I've been frequenting forums on and off for about 10 years now, but I only really began trying to learn about them and how they work in depth recently, after reflecting on what it is that I get out of them. I've been trying to understand what they're really capable of and form a greater understanding of what they mean to different people, the way they're able to bring people together no matter where they are in the world and what benefits arise from their presence.
Then I thought about their various uses, whether it's educational, for fun, for business, to help people, to share pictures of cats or any other pretty legit uses, but what about when they're used for more nefarious purposes?
For example organised crime, criminal hacking groups, or perhaps forums that spread hate in some form or another? Of course, it's pretty much impossible to stop anyone from creating their own private forums. Anyone can do it using free software and even with a public forum, if it's small then I suppose it could probably go undetected without any trouble from outsiders anyway. But what got me thinking was the legal or moral implications when you encounter large forums like this that use commercial software to run their site.
What's the situation with the black and white 'obviously illegal' forums, does most commercial forum software TOS explicitly prohibit their product being used for this? And if so, is it even enforceable if the site is hosted in another country where the topics of discussion or dealings are legal? Would the company even care?
This leads me onto the sites that not illegal, but certainly immoral (by most peoples standards).
I stumbled across a racist white supremacist site earlier when browsing the front page of Reddit. It didn't surprise me in the slightest that it existed, or how remarkably offensive the content was, it was to be expected given the nature of the community it was created for. What interested me however, was how incredibly large and active the site was (over 8.5M posts and over 200k members) and that it was powered by VB, easily identifiable and on display.
It had me wondering if commercial forum software companies actually have any real say in what their product is used for, or even more importantly should they? Should the company revoke the licence if they feel it's being used to spread hate or used for other nefarious purposes? Or would a decision like that be considered stifling free speech and would they be out of line to try and exert their authority to dictate how the software is used?
My gut reaction to discovering the site, was that if I was associated with the forum software company I'd want the company disassociated with it as soon as possible and have the license revoked....but would this do any good? Would it send the wrong or the right message or even accomplish anything?
What do y'all think?