Thursday, December 16, 2010

HuffPost enables, protects one of its “Community Moderators” to repeatedly threaten, call for murder of Boehner, Kochs, Cheney, others

The following is a summary of, and introduction to this report, the first installment in a series that will reveal, in detail, the culture of hate and danger that HuffPost --- the #1 most-read blog on Earth --- knowingly incites and facilitates.

See Action Items and updates at end --- including Attorney General Eric Holder's grave concerns about American citizens who "become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born."

Jan. 27, 2011 update: After briefly banning him, HuffPost allows him to return, with more urgings of violence. Scroll for details in "Updates."

* * *

A new report by HUFF-WATCH
reveals the fact that from October 2010 through the present day, ("HuffPost") has been knowingly enabling and protecting one of its "Community Moderators" to post open threats against, and solicitations for the murder of notable conservative individuals. The targets of this
"Community Moderator," whose screen name is "foxinretreat," include:
  • Rep. John Boehner (a presumed Secret Service protectee, as Speaker-to-be)
  • Vice President Cheney
  • Charles Koch and David Koch, Koch Industries
  • Karl Rove
  • James Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JP Morgan Chase (a HuffPost advertiser)
  • Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

Further, our documentation shows that HuffPost actively protected "foxinretreat" on a minute-to-minute basis, by rapidly censoring and banning other users who attempted to complain about him* --- while leaving him free to continue posting his threats. (*Even though the picture "foxinretreat" now uses for an avatar is a female, we have strong reason to believe this individual is actually a male, and will refer to him as such)

Here are but a few examples of this "Community Moderator's" repeated threats and solicitations of murder, from the
extensive physical documentation we've captured:

“Time to kill the Kochs and Boehner"

"Time to reveal Karl Rove's home address, and take down the Cheneys. I'm serious, as radical as I sound."

“Time to cut Bohners knees to the bone, destroy him
[...] kill the drunk before he destroys us.”

The above are but a few of the many dozens of such threats and solicitations of murder that we have documented and observed by "foxinretreat." Every one of them is a gross violation of HuffPost's Comment Policy, which claims:
"(W)e do not allow... speech that advocates or supports hatred or unlawful violence (or) threats of violence or threats to anyone or any group's personal safety..."

These threats and solicitations, and HuffPost's deliberate facilitation of them, may also be violations of federal law, described in Section 3, below.


(1) How could such threats appear, and remain published, on a website that pre-moderates all comments? Only by its conscious choice.


Arianna Huffington, the site's co-founder and Editor-In-Chief, has repeatedly claimed that HuffPost is committed to keeping conversation on its comment threads "civil":
"If you're looking for the usual flame-throwing, name-calling, and simplistic attack dog rhetoric ... don't bother coming to the Huffington Post."
- May 3, 2005

"We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to abusive or hateful language or comments."
- March 20, 2008

From 2007 until early 2010, whenever outrageous user comments on news stories at HuffPost have occasionally been publicly exposed (examples 1, 2, 3), its management has emphatically claimed that they were all "accidents." They claimed that the site automatically publishes all comments on news stories as and when submitted, and the "bad" ones are only removed after-the-fact, once the site becomes aware of them ("post-moderation"). HuffPost's publicly-published Comment Policy also made this claim until mid-2010, as well.

Yet as we revealed in this special report, since early 2008 HuffPost has been fully pre-moderating every comment that is submitted to any page on the site. This means that that the only comments that appear on HuffPost are those that it has reviewed, approved, and decided to publish. In fact, since early 2008 every comment page at HuffPost has contained some variant of the following status bar.
It shows how many comments are "pending," meaning that they're being reviewed, and each is awaiting HuffPost's decision as to whether to publish or reject it. As noted, the status bar also states that only those comments that are "approved" appear on the site:

This was all confirmed by Ms. Huffington in a little-known July 2008 interview. When asked to identify the biggest mistake HuffPost made since its debut, she replied:

"From the beginning, I would have established a policy of pre-moderating all comments on the site. [...] Our comments on the news site were originally post-moderated (i.e., objectionable comments were removed only after our moderators were alerted). We eventually decided that it was worth the substantial effort and expense to have human pre-moderation on both blogs and news."

In a July 2010 Newsweek interview, Ms. Huffington reaffirmed the fact that HuffPost pre-moderates all user comments:
"Huffington credits her decision early on to moderate comments and keep things civil rather than allowing the typical Internet free-for-all. It’s a lot of work — HuffPo has 20 people who do nothing but weed out the nasties."

Finally, in mid-2010, HuffPost revised its
Comment Policy to admit that its staff moderators' function is "to publish appropriate comments and delete inappropriate comments."

In early 2010, HuffPost decided to make certain users into "Community Moderators," whose responsibility is to catch any abusive comments that somehow slip through the staff moderator review. Yet as regular HuffPost users know, it is often the "Community Moderators themselves who are the worst-of-the-worst abusers of the site's policies. And no matter how often users complain about this fact, HuffPost's management not only takes no action against its worst "Community Moderators," it often instead censors and bans the complaining users.

With this knowledge in mind, one is now prepared to
appreciate the significance of several key screen captures. At right, note that HuffPost itself says (by the star) that while six other comments were in "pending," being reviewed by HuffPost's staff moderators, they reviewed, approved and decided to publish "foxinretreat's" open solicitation for the murder of the CEO of a major U.S. bank:
"Time to hang Jamie Dimon"

(Also, note that this "comment" received two "Flagged as Abusive")

Below, in response to another comment, HuffPost reviewed, approved and decided to publish "foxinretreat's" open threat against Rep. Boehner and the Koch brothers:

“Time to kill the Kochs and
Boehner" (permalink)

Also, note at the bottom right of this frame that this comment was still published two weeks later, on December 16 --- even though numerous users repeatedly flagged it as abusive at the time.


(2) Didn't any other users try to complain about these threats, or speak out against "foxinretreat?" Yes. And HuffPost promptly censored and banned them --- while leaving him free to continue.


Our full report further documents the fact that numerous users repeatedly notified HuffPost of the abusive nature of "foxinretreat's" threats and solicitations of murder --- primarily through the "Flag As Abusive" button at the bottom of each comment, which HuffPost claims its staff moderators "pay close attention to."

Yet instead of instantly, permanently banning "foxinretreat," our documentation shows that HuffPost repeatedly banned the complaining users --- and censored users' attempts to speak out against, and mock "foxinretreat" --- while leaving him free to continue posting his threats and solicitations of murder.


(3) Aren't there federal laws against these kinds of threats and solicitations on the Internet? Yes.


"Using broad-based communication channels to threaten, harm and intimidate and then incite others to do the same will not be tolerated."

-- John G. Perren, FBI Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism, Washington, DC field office, October 2010

Please see this special report we constructed to help HUFF-WATCH readers judge for themselves whether or not what we document falls under federal statutes. The report also contains tips for contacting law enforcement agencies if you are the target of such "comments" on HuffPost, or elsewhere online.

From a federal law perspective, the three key things to keep in mind here are:
  • It is a felony to use the Internet to threaten a protectee of the U.S. Secret Service, to threaten another person (or his property or reputation), to do these things while hiding behind a fictitious identity, and to solicit others to commit a crime of violence.
  • Federal courts have also determined that it doesn't matter if a person has the ability or intent to actually carry out the threat he/she posts; prosecutors only need to prove to a jury's satisfaction that the statement is a threat, and that a reasonable person would view it as such.
  • It is a felony to knowingly allow one's website to be used for the commission of other felonies.

Whether or not the actions of "foxinretreat" and/or HuffPost have risen to these standards is for federal law enforcement to decide. Given the U.S. Attorney's recent indictment against Zach Chesser in the "Revolution Muslim" case, however (see Section 5 here), we believe there is a very strong indication that "foxinretreat," and HuffPost, may be subject to the same charges. To this end, we have forward this post to the FBI and the Secret Service for evaluation.

One thing is absolutely certain: these incidents represent a startling escalation of HuffPost's betrayal of its public commitments to keeping its comment threads "clean."

A previous HUFF-WATCH report, published in September 2009, documented the fact that contrary to its public claims, HuffPost knowingly enables and protects the users who are the most egregious violators of its Comment Policy --- and that it censors and bans those who complain about or stand against them, on a minute-to-minute basis.

Our new report, in contrast, documents the fact that HuffPost is now enabling and protecting the "worst-of-the-worst" of its "Community Moderators" --- its internal "police force" --- whom it empowers and entrusts to (supposedly) help enforce the site's commenting rules.

To this day, HuffPost has kept enabling and protecting "foxinretreat," who has, predictably, escalated the intensity and frequency of his open threats against these targets. In fact, HuffPost is now allowing "foxinretreat" to essentially "live" on the site for 8-14 hours a day.

As of December 16, HuffPost has allowed this "Community Moderator" to post 22,449 comments to the site since September 2009 --- including this morning's open call for the assassinations of Supreme Court justices Roberts and Alito:
“roberts and alito [...] are traitors and should be executed.”

By engaging in these acts, HuffPost has actively created and perpetuated the very environment of hate, threats and danger that it publicly claims it works so hard to prevent on its "comment" pages.


(4) What can you do to help put a stop to this HuffPost-facilitated danger?


The first thing you should do to is read our entire report.

Second, consider the fact that HuffPost is not some offbeat, run-of-the-mill website. It is the #1 most-read blog on Earth, one of America's top ten news sites, and is supported by some of the world's largest advertisers. Given these facts, you may come to share our concern that if HuffPost is allowed to continue facilitating this cauldron of hate, threats and solicitations of violence, its actions (and inactions) are eventually going to lead to someone getting hurt, or killed.

Third, you should consider doing what we ask in ACTION ITEMS, at the end of our full report:
(1) Make your voice known to HuffPost's senior management and investors here.

(2) Write or call one or more of HuffPost's top advertisers, to let them know your thoughts on what their ad dollars are enabling.
(We include a list of major corporations whose advertisements appear in screen captures relating to "foxinretreat" and this report, their CEO's names, contact information, etc.).

(3) Forward the link to this report to others that you think should be aware of it.

Click here to read our full report.




Dec. 16, 9:40pm: Thanks to Jawa Report, Black & Right, Solomonia and Linkiest for covering this report.

Dec. 17, 5:30pm: HuffPost has banned "foxinretreat," but apparently it came at a price. It also banned "zoloft," an inordinately polite conservative who was beloved by most users for his civility, who'd been at HuffPost for years, but who dared to criticize "foxinretreat" on occasion for his open threats and solicitations of murder. So, along with all the users we document in our full report whom HuffPost banned for daring to criticize or complain about "foxinretreat," while protecting him to continue his seemingly unlawful behavior, HuffPost decided to add the scalp of one more critic. Update Dec. 19: Thanks to reader "Cecile," we now find this open call by "foxinretreat" for HuffPost to ban "zoloft"... which supports our contention.

Dec. 17, 6:45pm: Thanks to "Tallyman" at Black & Right for additional legal insights. Tallyman points out that threatening former presidents and Secret Service protectees (18 USC § 879), and members of Congress and the Supreme Court (18 USC § 351), are also violations of federal law.

Dec. 20: Discovery of another implied threat by "foxinretrat" --- of mass murder, starting with the Kochs. As we were cleaning up our files from this post, we came across one more chilling, implied threat that HuffPost allowed "foxinretreat" to post. This post was made in the context of the revelation that the Kochs organized an event in Florida that was attended by Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. In the context of all of "foxinretreat's" other explicit threats, we contend this cannot be interpreted as anything other than a threat of mass murder:

Dec. 21: Attorney General Eric Holder expresses grave concern about Americans who "become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born." In this interview with ABC's Pierre Thomas, Holder explained:
"It is one of the things that keeps me up at night," Holder said. "You didn't worry about this even two years ago -- about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do. And -- that is of -- of great concern. The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens -- raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," he said.
Was Mr. Holder talking about the radical leftist Community Moderators that HuffPost enables, protects and emboldens --- such as "foxinretreat,"and the others that we will be profiling in a follow-up blogpost tomorrow? Or is he talking about the regular psychopathic users whom HuffPost has enabled and protected for years, like "kevenseven," "postman," "KQuark," and others (more here), whom it permits to openly threaten, solicit and justify violence and murder, based on politics?

Or was he talking about the radical left in general, the primary Petri dish from which the bulk* of non-Islamist political threats and violence emerges today?
(*The Media Research Center recently completed a report on the proliferation of left-wing violence; more data here, here, here, here, here, here.)

Jan. 27: He's baaccckkk.... and while HuffPost is banning other users on a minute-to-minute basis for daring to challenge, mock or complain about leftists' threats and urgings of violence, it allows the reincarnated "FoxInRetreat" to continue, unabated.

Gee, wonder who "SOSfox7" could be? Oh - he admits it (right). And note that HuffPost's allowed him to only post 1,340 comments in a month...

So do you think HuffPost demand that he clean up his act, as a condition of returning? Nope. In just the past few weeks, HuffPost has allowed the newly-reincarnated "FoxInRetreat" to: urge the murder Supreme Court Justice Atonin Scalia (again); urge violent class warfare (again); and to continue the rest of his madness.

A few examples - starting with his comments on a thread dedicated to Justice Scalia (top row), then more general insanity, and solicitations of violence (lower left - and see how another user clearly understands what's being proposed, and says, "ready for action"):

Note also in the bottom left frame that the page upon which HuffPost allowed these comments to be posted is dedicated to discussion of military funding --- not the Wall St. figures he urges be "taken down," in a clearly violent fashion. Yet no matter how many times users hit the "Flag As Abusive" button beneath his comments, or email HuffPost with complaints, its moderators do nothing to put a stop to it --- even though they've demonstrated their ability, over and over, to zero in on "unwanteds" and eject them within minutes of their arrival.


  1. Laughable. You conservatives are so full of hate you bring guns to town hall meetings and now you're whining about this. Get out of my country. NOW!

  2. We are not IN your country - which is what: Palestine?