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When forum software is used for nefarious purposes...

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by RobinHood, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. RobinHood

    RobinHood Well-Known Member

    So, I've been thinking about forums and forum software quite a lot recently.

    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?
  2. Floris

    Floris Guest


    Who cares what others do, it's a concern of the company.
    What you do should be within the EULA, if you don't agree .. don't agree to the EULA.

    Brandon Sheley likes this.
  3. mrGTB

    mrGTB Well-Known Member

    You need to stop thinking so hard, just saying. :p
    Sirdude and Rigel Kentaurus like this.
  4. mjp

    mjp Well-Known Member

    This is an important question, and not just for forum software.

    The other day I was standing in line at my bank, and as it turned out, I was right behind a bank robber!

    Once the robbery was over, I thought, "I'll bet Nike, Gap, Fruit of the Loom, Levis and RayBan don't appreciate that guy wearing their stuff to a bank robbery." He drove away in a Ford truck - not cool for Ford, right? And I'm pretty sure that right before he pulled out his gun (a model 1911 .45 caliber - I couldn't quite make out who the manufacturer was), I heard him say that he ate at McDonald's for breakfast, so they actually fueled his actions that morning! Are they aware of that? Should I tell them? I don't know.

    Life is so complicated these days.
    Saeed, SilverCircle, Renada and 7 others like this.
  5. Reeve of Shinra

    Reeve of Shinra Well-Known Member

    I am reminded of a quote I once heard - "I may not agree with what you have to say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it". Meaning you don't have to agree with the racists but the answer is not censorship but tolerance and understanding. Remember once upon a time - many things we take for granted today would have been deemed 'immoral' by society and silenced if not for freedom of speech and the brave individuals who took a stand to be heard.

    As for organized crime -- there are laws to deal with their actions. I'm content to leave it as such.
  6. RobinHood

    RobinHood Well-Known Member

    I don't think it's quite the same, but to use your gun analogy. If a gun manufacturer supplies weapons the the police force, shooting ranges and gun shops then their product can be used to protect citizens and allow recreation shooting, great. But a bunch of them are then purchased by a local gang who then use them rob banks, commit murders, break the law and facilitate crime. If the manufacturer had the option to decommission all the weapons and take them out of circulation thereby hindering their operation, disassociating that manufacturer from any future crime the gang commits and forcing them to look elsewhere for the equipment if they want to continue in that fashion, should they?

    Yeah, this is true, interesting quote, and I agree with the meaning. I guess my initial intention was not that they should be censored, it was that if they want to say their bit then they're more than welcome to do it using another product. If it was my company would I want it associated with what they're saying? Is it considered censorship if you take your product away from them as long as they have alternatives they can still use to fulfil the same purpose?

    Yeah, maybe you're right :(
  7. Slavik

    Slavik XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    As they say, guns dont kill people, people kill people.

    In much the same way, forums don't post racist comments, users post them.
  8. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    Maybe the forum software company could give the nefarious forum free unbranding !

    That being said, if I saw a nefarious forum running Xenforo .. it wouldn't be bad advertising in my mind. I'd just think that the nefarious person had good taste in forum software.
    ChemicalKicks likes this.
  9. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    I know that saying passes for reasonable in America, but everywhere else thinks that Guns actually kill people.

    Here's what Canadians think about your slogan:
    kkm323 likes this.
  10. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

  11. Deepmartini

    Deepmartini Well-Known Member

    There should never be censorship of speech or content by any forum software or CMS provider. Leave that up to the moderators running the site. This is a slippery slope. One person's personal beliefs are another person's prejudice.
  12. petertdavis

    petertdavis Well-Known Member

    I think there's a huge difference when a private company wants to censor regarding the use of its product or services as compared to the government censoring what people can say or think. For example, if anyone posted a racist rant on one of my forums, I'd at the least remove the post if not ban the person too. On the other hand, when governments like the one in the UK who threw that woman in jail for her racist rant on the tram, that's a real human rights violation. It may seem to some like a double standard, and certainly it's a USA-centric point of view, as I realize other countries don't hold freedom of speech in such high regard. But, I do not see a private company preventing its services from being used in ways that are against their conscience as a violation of human rights, whereas it is when a government throws people in jail because of something spoken or written, which didn't harm another person.
  13. mjp

    mjp Well-Known Member

    You know, I've been wracking my brain for the past few days trying to remember the last time I cared what a Canadian thought about anything, and I'm afraid I'm coming up blank. Sorry.
    mrGTB, grant sarver, John and 2 others like this.
  14. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    Wrestled with that one for many years. Still have a hard time with it. Should I be able to put a sign in my front yard inciting people to kill some group (fill in the blank)? Should a young child have to see a noose hanging from a neighbor's tree? Knowing that it is aimed at him? Are these "political" views or hate-mongering? Many seem like "crimes against humanity".

    The U.S. is not a signator.

  15. Brandon Sheley

    Brandon Sheley Well-Known Member

    thanks, I started and gave up :p
  16. petertdavis

    petertdavis Well-Known Member

    Was the lady in that video talking about killing people? Or you can't make a good point without being hyperbolic? It sounded to me more like she doesn't like immigrants, and likes to use the F word a lot. It's not hard to find much worse out there, and at the essence this lady was ranting against her country's immigration policy and saying that anyone who's not "English" should be deported (or, "go back to Africa" as she would put it). Of course none of that is polite to say, especially in public, but no way is it worth putting someone in jail for it. And, just because the USA is currently far worse when it comes to human rights, doesn't make what the UK did in this case acceptable.
  17. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    I don't think it's exaggerating at all. At one time (not that long ago) the practice of racism was a topic of political discussion, it no longer is. We evolve and even the expression of racial prejudice is no longer acceptable. Anger and hatred should not be confused with political dissent. The examples I gave are hardly hyperbole as they too are often protected as "freedom of expression".
  18. Jazzyname

    Jazzyname Member

    I understand that you feel that maybe the software company maybe able to do something on a moral and even a TOS facet to help control these types of activities, but truth be told, those gagsters that do drive by shooting, well the car companies are not going to come in and take back the car, or the clothing companies that the gun men wear wearing, are not going to raid or post pictures up in all stores and tell people not to sell to them.

    Does commercial forum software companies actually have any real say in what their product is used for, or even more importantly should they? Its called EULA - They can as all product companies do, like car, guns, and chemical companies do, but who would do the enforcing? and how would it be monitored? And at what cost financially, time, emotionally, and to the thriving production of yet another upgrade?

    Should the company revoke the license if they feel it's being used to spread hate or used for other nefarious purposes?
    Should a car company like Ford, come in and take back their product cause you did illegal activities in the car? Or the clothing or maybe an alter poster of 'Convicts B' in all stores should be posted due to Convict Bs conviction on drug charges, so that he cant buy an aspirin…

    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?
    Not sure that the weight of this discussion would hang on those but more on extending and spreading resources, and if these extensions were in place, people who are determined to do this type of behavior, will find another way, Its like spam, or a lock on our doors, we do only so much before its not worth giving up other more important things like living freely, exploring life, finding and building on new ideas.

    The fact of the matter is, anyone could get a riffle and find a roof and go sniping- if they wanted to, additionally the fact is, most everybody wont do that and don’t, why ? Simply cause there are many, a vast amount of other more positive things to do with ones allotted time here called life. Hell! even Extreme sports would be more fun then creating a hate forum, but that is where those peoples priority lye, and they are extremely few and far beteen the mass amount of positive that is out there..

    things just need to be put in a priority order and feeding on the negative of life and the what ifs can bring you down till one would never leave there home for fear that something bad would happen, truth be told, something bad WILL always happens, but do you really want to miss out on the mass amount of good that it is attached to it?

    Sorry if this is a long response, as a graduate student in Industrial and Organizational psychology, essentially you gave me a bone… yum

    And I hope I helped
  19. Slavik

    Slavik XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Get your facts straight.

    She was not thrown in jail (custodial sentence), she was arrested and remanded in custody for her own protection. 2 VERY different things.
  20. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    OK, getting back to the OP; Sorry, I don't find your examples to be analogous. Your examples are one time events. The forums would be on-going. If a drive-by shooter was going out every night, would you object to the car manufacturer remotely disabling his vehicle? Or the gun manufacturer (if they had the ability) disabling his weapon? Closer analogy to my mind as the software manufacturer does not need to physically repossess the software. The goal is to prevent further abuse. In fact, if those companies had the ability to disable their product, we would all object if they didn't exercise it. Just using your analogies.

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