique ups their focus on the target.

    This is not a problem just on Huffpo, but occurs on other MB systems, as well. The outcome is that a group of intolerant MB participants, by joining together, can impose their own censorship onto another message board poster with whom they disagree.

    In addition to exerting the chill of irrational censorship on the exchange of opinions on the internet, the “censorship by clique” results in a casual reader of the MB getting a false impression of the opinions of the majority of posters’ using a particular MB.

  2. elfish says:

    Hi Morgaine, I get flagged all the time on Huffington Post for abusive comment because I tend to fight back hard against some of the conservative trolls. Very few of my posts actually get deleted or even delayed by the tactic. I’m sure the post do get reviewed by their moderators, but they keep track of whose flags are correct and who is just harrassing. I know they give you the moderator badge if you correctly flag 10 comments and the in-house moderators agree with your analysis.

  3. Someonewhoknows says:

    Just letting everyone know, if you obscure words, yes you may get across the software, but if a human moderator sees it, the post will be deleted for obfuscation and you may get flagged for future strict moderation simply because you tried to circumvent the software… just sayin’.

  4. elfish says:

    Actually, from my own experience on huffington, virtually every other post has obscured words. If people didn’t do that, most of the posts would not show and there wouldn’t be much of a conversation.

    When trivial words like henry, Rove, kenya, Michael, Uncle, prison, ghetto, etc. are flagged for automatic moderation, it is pretty difficult to have a conversation on topic without obscuring words.

    I routinely obscure words and my posts don’t seem to be excessively moderated. In fact, if I don’t obscure words, they are excessively moderated by the software.

    Personally, I think the moderation software is a failure. You cannot expect people to express themselves if you remove a large chunk of their vocabulary. Plus, truly abusive commentator are never moderated or even dealt with. One following me from post-to-post for weeks haranguing, taunting and making off-topic comments. I reported him three times and they did nothing. After he finally got bored with me, (because I never responded,) he found several other people and did exactly the same thing.

    The ordinary posters with “Moderator” badges do a better job of moderating because they are part of the conversation and they read every post as soon as it posted.

  5. Chantelle says:

    Hi there I located your webpage by mistake when i searched Google for this matter, I need to point out your blog is very useful I also really like the layout, its good!

  6. Joe says:

    Total Nonsense
    If you comment on the blog posts on the right, not the news articles, then every single comment is held for approval by a moderator. It is not software.
    No intelligent thought can get through the moderator. I

  7. elfish says:

    You are correct about the blog posts. The Blog Post have a note at the top that says all comments are subject to approval by the moderator. But you are wrong about the “on the right part.” All comments are held up whether they are coming from the right, left or center. Everyone of my comments on blog post are held up. You are not being singled out for special treatment.

  8. iLdoRight says:

    I find several of my benign comments have been removed leaving the other opposing comments against me and it seems at times different individuals will target me on several replies. I often find when I try to access an article I cannot get to it the process gives me a “This Page Not Available” message over and over and strange things happen to my text saving page, where I save my comments to see if they were posted, when I am posting. My current conclusion is that they are trying to create a reality that corresponds to a predetermined agenda, but my question about that is, “Is it the work of independently functioning moderators or are they operating on instructions from the company to intentionally skew the comments to create the impression of a “reality” they want to be considered being the actual fact?”.

  9. elfish says:

    The pattern of moderation at Huffington has changed some since I first published this article. However, I still don’t detect deliberate bias in the way the moderation is applied. I too have posts disappear for no apparent reason, but I also have post that are even more controversial sail through without a glitch. I still think their automatic software is the source of most post being held up. I also think that their database gets overwhelmed at times and loses posts. It is also clear that there are two levels of moderation: 1) Paid staff moderators, 2) People who have the Level-2 moderator badge. The Level-2 Moderators are not staff people, but posters who have won the badge by correctly flagging certain posts as inappropriate. They have the power to remove posts. Supposedly HP continues to check what posts they remove and will revoke their Level-2 Status if they are removing posts that they shouldn’t. Even so, it would not surprise me if some of them have an agenda and deliberately sought out the Level-2 status just push their agenda.

  10. iLdoRight says:

    I few minutes ago my computer came under attack and shut itself down to protect its content while I was trying to post comments at the Huffington. I was having problems logging on and once got on I had problems getting to pages where I wanted to make a comment with the repeated “This Page Not Available” message. For a while I found that if I ran my Norton update the same time I was trying to access a page it would let the page appear, but that hasn’t worked the last couple times. That was when my computer came under attack. Do you suppose the Huffington itself would stoop to such a low measure as to fight against someone posting comments that were too convincingly done against the agenda reality they seem to want to fabricate?

  11. elfish says:

    I doubt that your computer was attacked by Huffington. Huffington does have a few problems:

    1. They have a very high volume of traffic, which puts a heavy load on their servers. Having worked with high traffic web sites myself, I know how hard it is to maintain a responsive web page when thousand of people are trying to access it at once. That is most likely the source of the ‘This Page Not Available” message. From a software point of view, that message indicates a problem with their database. Databases can become corrupted, especially in an environment like HP.

    2. Huffington is constantly updating their software and every time they do they create new bugs that is reflected in the responsiveness of the web page. For example, over the last couple days, I’ve noticed that the scroll bars in the browser don’t work. That means that you can’t scroll down to the comment unless you use a mouse with a track wheel. That is clearly a software problem and doesn’t have anything to do with who I am. I know this because the bug only happens in Google Chrome and not Internet Explorer, even though I’m logged in to the same account in both Chrome and Explorer. If they behavior was the result of who I am and what kind of comments I post, it would happen in both browsers.

    4. I’ve also noticed that they have a tendency to update their software on Saturdays. I assume that is because their traffic is lowest over the weekend.

    5. I don’t think Huffington is worried about comments that are “too effective.” I see plenty of highly effective comments that come from all points along the political spectrum. My own comments are frequently lost in the shuffle at HP and other times the very same comment appears instantaneously. I think this is caused by a combination of flaky software and overworked staff that misses comments.

    6. I doubt HP is attacking your computer. Norton has tools that allow you to see details of any attack and will show you where the attack came from. I have seen an occasional advertiser that puts malware in its advertisements. Since advertising is usually provided by companies like Google AdSense or Value Click media, HP doesn’t have much control over that sort of thing. It is up to the advertising network to validate their ads to make sure there is no malware.

    5. I doubt that HP has any concern about commenters political point of view. They have both liberals and conservatives who are paid commentators on the site. They also make more money when people post controversial comments.

    Since I don’t work for HP, I can’t really tell you what is going on there. All can do is speculate based on some years experience with software and computers.

  12. iLdoRight says:

    This is a comment that would not post in response to an article that claims the Bible does not support the marriage model of a man and a female wife. It seems the magazine is against certain honest considerations. Corrupt bias?

    Because a person is a “Biblical Scholar”, does that mean the person is a person of excellent morality, honesty, a person without a devious bias? One has to have the right motive and common sense and a desire to have their Creator’s approval if they hope to get to the intended heart of the matter. What do the Scriptures say was the original model? What would a well Bible educated person conclude from this?

    “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery”, Matthew 19:8,9

    How can an intelligent unbiased person claim this does not indicate the original man and his wife marriage model?

    +http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/biblical-marriage-iowa-scholars-op-ed_n_3397304.html?utm_hp_ref=religion&ir=Religion o-1018am 6/7/2013 TRIED TWICE, last night and now

  13. iLdoRight says:

    This is a comment I posted at 2:59pm on 9/7 on the Huffington Post and it was in my comments when I checked at 1:50am on 9/7, but when I clicked the “Most Recent” options to see if it posted in the comments where it was put following a comment by Jennifer ButlerBurton on 9/5 which was the last one showing when I posted, my comment was not there.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/men-older-brothers-gay_n_3873772.html
    Because their mother had lots of bouncing their first male toddler on her knee, holding him up in the air, playing the little peek-a-boo games, saying “I love you” a lot, giving lots of hugs and lovingly feedings and being amazed by him and the rest of the males were just more of a burden and felt like outsiders and had emotional holes that were not filled before they were two years of age and they were not programmed to want to say “I love you” back to a female image like their mom who was saying “I love you” to the older male children before they could talk and they knew by the intensity and sensitivity that that was something very important and something they knew in their infantile subconscious mind, without actually realizing it, that they wanted that later in life and to have that sort of loving relationship with an adult female that their older brothers were programmed by their mom to before they were two years of age and able to say all the “I love yous” back that they wanted to say as a toddler? I didn’t realize till age 60 that I’ve got instant “Love at first sight” feelings with females who have a general appearance close to what my mom looked like in her youth, which changed and I couldn’t recall , when I met a female of similar appearance and also saw my first old picture of my mom in her youth.

    This comment appeared when I posted my comment.Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.

    This is one more reason I believe a major agenda of the Huffington Post is to promote homosexuality and in their efforts they deceitfully hide comments that they feel do harm to their goal of insisting homosexuals are are born to be homosexuals just as some people are born to be with a particular shade of skin color or eye color. They have posted many pieces celebrating a persons decision to publicly proclaim homosexuality.

  14. iLdoRight says:

    Did The Huffington Post lie through an article “The Reason HuffPost Is Ending Anonymous Accounts” Posted: 08/26/2013 2:06 pm by Jimmy Soni? The article said,”The change will only affect users creating new accounts on HuffPost. Existing accounts will be grandfathered into the new system”. However when I just tried to log in to my account which has been in existence for several years I was ask to sign in through a different mechanism. First I created a Google account with which to log in with as it was listed as an option, then the Huffington directed me to “Facebook” to sign in through it. I have a “Facebook” account, but haven’t used but a couple of times and for some unknown reason I don’t like “Facebook” so I don’t want to sign in through it. I have posted many intelligent comments, some of which are so well posed against the atheistic or evolutionary propaganda some of their regulars regularly post that mine sometimes seem to get hidden or deleted without notification. Is this their way of pushing me out?

  15. iLdoRight says:

    There is an article in the Huffington Post that asks, Are Christians Christianity’s worst enemy? When I tried to post this comment, {“Are Christians, Christianity’s worst enemy?” It is difficult to say if there are more than a hand full of actual Christians on earth that are not defiling the purity of what Christianity is suppose to be, because they do not care enough about what Our Creator actually wants, as recorded in the Bible, so as to do near their best to live by it.}, this announcement came up in a red block with white letters. “There was an error posting your message; Please try again.” Trying 5 times brought up the same message

    Is this their latest trick to create a false reality, using this tactic to keep comments from presenting a viewpoint they do not wanted presented?

  16. JediWoman says:

    I have a question… Lately I’ve noted I’ll the message
    “This comment has been deleted” the moment I hit submit. I DO NOT use racist words, I didn’t violate their rules. The offensive thing I said to be auto-deleted this time was:

    “It looks as if the trolls are coming out from under their bridge.”

    I posted the exact same comment (about corruption sans that line) and this time it was just submitted for moderation – rather than auto-deleted. Since when is a comment about trolls in violation of their policy?

    What is up with the auto-delete? It happens far too often. Why auto-delete? I don’t take it personally… I can respect the “submission for moderation” although I don’t like it anymore than anyone else. But auto-delete is a bit excessive! That relies far too much on software.

    Just a general comment: since we only see our OWN posts deleted, it is easy to believe they are biased against OUR PERSONAL VIEWS. But we don’t see the other comments they delete – so it’s impossible to take an unbiased look at whether they tend to be heavy handed about one ideology rather than the other.

    One thing I do agree with… It’s really annoying that they censor the comments that just offend others. (Even when it’s me being offended). I’ve seen comments deleted that were obnoxious, and contrary to my point of view, but isn’t that what a debate is about? I don’t want mods coddling me or protecting me from the over the top attitudes by the other side. It just reminds me of how wacky they are. I think they delete far too many comments. (Including those I do not agree with).

  17. iLdoRight says:

    This got an instant deletion in comments about racism in Republicanism .
    All Republicans may not be racists, but perhaps a better question is, “Are there any Republicans who are not satanic according to Jesus indication of who are the satanics, that is, those doing the will of the one they are imitating when the lie, the original creator of the lying process. John 8:44,”Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”

    I am not implying there are no Republicans who are not impeccably truthful (I just don’t know), but it seems just liking a lie or furthering one can put one in an unfavorable position with Our Creator. Revelation 21:27, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie”

    I thought it was fair, honest and leading toward more honesty by politicians.

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