The San Francisco Chronicle has recently activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website, SFGate.com. Here's how it works:
If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle's goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I'll give evidence below showing how they do this.
Why would SFGate do such a thing? Because ever since public input was first allowed at SFGate, many commenters who had their comments deleted would come back onto the comment thread and point out that they had been silenced for ideological reasons -- i.e. they weren't sufficiently "progressive" -- or because they had pointed out ethical lapses at SFGate and the Chronicle. Or any number of other reasons that the Chronicle did not want known. So, to pacify these problematic commenters, the SFGate moderators came up with a very clever and underhanded coding trick to prevent deleted commenters from ever finding out that they had been silenced.
Furthermore, Investigatethemedia.blogspot.com reports:
The PBS blog "MediaShift" recently had an interview with Rich Skrenta, the former CEO of a commenting-forum-software company called Topix, in which he bragged about this capability in his company's product:
There’s a lot of tricks in it. For instance, if you are banned from the forums, you can actually still post, and see your own posts, but other people don’t see them. That’s a neat social trick, because if you know you’ve been banned, most people will work around that. They’ll clear their cookies and work to figure out how to get around the block; but if they don’t know they’ve been banned, and they seem to be able to post, it won’t do any harm to the environment.
Another software company called Prospero supposedly also makes commenting software with this crypto-deletion feature. However, I don't know for sure if SFGate uses either the Topix or Prospero software. (Hat tip: MonkeySon)
This trickery appears to be happening also at other sites:
We're also getting reports from readers that newspapers in Canada, Washington state and Houston may also be using the same underhanded software gimmick -- preventing deleted or banned commenters from ever discovering that they have been deleted or banned.