Sunday, 25 October 2009

More Internet Paranoia

I love the internet. Don’t laugh, I really do. For all its faults it has revolutionised communications and research. YouTube is brilliant. Where else could you listen to the theme song from Stop The Pigeon after all these misspent years and without paying a penny?

And of course there are the message boards. Now, I’ve written about these before so you’ll know I hang around a good few writers’ boards. They’re useful for picking up tips and bits of news, even getting peer review if that’s what you’re after. But this week I made a sobering discovery I want to share with you.

Unless you set up your own forum where you have editorial control of your posts, you can never be sure they will be left unedited for all eternity.

That’s it. Is it a big deal? Well, let’s just think about it. Suppose you hold a strong viewpoint on something and it differs from the administrators of the message board. Not only can they ban you from the forum, thus denying you the opportunity to delete your posts, they can also edit your posts to reflect what they believe. This isn’t an issue for those of us who hide behind clever usernames – although most people with a modicum of sense can track you down if you post links to your website or blog – but for any honest unsuspecting person who uses their own identity it’s potentially hazardous. Imagine the indignity of coming up in a Google search spouting fascist dogma you don’t even agree with! And it could happen. I’ve seen it happen this week and the implications for writers are far-reaching and troubling.

It came as a shock and made me realise that no forums are actually really free. There’s always a price to pay of some sort, and I wouldn’t like to think it was my integrity. So should we trust writers’ forums? From now on I’ll be taking a much closer look at who’s pulling the strings behind these groups before I post a thing. You can’t be too careful.


Welshcake said...

Bloody hell. Now you've scared me. I never EVER thought of that.

Good reason not to post on forums.

I'd love to know more about the incident you mention!

Sandra Patterson said...

Thanks Justine. Since you ask the threads which led me to write this are here:
and here:

(Please note I used the fascist dogma example as an example only, I'm not suggesting this has happened here, but it shows the power forum administrators have over us.)

Welshcake said...

I read those threads and I see what you mean!

(I know MF from YWO as well).

Sophie Playle said...

I hope that the people who put time and effort into creating and maintaining those forums wouldn't dream of doing such a thing. Of course, it is possible that they would do it, but you'd hope that if they did do that sort of thing, they wouldn't have many members sticking around and they'd just sink into (almost) oblivion...

What a chilling thought though!