Meet the anonymous trolls of AdNews

For the seven people who are intensely interested in the activities of Australia’s marketing trade press, this one is just for you.

You may have noticed that there’s been something of a furore over anonymous comments this week.

As I wrote on Monday, we became aware in July that the Communications Council was talking about the issue. On August 18, the chairman and CEO of the organisation both dropped by our office to discuss the topic. I agreed I’d be happy to sit down with the other editors to explore whether there was any common ground.

On August 30, AdNews headed for the moral high ground and unilaterally launched its “I ain’t afraid of no trolls” campaign.

(As an aside, it is curious for them to be claiming, as they did yesterday, that: “AdNews published a set of community guidelines in August, which led to a debate within The Communications Council and a move to launch a cross-industry initiative.” Led to a debate, in the sense that it followed the debate. Or perhaps, among its many other achievements, the Comms Council has also mastered time travel.)

adnews_test_commentThen there’s the actual initiative that AdNews has been making a huge fuss about. A casual reader would think that they’ve outlawed anonymous comments.

Not quite. They’re asking for an email address. Not a real one, mind you. You don’t have to register to comment. If you want to stay anonymous, you just have to make up an email address.

dnews_moderated_commentJust to check, I tried it earlier today by posting a comment on an opinion piece by Colin Jowell. I’m Senator Joseph McCarthy. The email address does not exist.

But the main issue is this. If you’re fighting a campaign against anonymous comment trolls, then perhaps you shouldn’t be anonymously trolling websites yourself.

Here are some troll-like comments we’ve received during 2011 from the same IP address…

When we wrote about an agency declining to pitch because they didn’t want to ruin their staff Christmas, the view from “Interested Observer” was:

“Lazy Aussies.”

A tad troll-y, a tad provocative, perhaps? But still relatively mild.

But then things began to step up after we wrote about a spoof news website in New Zealand.

The next comment, from “Not Lynchy” was a crack at the owner of Campaign Brief:

“The NZ Notworth News weather girl is like the Michael Lynch of the trade journalism world.”

Next in line for attack was Mumbrella after we reported that Ten had fired CEO Grant Blackley that day. According to “Pamela”:

“AdNews reported this week’s ago and they’ve got the inside story. Keep up chaps”

Funnily enough, we used to hear from a “Pamela” back in 2010. At the time she seemed a tad racist about non-Aussies. And sometimes she was called ‘Tired of Mumbo”. And she didn’t seem to like me very much either:

“Hey Mumbo Dumbo, this is very interesting…thank you. Wow, great to see AdNews delivering the online goods….that is the best industry website by a country mile. The video style and no nonsense approach gets you involved, as everyone has limited time. (I’m afraid the Mumbo one is far too long and sleepy.)

“Don’t think your bottom feeding journalist tactics are a good look and to be honest, Harto was right …. can you also rid yourself of that sickly pommy pathetic sarcasm in your tone…this is Australia old dog, get with it or get out…..

“I sense you are worried sick about AdNews fire online….you can tell.”

As it was from a different IP address to the other comments I talk about here, you’ll have to form your own view on whether it’s the same “Pamela”.

But back to 2011. Then came a comment about a legal case from “Lillywhite”. It was signed off COYS. Anyone know if there’s a Tottenham Hotspur supporter over at AdNews? Come On You Spurs.

And from then on, the pro-AdNews comments started to come thick and fast. Always in the third person, which rather gives the misleading impression of coming from a disinterested source.

Commenting on a piece written about online anonymity, “DL” provided a link to the AdNews piece along with the message:

“Adnews got it right with the lead they took last month:”

The next day “DL” was back again, on the same issue after we uploaded our video interview with the chairman of the Australian Press Council who also talked about anonymous comment. Again there was a link to the AdNews anti-troll campaign:

“adnews got it right with their stand last month”

Next came a comment from “Catch up” after a copy of GQ, with a playable audio message, arrived in our office and we shot a piece of video of it:

“Very old news”

The next comment was bordering on libellous regarding Mumbrella. We wrote about how a media agency had been lifting another agency’s content for its blog. According to “Pot calling the kettle black”:

“They’ve clearly been stealing their source gathering methods from Mumbrella”

And two days ago, we heard from “Batman”, who stubbornly wants the outside world to believe that AdNews launched its campaign before the Comms Council was talking about it, rather than at least a month later. Providing a link to editor Darren Davidson’s explanation for why he was refusing to talk to the Communications Council about the issue of anonymous comments, “Batman” said:

“The real story (This was not a comms council initiative):”

By now, you may be ahead of me. Have you guessed what the IP address is yet?

Here’s the information an IP address lookup gives us:

You may be aware that the publisher of AdNews is Yaffa Publishing.

And while I’m at it, casting a bit further back, this was a comment from 2010 from a troll calling themself  “Can’t Standya” who doesn’t seem to like my accent:

“I have just recently discovered Dr. Mumbo. I have to say, it is comparable to pulling teeth sitting and listening to your voice!”

That came from a slightly different IP… but not that different.

Clearly I guessed some time ago that the sledging was coming from the AdNews direction – and there’s absolutely no evidence that the comments are the work of a single individual. Mostly, I found it harmless and amusing.

Particularly when I worked in Dubai (where media freedom is a joke despite claims to the contrary by the government) I used to regularly comment anonymously. Although I can’t think of an example, I bet I’ve done it here too (although my ego usually demands I put my name to my comments). But there’s nothing immoral about being an anonymous commenter per se.

But – it seems to me – where it becomes hypocritical is to anonymously comment in a troll-y way on somebody else’s site in order to promote your campaign against anonymous trolls. If that’s not trolling, I don’t know what is.

Tim Burrowes


  1. Adsnooze
    16 Nov 11
    1:13 pm

  2. You’ll always be our favourite Mumbo


  3. Debbie Downer
    16 Nov 11
    1:28 pm

  4. I’d rather you left “Pamela” out, Dr. The rest of your argument is enough, even if you have your suspicions you don’t have as good as proof as the other comments.

    On the rest of it though – yeah, they’re douches.

  5. Pamela
    16 Nov 11
    1:46 pm

  6. Hmmph! AdNews broke this a month ago.

  7. DL
    16 Nov 11
    2:07 pm

  8. Old news…

  9. Nic Halley
    16 Nov 11
    2:07 pm

  10. amateur night

  11. Governor Rick Perry
    16 Nov 11
    2:11 pm

  12. …oops.

  13. Perry Mason
    16 Nov 11
    2:12 pm

  14. Let me introduce exhibit A your honour….

  15. MR
    16 Nov 11
    2:27 pm

  16. Good to see Mumbo calling these people out! Well done.

    PS I’m not from Mumbrella. Feel free to publish my IP address.

  17. Patrick
    16 Nov 11
    2:30 pm

  18. There’s nothing more interesting for a reader than journalists having a go at other journalists. Except for grass. Grass is more interesting.

  19. Matt Granfield
    16 Nov 11
    2:33 pm

  20. Does anyone actually read AdNews?

  21. Tony Richardson
    16 Nov 11
    2:39 pm

  22. Tim, may I suggest a contest where the best comment from a competing website wins a prize every month – like ad of the month.

    There could also be a prize for the highest number of fake comments.

    They could be called ‘the Annies’ short for anonymous.

  23. deri
    16 Nov 11
    2:41 pm

  24. Firstly there’s a difference between being simply anonymous and being an anonymous troll. Trolling is the act of intentionally baiting by being controversial, offensive, inflammatory or off topic.

    Secondly I think it’s a bit rough associating a companys initiative with being able to control all of the people that are in the building. I guess if they were smart they’d implement a proxy server and simply block the mumbrella site.

    Lastly every post you ever write about adnews is a troll, in fact your business model seems to be based on trolling. Bait a competitior, get their name in your search results watch the hits come in.

    (p.s not associated with adnews in any way, hey you can even check my ip!)

  25. FOYS
    16 Nov 11
    2:41 pm

  26. I think the trick, really, would be to have readers comment anonymously if you liked, but to flag them as such, as opposed to logged in accounts. Many sites do this and hide non-logged in users or comments with very low ratings.

    At least getting a sense of consistency from contributors would help, even if it’s a pseudonym.

    1. Rating comments up and down by users. (Also enables more anonymous feedback, without an “I agree with Pamela”
    2. Rating articles (removes the “nice post” comments)
    3. Really, people getting caught by the IP trick still? Just goes to show, common sense isn’t.
    4. Allow people who want to login with a consistent username to do so.

  27. Rushdie
    16 Nov 11
    2:48 pm

  28. You sure showed those gronks over at Schelbyville Tim!

  29. Anne Miles
    16 Nov 11
    2:55 pm

  30. It will be a matter of time before all community management source IP addresses will be accountable. Even the typical branded community site has paid moderators to feed in structured and strategic commentary. I realise it is a viable way to control a community for good purpose most of the time, but the ethics of it do concern me.

    I think this is one thing Mumbrella is doing well is to check the IP sources of comments and have stopped issues in the past that I have noted.

    I have to say that there are times when I have been suspicious that some of the inflammatory comments that are posted on Mumbrella’s own site has the source IP of their own – hmm…. can’t prove it of course. Can you say categorically, Tim, that your team do not post comments under other people’s names EVER on your own site?

  31. mumbrella
    16 Nov 11
    3:04 pm

  32. Hi Anne,

    I’d be nervous of saying that categorically. I’d be surprised though.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  33. Ed
    16 Nov 11
    3:13 pm

  34. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  35. Ariana
    16 Nov 11
    3:34 pm

  36. What a bunch of losers for doing such a low act!

  37. Anonymous
    16 Nov 11
    3:38 pm

  38. I’m upset about besmirching the great name of Tottenham Hotpsur (COYS) …we’ve got enough of our own subterfuge accusations on important issues – don’t need to get involved in this little shenanigan…….Leave us out of it Mr Ad News or whoever the troll actually is!

  39. A
    16 Nov 11
    3:51 pm

  40. Wow, this makes me feel like cancelling my AdNews subscription. Disappointed that a rival would stoop so low. Good on Mumbrella for outing them. And for the record, there is nothing wrong with being a Pom or having a Pommy accent.

  41. Mike Whitney
    16 Nov 11
    3:52 pm

  42. Who Dares Wins.

  43. Dave
    16 Nov 11
    4:11 pm

  44. WTF is AdNews?

  45. PG
    16 Nov 11
    4:42 pm

  46. One journo over there has Tottenham Hotspur as their fav website…

  47. Luka Modric
    16 Nov 11
    7:39 pm

  48. @Anonymous – I agree…

    @A Does that make you an anonymous Pom..?

    I wonder if it was the same person at Yaffa, or various people..? Either or, Tim you have played a pretty decent hand of poker there!!

  49. 'Arry
    16 Nov 11
    7:53 pm

  50. Hasn’t Modric been impressive this season? Him & Bale in midfield make it all a bit luvely chubbly

  51. inconceivable
    16 Nov 11
    10:52 pm

  52. Careful you don’t drop the ball here Tim. This kinda reminds me of the Old Scotland vs England debate. Scots spend a lot of time and energy saying how much better Scotland is than England…whereas the English don’t really care because they are bigger and more influential as a country. The joke here is on the Scots because just by being so pre-occupied by the rivalry, they are positioning the English as the focus of their effort and aspirations. So yes I understand what you are doing with this article but in the end its tells us that Adnews is on your mind, that they have made it into your headspace and taking up your time. You are letting them set the agenda by spending time on their nonsense. You have made great strides by embracing the web and being fleet of foot. You will win the day if you focus on what made you relevant and interesting. Don’t let them slow you down. Instead be inspired by the likes of Pete Cashmore (Ironically Scottish in the context of this post) from Mashable and just make Mumbrella awesome and Adnews will simply wither on the vine. Rock on mate and leave them in your dust.

  53. Craig
    17 Nov 11
    10:33 am

  54. It seems to be fairly typical behaviour by opponents of anonymity.

    When they say anonymity is bad and should be prevented in favour of everyone being required to provide their real details (for ‘accountability’) they generally mean that anonymity as practiced by other people is bad.

    They are very happy to continue using anonymity themselves – newspapers and magazines through articles with no byline, advertisers through unattributed comments and actors portraying real people, governments, companies and lobby groups in using false identifies to influence online discussions (yes they already do).

    There’s a word for people who selectively wish to prevent others from taking actions that they justify are OK for them to take themselves.

  55. Riley
    17 Nov 11
    12:24 pm

  56. Well said @inconceivable

    Don’t waste your head space on the competition Tim.

  57. Anon
    17 Nov 11
    2:40 pm

  58. Good on you Tim for exposing the AdNews frauds. Keep it up

  59. Anne Miles
    17 Nov 11
    4:52 pm

  60. @Tim – thanks for the answer. Fair answer.

  61. YaDunGoofedUp
    17 Nov 11
    6:44 pm

  62. @Anne Miles. When you say that some of the negative comments on Mumbrella seem to come from Mumbrella’s IP address, on what are you basing that?

    I am not patronising, but you do realise that once a comment is posted on a website it becomes hosted on that website, right?

    As posters, we can’t see other posters’ IP addresses, unless someone from Mumbrella displays them.

  63. No Sweat
    17 Nov 11
    10:00 pm

  64. Adnews have been publishing anonymous comments on Mumbrella. Or should I write; comments have been published from the IP address of Yaffa who publish Adnews… (That should get through the edited for legal reasons bit..)

    Tim has waited and waited and waited and now he has exposed these comments from Yaffa, who publish Adnews..

    I wouldn’t say Tim has ‘Adnews on his mind’ (make a good blues song that one.) I would say that Adnews seem to be paying too much attention to Mumbrella and should perhaps focus on their business and not Tim’s.

    Adnews = Scotland, Tim = England (if using the comment above as an example…)

    Anyhow, engagement is key and I am always entertained on Mumbrella.

  65. Not Not Lynchy
    17 Nov 11
    10:38 pm

  66. Haha, great piece! Can’t wait for the reaction over at yaffa!

  67. Grant
    18 Nov 11
    9:20 pm

  68. Tim, did you catch the campaign brief eDM today?
    Things are getting a bit nasty between the trade press!!!

  69. Scott Lawrie
    19 Nov 11
    1:38 am

  70. @inconceivable and @ No Sweat – this is EXACTLY the kind of stupid, mindless shit that Tim is arguing AGAINST. Your argument is trite and paranoid. You set up some silly historical (and frankly, hysterical AND racist) context for your argument – against a whole nation – and then proceed to align it to an argument in advertising? Are you for real? THINK before you post FFS. Jesus, is this – genuinely – the best you could come up with? A Scotland V England argument? Sad. SO sad. And yes, this is my real name and company used in this post. Unlike yours…And no, I don’t work for AdNews. But you guys just keep heaping eternal shame on our industry: Bitter. Lame. And sour. But go you two…must feel so proud, eh?

  71. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:03 pm

  72. It

  73. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:03 pm

  74. seems

  75. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:05 pm

  76. a

  77. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:05 pm

  78. shame

  79. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:06 pm

  80. that

  81. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:06 pm

  82. this

  83. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:09 pm

  84. article

  85. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:10 pm

  86. does

  87. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:10 pm

  88. not

  89. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:11 pm

  90. have

  91. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:11 pm

  92. more

  93. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:11 pm


  95. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:12 pm

  96. Do

  97. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:12 pm

  98. you

  99. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:13 pm

  100. know

  101. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:13 pm

  102. how

  103. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:13 pm

  104. I

  105. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:14 pm

  106. can

  107. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:14 pm

  108. help?

  109. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:15 pm

  110. All

  111. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:15 pm

  112. suggestions

  113. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:16 pm

  114. are

  115. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:16 pm

  116. most

  117. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:17 pm

  118. welcome.

  119. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:17 pm

  120. Most discussed list…

  121. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:17 pm

  122. … here…

  123. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:18 pm

  124. … we…

  125. Sadnoos
    3 Dec 11
    7:18 pm

  126. …come!

  127. Luka Modric
    4 Dec 11
    12:20 am

  128. be Croation, but ‘trolls’ are not just on the field…

  129. Santa
    14 Dec 11
    8:22 pm

  130. We wish you a merry Christmas

  131. St Nicholas
    14 Dec 11
    8:23 pm

  132. We wish you a merry, merry Christmas

  133. Father Christmas
    14 Dec 11
    8:23 pm

  134. WE WISH you a merry Christmas and a happy new year :)

  135. Festive Troll
    14 Dec 11
    8:24 pm

  136. Nice work Santa / Father Christmas…

  137. Heheh
    15 Dec 11
    12:15 am

  138. Heh, well done.
    Thanks for the lucid explanation