Watch your internet mouth: anonymous comments could get you sacked

If you leave a crude comment on Kurt Greenbaum’s St. Louis Dispatch articles, he’d like a word. With your boss.

Greenbaum penned an admittedly (by the author) lame piece Friday for the Dispatch, a “nice, soft edition of (Talk of the Day),” asking readers to post in the comments:

How about you? Have you gone out on a limb for a meal? What’d you try? Did you like it? Have you had friends or family who have tried stuff on a dare?

Predictably, one commenter replied with one word- the p-word, used to describe a woman’s nether regions. So Greenbaum, the site’s director of social media, did what any logical person posting articles on the web would do- he tracked down the dude who commented and got him fired. Greenbaum smugly details his sleuthing in a later post bragging about the incident:

A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.

About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.

Greenbaum gets even more villainous in the comments himself, reminding commenters that he “didn’t say (the unidentified, now-jobless man) got fired” and only that he “resigned.” Although the commenter was stupid and Greenbaum’s actions were distasteful and excessive, this incident serves as a caution that nothing you say on the web is truly anonymous, and that goes double for at work. While fear of reprisal is never a really great reason to STFU, if you’re going to go out on a limb (or be pushed onto one) at least hope it’s for something better than a tired joke.

If you’d like to comment personally to Kurt Greenbaum (I’d recommend waiting until you get home) his personal blog is here and he obviously really loves moderating.