Tue 5 Jul, 2005 03:27 pm
Friday I was getting a ton of traffic to my site. A ton of people were coming onto my discussion board, all posting anti-Mormon hate-speech in random places all over my board. They were obviously educated and organized. I looked at my log and saw that they were all coming from [a very famous anti-Mormon site]. When I clicked on the link from the log, I was taken to a long discussion board thread, with posts like "let's see if we can make this guy cry," and "let's all go onto that board, sign in under fake names, and stage a fake debate between the Mormons (us) and the anti-Mormons (us.) Then we can be sure to win!" They tore into me and my family and my wife's family, even the children, and by name! Anyway, it's hate-speech and I presume some sort of hate crime. I mean, it took me 10 hours to clean up all their posts, and my host called this morning saying he'd been getting DoS attacks all weekend.
Yes, I moderate my board and I understand all that's part of the game of having a popular board. But Friday I emailed the owner of the board and threatened to sue him, who immediately took down the entire thread. Now, this morning (Tuesday), I get an email from him saying "I put your thread back up. I have decided that my freedom of speech trumps your logic, and I encourage you to take any legal action you feel is appropriate. We have no control over what goes on on our boards, and we are all run by volunteers, so you have no recourse against us."
My entire concern isn't that I had to clean up my boards; it's that in three weeks, when you google by my mother in law's name, all you'll see is some guy writing about how she's an idiot and how ugly she is. It means my site is, for a while, ruined, because 300 hate-speech trolls attacked my site. Sure, they're fading away, but I still want them to take down that thread.
So, tell me, lawyers, how do I get them to take down that thread?
The fact that they are run by volunteers doesn't mean that there is no recourse in itself. Volunteers can be sued just like anyone else.
But to do anything you have to find some sort of legal grounds for a complaint and it has to be something more than "I don't like what they said about me.".
One thing you didn't make clear here - Is this thread you are concerned about with the names of your family members on your board or some other board?
If it's your board then obvioulsy you have some control over it. If it's their board (which I'm guessing it is) then the 1st step would be to check their site's Terms of Service. They can claim Freedom of Speech all they want but if they are violating their own TOS the claim gets pretty weak in a hurry. That's where I'd start.
Oh, and the posts about members of my wife's family was on their site, not mine.
You could make the argument that they used to thread to conspire to launch denial of service attacks (hacking) against your site. I'm not sure who you'd take that to, maybe your host.
Do note that the fact that they acknowledged your request is very significant. In particular it is significant to the notion they seem to have about their protections as a publisher.
The content you are objecting to isn't too much of a smoking gun. But the fact that they acknowledged your complaint moves it past the C&D phase.
Publishers are not required to pre-moderate submissions to their sites, and several legal precedents exist that protect a site owner from the actions of his community up to a certain point.
Said point can be at the time at which he/she is notified.
Here's a simple example:
Say I run a site called "free music" that allows users to upload music.
Users start uploading copywrited files, despite it being clearly against my policies.
The owner of the media in question find the files on my site.
At this point, he can sue me, but it would likely only result in my having to remove it.
However if I ignore a request to remove the files then everything changes. It's no longer about forcing removal but starts to go into the realm of complicity or negligence.
BTW, Mormons suck! ;-)