Comment ghosting and why its wrong

The first time I heard about comment ghosting, it was in the form of commentary on Chinese internet censorship, where netizens who posted about Hong Kong’s recent protests on their blogs and social networking sites had their comments hidden from the public without any notification, thus censorship would be achieved without alerting the person who is being censored, and a naive censored person would just think that nobody was interested in discussing the issue and stop talking about it.

Naturally, I shrugged it off: “Oh communist China, how your pathetic attempts at silencing dissent make me laugh.”

But recently, I have found myself to be the victim of comment ghosting. At first, I couldn’t find out why or how my comments were censored. But then I discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Users had reported comments being only visible to themselves despite being set public, some replies to comments had even gotten responses from the original commenter which they couldn’t respond to. I realized I had been comment ghosted, by… that’s right, YOUTUBE.

Here’s how presumably I got myself ghosted: I was watching this debate on religion, and as the video was 2 hours long, I was periodically making comments as I got further through the video, totaling 4 comments and one reply to a comment made by another user. Thing is, the reply I made actually got a response, as I was alerted through the email notification system, and I know the response was directed at me because I was tagged in the first line. So when I clicked the link in the notification email to view the full comment – surprise surprise, no responses were appearing below my reply, contrary to the stream of reply notifications I was getting from youtube.

What did I post to get myself comment ghosted? Here:

ghosting 1

Oh no, such spam!

And my reply to another comment?

ghosting 2

And the reply directed at me?

ghosting 3

How about the view when logged out?

ghosting 4

Wait, you mean there’s no comments since August 31st? Bullshit!

Now there are several things I think I can conclude from this.

Firstly, although thread starters may have control over replies, I don’t think I was ghosted by the thread starter since I’m “on her side”, so to speak.

Secondly, I don’t think my account has been flagged, because everything in the account page is good standing and while I do post links and long replies, I stay on topic. Besides, I’m technically a Youtube Partner.

So, that leaves several possibilities:

1. Google, either through malice or incompetence, had made my comments invisible to the world.

2. NDdotEDU the channel hosting the video, had made my comments invisible

3. Through the spam report function, someone had cast invisibility onto my comments the second I posted them.

4. Aliens.

From the reports of other users, it seems that such comment ghosting is a function of the spam filter, although negative words seem to also be a target of ghosting although perhaps its just the result of making 5 replies over the course of 18 hours (I had to watch the video in segments and breaks so that I would not get a brain tumor from William Lane Craig’s stupidity).

But, here’s why comment ghosting doesn’t work against spam, and why actually notifying the “perpetrator” and offering some form of appeal process is a good thing:

1. Spam accounts are usually throwaway accounts so spammers don’t have any incentive to appeal any bans at all, spending time to build up a “reputable” account and then going through a lengthy appeal process is not worth the time, so can we please note the age and “human activity” of the accounts?

2. Deception is immoral, and automatic comment ghosting + shitty spam filter has great potential to lock out legit comments. Even if you loosen the defences and allow some spam to get through, most will just be ignored and you retain the good will of people like myself who are mistakenly censored.

3. If the spam algorithm is based on frequency of commenting, then the old “you’re commenting too fast” was a good deterrent, Also, spam algorithms based on number of comments need to take into account video length (like in soundcloud), and that the longer a video the more comments an individual will want to make.

4. Censorship is wrong, unless Google is planning itself and youtube’s big return to the loving arms of Chairman Great Firewall. Snagging my comments like the secret police is unprofessional, shady and shows a huge level of disrespect for users. Ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? Don’t be so inhumane terrorist interrogator, at least tell me exactly what you think I did, ok?

5. Contrary to facebook’s no dislike button ideology, negativity is not spam. An agenda to promote freedom of thought means that no one (especially commenters) should be given the kind of power of disabling replies and performing acts of censorship. Any act of censorship needs to be openly logged.

I hope the comment ghosting issue is eventually corrected, unless it is done on purpose.

4 thoughts on “Comment ghosting and why its wrong

  1. I have noticed the same thing. YouTube as well as Facebook use the same algorithm to deceptively hide comments which are considered politically incorrect. It’s censorship done in a deceptive way where it appears to the commenter that the comments are posted but its not viewable by others or occasionally someone may get a response from the Internet army who don’t want you to say or think anything outside the box created by the establishment. West lectures others about democracy when they don’t have it themselves.

  2. If any kind of banning is filtered based on keywords; bullying, gangsters, thugs, terrorists, suicide bombers and killing innocent children just might get you banned. Those are just the words I can see but spam filters do not look at the context of the message, just at the ugliness of the words used.

    You then sum it up with a comment like “Don’t be so inhumane terrorist interrogator, at least tell me exactly what you think I did”. Maybe try to limit the ugly words you use in your comments as spam filters don’t care about your opinion, only the words you use…

    • At the time of writing (october) there were no comments since august, you’re telling me that for 2 whole months people posted nothing but “ugly words”?
      And even if they are ugly words, we should not discuss these things in a debate like the mature adults on an ACADEMIC VENUE because… why again?
      Notre Dame isn’t some wishy washy kindergarten for the easily triggered, its a fucking university. Spam filters shouldn’t be used for anything other than spam, on topic discussion should always be allowed no matter how ugly.
      And also, I checked back on the youtube video just now and there are some new comments, plus my own comments are also currently public if you scroll down a bit. So maybe it really is some youtube bug, although I still can’t find my comment on suicide bombers and the comment on defining morality.
      In any modern democracy, the law is and should be transparent. There is a book of laws or rules that people will present you upfront so you don’t break it. When you use a service like itunes, you are presented with terms and conditions – again more rules for you to know what they are and follow. However there are no terms and conditions listed on the Notre Dame’s youtube channel anywhere, and you seem to be suggesting that commenters just *guess* what the rules are, and that’s just preposterous.

      • All I was saying is that these processes are often automated. A server side script only looks at the specific words used and may filter or censor based on the words alone. You can get the same point across without specific ugly words. For example, “Any person willing to sacrifice their own life and hurt innocent children” clearly refers to a Terrorist or Suicide Bomber Killing Children. It can be said without the specific words that a script or filter might remove. An automated process just hunts for key words that might be offensive without considering the context of the message. This MAY be the reason for “comment ghosting” but there is no real way to know…

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