But in the wake of the terrible events in Arizona, with many commentators pointing out the obvious fact that Gabrielle Giffords had been targetted by Palin in the November election on a map that used a chilling gun site graphic, I thought it would be worth watching her page for a little while to see if her team were indeed deleting negative comments routinely. But I had no idea how incredibly, almost comically, efficient her people would turn out to be in deleting comments that were even slightly critical of the former Governor. And then I came across... well, what I guess you'd have to politely call an appalling example of editorial misjudgement at best.
Here's what I found, from a brief sample achieved by the simple expedient of hitting the refresh button repeatedly over a short period of time:
A negative comment saying, "YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE, YOU EVIL WITCH" - at 17:19PM. (I'm in London, so that's British Standard Time.)
Was removed by 17:28 (although I failed to capture a screen grab - oops).
A comment that simple says, "hypocrite" - presumably in reference to Palin at 17:28
Gone by 17:29.
OK. At this point, I am finding this all kind of... well, funny I suppose. I mean, the ruthless efficiency of the deleting and the desperation with which people would try to get their negative comments up there combined with the efficiency of their removal. There were actually a lot more examples than what I've been able to show here.
And in fairness to Sarah Palin, I should say that there were a couple of comments that were removed that weren't directly critical of the Governor but clearly offensive. Most notably, a commenter who repeatedly posted, "To bad it wasn't Pelosi." Yikes.
But then things got a little... well, upsetting.
A commenter posted the following at 18:12:
"It's ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as 'they' say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly."
I think I literally gasped when I read that. Remember, Christina Taylor Green was the 9 year old girl killed by the shooter. Apparently she had been brought there by her mom, who thought she might get a kick out of meeting Rep. Giffords, having recently been elected to her student council.
I assumed, as a matter of course, that this particular comment would be deleted with greatest possible speed.
So I kept hitting refresh, hoping to use this as an example to say, "You see, Palin's Facebook editing at least has the good judgement to remove clearly offensive content such as this." But it didn't come down.
By this point I thought it was likely that the staff person monitoring the page was simply no longer working - I mean, fair enough it's a Sunday, right? So I thought I would just satisfy myself that the page was no longer being edited by continuing to look for negative comments, assuming that either they would all remain live for the time being, or if the editor came back to work, that they would be removed simultaneously with the Christina post.
So here's a comment posted at 18:16 saying, "I hope you're happy now. It's because of the influence that you do wield, that you should think about things you say and do."
So then I thought, well maybe the page editors just haven't seen it. We all make mistakes, perhaps it just slipped by them.
Then I spotted another commenter, rightly expressing her disgust at the post. "You are so out of touch... Show a little consideration and leave innocent out of your twisted diatribe."
Having been alerted to the post, does the editor NOW remove it? Nope, it's still there.
And I spot several other posts being removed. For instance, here's a post from 18:28 saying, "Your type of sorrow doesn't make up for the blood on your hands."
Gone by 18:29.
I found a few more instances, but I won't belabour the point. The Christina post was still live at 16:39 when I started writing this post.
I don't really know what to make of this. Sarah Palin has the right to edit her Facebook profile - it's not technically a public platform, it's a privately owned space. But the fact someone has a right to do something doesn't mean it is always a good idea, and I think that someone who aspires to public office has an especially strong responsibility to try and engage with the public at large - not just those who agree with them. But still... she's not currently in any form of elected office and she can do what she likes.
But I find her team's editorial judgement to say the least... odd.
UPDATE: Since this blog was posted, there has been a lot of media attention paid to it and a lot of online discussion. If anyone wants to discuss the article with me, the best way to reach me is on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/karinjr
UPDATE II: Here's what happened when I conducted the same exercise to look at Barack Obama's facebook page: Totally Straightforward Edits on Barack Obama's Facebook Page