I was greeted this morning by news of an offense committed not just on one of our readers, but in turn, an attack on the good name of our dear friends at Flotrack. Please don’t think I’m being overly dramatic, as this is a situation that requires all of our full attention. Hopefully, as you read, the gravity of the situation and its effect on our good friends becomes clear.
Let’s throw out a hypothetical here: You’re sitting around watching some internet live stream. You see something you wanna comment about. Rather than tell your roommate, girlfriend, invisible friend named Spencer, or whoever it is watching with you, you decide to tell someone who might care. There’s a great spot to talk with occasionally likeminded individuals, and it’s called a comment section. Now, not everyone is a fan of comment sections, but they’re there.
You crack your knuckles, take a sip of your drink, sit down and type out your comment. You click “submit” and out goes your message. It travels through the World Wide Web, a system of wires and computers and magical beings and poof! There it is, right on the screen, for all to see. Proud of yourself, you shut the screen to your laptop, get ready for bed, and lay there for hours on end thinking about all the terrible mistakes you’ve made in your life before you eventually fall asleep, confident in knowing that you said what you wanted to say.
You wake up refreshed, probably needing to pee and, as you sit down to handle your business on the porcelain throne, you scroll through your messages. Apparently, what you thought you wrote isn’t what sits on the website next to your name. Maybe instead of the observation you made, there’s something else there, entirely opposite of what you said in the first place. That would be pretty spooky, right?
While some of this sounds ridiculous for obvious reasons (who names their invisible friend Spencer?), what if something like this happened? What if you woke up and saw that your comments on the Flotrack Beer Mile (to be referred to from this point forward as the Flotrack BM, solely for brevity) had been altered to something else entirely?
What if when opening up the page you saw this? (Your comments being the orange ones):
Furthermore, when you click on your Flotrack profile, here’s what shows up for those two comments:
That second set is what you actually wrote. I think the best term to describe the two sets of comments would be “different,” a English word used to describe two things that are not the same.
So here’s a few fun observations:
- These comments were made directly on the Flotrack page, as the person who wrote them is blocked on Facebook by Flotrack and unable to comment on their stories via Facebook.
- There’s no option to edit your comments on a Flotrack article.
- Neither of the original comments were really that out of line. One was a simple joke and the other was a genuine question
- Neither comment seems to reflect how the commenter actually felt as he: a) does not have a wife and b) as far as I can tell, does not appear to be a fan of the Flotrack BM
So what can we conclude?
- Someone with the ability to edit comments on Flotrack changed the comments on the page but lazily did not change them on the profile
- If you spend longer than an hour at Starbucks writing about Flotrack they kick you out and you gotta go to Peet’s Coffee across the street
We’ll ignore number two because I don’t want to drag you into the bullshit I’ve dealt with today, so we’ll focus on number one.
Here’s the thing: I have absolutely zero proof that it was Flotrack who changed the comments on the page. I can’t prove it was Flotrack as much as I can’t prove it was Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street, Anonymous, or Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street acting on behalf of Anonymous.
But here’s what I can prove: there’s no way it was Flotrack.
As much as Flotrack has screwed up in the past, and trust me, they’ve screwed up, there’s no way they’re this dumb. Not only is it highly unethical, deceptive, and silly, no one on earth is dumb enough to do it.
No one on earth is dumb enough to read valid criticism that they don’t want to hear, decide that rather than ignore it (the sensible option) or delete it (the less stupid option), they would decide to completely change the context of the comments to something so ridiculous, that it’s borderline libel (the dumbest option).
Flotrack is a website with paying subscribers, numerous advertisers, and a reader base that stretches around the globe. They may have little grasp of the English language, less contextual knowledge than their position may indicate, and exist solely as a means to generate ad revenue via clicks, but they have a position of integrity to uphold or, as Internet Bad Boy Dennis Young so eloquently put it, the duty of “being accountable to [their] readers” (which he said shortly before also mentioning that they should get rid of comment sections, but I digress).
Clearly, the act of altering comments that seem critical of their work, while putting up nary a mention of it occurring, would go against the journalistic foundation that Flotrack holds so dear. In fact, for Flotrack to act in such a way would make them look like just an avenue to collect ad dollars as they continually turn out sponsored content with provocative headlines geared at collecting more page views. Could you imagine? This hypocrisy would be like if the NFL only held “Salute to Service” events as a way to collect millions of dollars from the Pentagon and not out of the goodness of their hearts. That would be ludicrous.
You see, nothing on the Internet is forgotten or erased, and the fact that a back up exists of the original comments on Flotrack’s own page would clearly show that the two sets aren’t the same. No rational person could think that an unbiased observer would look at the scenario and think that Flotrack didn’t alter the comments to: a) mock the original poster and b) censor the commenter’s view of the race. Flotrack would have to know that people can check things on the Internet, especially as such a large, internet based company. They’d have to be smart enough to know what it would look like if they were to change comments.
So no, I don’t believe the idea that Flotrack is altering comments on their pages. Especially for them to do it only because the comment disagreed with their Flotrack BM and its execution. For that to happen, it would mean that Flotrack is something other than passionate fans of the sport who operate in a high moral standing to bring nothing but the highest level of journalism to a sport they hold so dear. As we all know, Flotrack is nothing but leaders in passionate track and field coverage, and the accusation that they are anything but is false and offensive. To say that they are so thin-skinned that they would go against all measures of responsible journalism due to their bruised egos, is entirely unbecoming of what they stand for. For Flotrack to do such a thing would go against so much of their stated mission, that it is inconceivable for them to have done it.
Since it clearly was not Flotrack censoring the comments of one of their readers, who was it? I may not know for sure, but I’m here to help.
If you know who it was that committed slander and dragged the integrity of Flotrack and its employees through the mud, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The world of track and field deserves to know the truth.
Don’t worry Flotrack, you may be the victims of the cowards who did this, but we will not rest until we find out who tried to undermine your organization. Until then, you might want to close your comment sections until we can be sure they’re safe from whoever did this.