Setting the Record Straight: On Trolls, Moles, and Dis-Invited Bloggers

Setting the Record Straight: On Trolls, Moles, and Dis-Invited Bloggers
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Dear HuffPost Readers, Commenters, and Bloggers,

Here's the bottom line on the issues raised by Peter Rost: We disabled his password for one reason and one reason only -- his refusal to act as part of our online community.

A little background: Peter Rost was initially invited to post about issues related to the pharmaceutical industry, his area of expertise -- but his posts increasingly became about his personal grudges and beefs or long, self-referential, diary-like entries about finding an injured bird in his front yard (complete with photos) or a blog post about his friend having an extramarital affair.

We suggested that this type of material might be better suited for a personal, individual blog -- a suggestion that Dr. Rost followed, creating this site.

However, his penchant for airing personal grudges on HuffPost continued, becoming problematic when he devoted another long post to a personal attack on one of the commenters to his posts (one who happened to work for the Huffington Post), claiming that there was a vendetta against him, and that this employee was somehow gaming the system to give his comments greater prominence -- something that did not happen. (By the way, the employee, Andy Yaco-Mink, HuffPost's technology manager, wasn't an "anonymous heckler" as Rost claims -- he signed his comments "yacomink.")

Here's how our comment ranking system works: There is a "best of" and "abusive" button next to each comment on the site. Anyone who comes to the site can vote. Each unique IP address can vote only once for a comment. You can vote for as many different comments as you like, but only once for each comment. After a comment has received a few "best of" votes, it goes into "readers' favorite comments" for the post. And this is what happened with Dr. Rost. We've looked at the data logs and Yaco-Mink's comment got the most "best of" votes from different, verifiable IP addresses. There was no manipulation.

The one error made on our side was when a junior editor, working the early shift, saw the post revealing personal information about one of our commenters/employees and took it down without consulting with anyone. He shouldn't have done that -- and as soon as our senior editors realized what had happened, they put the post back up.

We then contacted Dr. Rost, explained what had happened, apologized, and expressed to him that as we moved forward we hoped to avoid having these self-referential personal grudge posts on the site.

He responded by doing the exact opposite of what we had asked -- posting a follow up to his earlier post that included more personal attacks. At this point, it was clear that Peter Rost had ceased acting as a member of our online community, where mistakes can be acknowledged and corrected, and was instead acting in an adversarial manner. We had course corrected when we discovered the mistake made by our junior editor; he chose not to course correct on the kinds of blog posts he was posting.

At that point, we felt we had no choice but to withdraw his password. A decision we don't take lightly. Indeed, it's something we've never done before in the 13-plus months since we launched the Huffington Post.


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