Has Xenforo ever considered an acceptable use policy?

Ted Gill

New member
Hello,

With the disturbing rise of online hate groups, many platform providers have adopted acceptable use policies to avoid offering their tacit support to those who seek to promote violent, extreme ideologies, such as White Supremacist groups.

As platform providers like Twitter and reddit ban those who abuse their services to promote hate, displaced users have sought out alternative solutions - including Xenforo - to remain online.

Like the vast majority of current and prospective Xenforo clients, I consider myself a respectable community operator and exercise vigilance to prevent our service from being misused for illegal or unethical purposes. I'd like to make sure that my chosen software platform provider shares a similar sense of responsibility.

When "incel" communities that blatantly promote misogyny, racism, and rape operate on the Xenforo platform, it demeans both the platform itself and all active licensees.

I, for one, would feel far more comfortable, and proud, to hold a Xenforo license if the company actively sought to prevent this outcome. If the likes of Paypal can make an effort, surely Xenforo can as well.

Thank you for your time!
 

Ernest L. Defoe

Well-known member
Well for one Twitter, Facebook, etc are all hosted platforms and they have huge employee/volunteer bases to help keep things like that off of their site.

xF is a self hosted platform and as such they can’t really truly control what people do with their software. As such xF doesn’t have the manpower to even attempt and try to do what you are suggesting. They are a 3 man development team with 2 volunteer moderators that help police the community here.

PayPal is going to be in the category of Twitter, Facebook and such with enough employees to do what you are suggesting.

I’d rather Kier, Mike, and Chris concentrate on their product and Brogan and Slavik working to keep this community running smoothly.
 

Ernest L. Defoe

Well-known member
I think the wording of clauses 3 & 4 in you License Agreement would enable Xenforo to remove licensing for such scenario's, should it be brought to their attention.
They can revoke the license yes but then it will depend on where the site is hosted on whether or not anything else can be done. Hence why I said due to the small staff of employees it would be hard to really enforce such things. The other sites the OP mentioned have huge amounts of staff, money, and resources to enforce things better.
 

imno007

Well-known member
Yeah, and as soon as they announced they would try to actively enforce some kind of moral clause policy, they'd be inundated with reports from crusaders looking to take every site they had a problem with offline. Because let's get real, people have wildly differing views on what's "unethical" behavior. To use just one example from your list, would a site you or someone else identified as promoting rape really be promoting rape or would it maybe actually be some kinky fetish site frequented by men and women? You already have an option when it comes to clearly illegal sites: contact the hosting provider and/or law enforcement. That's the only thing the XF team could do in such cases (aside from revoking licenses, which wouldn't stop anyone from using the software), so better for you to do it than pawn off the responsibility to a three man team that already has their hands full. Personally, I want them concentrating on working on the software, which is what I pay them for - not reassurance that someone somewhere isn't using their software for something I don't approve of.

As far as hate groups go, they most likely pick up most of their recruits from Youtube, where it's recommendation algorithms are often exploited by extreme groups to suck in young viewers who go there to watch vids about video games and whatever else young people are typically interested in.
 

Brogan

XenForo moderator
Staff member
Regardless of what is reported to us, only hosts can take sites down.

In a lot of cases sites which arguably should be taken down are deliberately hosted in countries and with companies which frankly couldn't care less and won't do anything.
On the contrary, it's big business so it's in their interest to allow those sorts of sites.
 

FrederikP

Active member
Just curious. What happens when XF revokes your license?

I wont be able to login on xenforo.com to download latest version & receive support or my website will display a big text "Your license has been revoked, contact us for more info" or something like that? (like hosting providers show when they suspend a account)
 

CMTV

Well-known member
Rather controversial topic.
When "incel" communities that blatantly promote misogyny, racism, and rape operate on the Xenforo platform, it demeans both the platform itself and all active licensees.
Why? I don't feel blame or any other kind of discomfort when using a knife to make a dinner just because someone uses it to kill somebody.

XenForo is a great tool for creating communities. It is not a gun, not a bomb, not a drug, not even a knife. It is not intended to harm. It simply can't.

That is why I think the developers should not waste time and money on actively sought to prevent bad communities. And I am not even talking about shutting down normal communities for trivial reasons, which might (and often) happen when someone or some company takes control of the usage of their product.
 
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Jake B.

Well-known member
I would like Budweiser to quit selling their beer now
insert pun about Budweiser being horrible

while all Ford vehicles should be pulled off the roads
Insert pun about Fords breaking down and being pulled off the road by tow trucks anyways

You'll have to use your imagination, but hopefully you can come up with something funny for both :)
 

Mr Lucky

Well-known member
A drunk driver drank a Budweiser while driving a Ford truck and killed someone. I would like Budweiser to quit selling their beer now, while all Ford vehicles should be pulled off the roads for causing violence. Just like @Ernest L. Defoe explains perfectly above, Xenforo is not the internet police.
Not a good analogy, you buy a car, you licence software. See the difference?
 

Brogan

XenForo moderator
Staff member
You can lease a car.

XF has no control over what users of the software do, other than being able to revoke licenses/customer accounts if they breach the terms.

That doesn't take the site down.
 

imno007

Well-known member
Me three, because I don't think they sell a beer with more than four or five percent alcohol content, and I don't like having to drink four or fives beers to get a decent buzz and then having to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes to piss it all out. 😌
 

Ted Gill

New member
Thank you for addressing my question. I'm pleased to learn that there is indeed an enforceable provision in the Xenforo licensing agreement that holds licensees accountable for abuse.

I can appreciate that existing license holders would like to ensure that the development team's focus remains on the product - and I have not attempted to suggest otherwise. I have asked if Xenforo has the authority to revoke a license in response to a reported instance of extreme abuse, such as a hate group or a community dedicated to illegal activity.

As community operators, each of us has an affirmative obligation to prevent the misuse of our service - if only to the extent required by law. It's easy to say, "we're not responsible for a customer's misuse of our products," but such arguments find little purchase in the context of a DMCA complaint, for example. Our users determine their own behavior (bots notwithstanding.) We determine our responses.

The "guns don't kill people" arguments ignore that we are dealing, here, with services. Although we cannot always prevent the initial abuse - the copyright violation, the criminal solicitation, the hate speech, or what have you - we all make decisions in how we choose to respond to such policy breaches once they occur. Do we take down the infringing content? Do we ban the user(s) responsible? When we demonstrate negligence, we can either be held legally accountable (in certain circumstances), or we can be held accountable by those with whom we do business. (Our users, our partners, our service providers.)

Xenforo's obligations as a platform developer differ from its obligations in operating support forums - but I think we all value platform providers that understand the expectations and challenges faced by community operators. For better or worse, our reputation is influenced by the practices and performance of our vendors. If a website user has a negative experience caused by a third party software glitch or service outage, they typically blame the website rather than the provider. If you sell physical products, customers will hold you accountable for the practices of every company in your supply chain.

Each of us has the right to make the choices that we feel best serves our customers, our partners, and our values. I would not choose "Gab" for social media marketing. I would not lease an office in a building that also houses meth labs, to which the property manager turns a blind eye.

Communities de-platformed by other service providers often adopt forums as an alternative. In choosing a forum platform for our own properties, I would feel more comfortable knowing that our selected provider is responsive to reports of extreme misuse and does not court the business of those considered too extreme for mainstream platforms already renowned for toxicity.


Thanks again for the information and perspectives, everyone. I wish you all the best with your respective communities.
 

MySiteGuy

Formerly ftsservice
While I am personally against "hate" sites, I am more against curtailing freedom of speech. Free speech is not free if it only allows for "nice" topics. If someone does not like a site's content it's as simple as choosing not to visit it. It doesn't reflect on Xenforo, no more than it reflects on Microsoft if a hate site posts an Excel file. It reflects on that site, and its users only.

If Xenforo LTD were to start revoking licenses because a site had content I did not agree with, I would look elsewhere when it came time to renew my licenses. The world is seeing more and more encroachment on free speech, not in huge swathes, but dying the death of a thousand cuts by well-intentioned speech nannies.
 

DroidOne

Well-known member
Communities de-platformed by other service providers often adopt forums as an alternative. In choosing a forum platform for our own properties, I would feel more comfortable knowing that our selected provider is responsive to reports of extreme misuse and does not court the business of those considered too extreme for mainstream platforms already renowned for toxicity.
Who decides what's toxic or not? A court of law?

In my humble opinion we've crossed the line. Quite a lot of businesses these days take it upon themselves to "better" the Internet by removing content or denying access on a whim. It doesn't take much to get content removed from a service provider. All you need is a big or vocal enough group to get things going.

This is a rather recent development. Not many moons ago most providers simply left it to the judicial system.

What many don't seem to realize is that we've opened Pandoras box. Opinions and views change over time and whatever content you provide today could be considered questionable in the near future.

It's clearly a slippery slope and I sure hope XF take no part in it.
 
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RobinHood

Well-known member
I think this is a pretty tough issue to battle for a software provider, especially when the company that writes the software doesn't host each community instance that runs it.

XF isn't like Discord, Facebook, YouTube, or Reddit, where each community is hosted on servers belonging to the company. As private entities those companies have every right to deplatform anyone they think is spreading hateful, obscene or inciting content that is against the terms and conditions for those sites, they're not the government so there's no free speech protections.

While I am personally against "hate" sites, I am more against curtailing freedom of speech. Free speech is not free if it only allows for "nice" topics.
Limitations have been applied the to the principle of freedom of speech and expression as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech said:
Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".[2]

Freedom of speech and expression, therefore, may not be recognized as being absolute, and common limitations or boundaries to freedom of speech relate to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, food labeling, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, public security, and perjury. Justifications for such include the harm principle, proposed by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, which suggests that: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."[3]
The first amendment also has categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection

Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment include obscenity (as determined by the Miller test), fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct,[9] speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising.[10][11] Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors over their works (copyright), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons, restrictions on the use of untruths to harm others (slander), and communications while a person is in prison. When a speech restriction is challenged in court, it is presumed invalid and the government bears the burden of convincing the court that the restriction is constitutional.[12]
When "incel" communities that blatantly promote misogyny, racism, and rape operate on the Xenforo platform, it demeans both the platform itself and all active licensees.
I also have come across this forum or a forum like it when linked to it from reddit, I was pretty disgusted by what I read and then then disappointed to see it was running XF.

If anything it does cause a bad brand image to be associated with communities like that, which I'm sure is a big part of the decision that the previously mentioned sites choose to deplatform and ban many communities and associated users.

It reminds me of when Toyota were in the news because it turns out Isis are a big fan of Toyota Trucks.

Business Insider said:
Ed Lewis, Toyota's Washington-based director of public policy and communications, told ABC that Toyota has "briefed Treasury on Toyota's supply chains in the Middle East and the procedures that Toyota has in place to protect supply chain integrity" and that the company has a "strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities."

Some of the Toyotas now in ISIS's possession have been rebranded with the seal of the "caliphate," or the Islamic State the group has created as it has seized control of territory in the Middle East.

The Hilux is so popular with ISIS fighters that it has now become "almost part of the ISIS brand," Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the United Nations who is CEO of the Counter Extremism Project, told ABC.

"In nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet — a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that's very concerning to us," Wallace said.

ISIS's propaganda has been so effective that "Saturday Night Live" parodied the relationship between Toyota and ISIS earlier this year
Of course, it's not like the Terrorist Leaders were strolling into dealerships, AK47s slung over their shoulders and slapping down fat stacks of terrorist cash to buy them new, they were getting them used by smuggling them into the country. I drove a Toyota truck at the time it didn't change my personal view of the brand as I realised it's pretty easy for them to pick them up used and there's not much Toyota can do about it, I still drive a Toyota. However it did still create a global brand image issue for Toyota and they felt they had to be seen doing something to try and ensure their trucks weren't used for such purposes.

It also probably helped that I didn't see these trucks rolling down my local streets with 50 cals and RPGs mounted to the back. Out of site, out of mind.

With online communities it's different, it's much easier to get exposed or linked to communities using the brand you also use, such as the incel site mentioned previously, or Stormfront running on VB.

You can revoke their licence. But if they're they kind of community the warrants licence revocation to begin with, they're probably the type that could find a cracked copy pretty easily and carry on doing what they're doing. I don't know what the solution is, if it should be policed at all and if so how much, but it does somehow feel more brand damaging when it's a piece of software online and you know a hateful, obscene or violent community is thriving and growing by using it, only a few clicks away.

Reddit was getting like for quite a while before they recruited Pao to come in and clean house to make it more advertiser friendly. Some of the communities were getting out of control over there and it was having a significant affect on the brand as the site began to feature more frequently in the mainstream media, often as a result of the subreddits in question.
 
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