Internet Censorship, or the right to police forums how a company sees fit?
Before starting WarGameGuru I frequented Privateer Press's forums, and a variety of other forums online. I still visit many of them a few times a week. I've been on the Internet pretty much since we first we're given the option of subscribing to an ISP here in my area, which would be close to 20 years ago now. Before that, I dealt with AOL and the old school BBS systems. So I've seen it all, and this isn't my first rodeo.
People will tend to say things they'd never say in person to another person from behind a PC. Written word is often conveyed by how the person wants to read into something, more than what's actually been said online too, due to the lack of inflection, and other nuances associated with spoken word. Like being able to tell when someone is kidding, or angry for real, etc. Plus there is almost zero liability for things said from firstname.lastname@example.org and the like.
So yes, most online forums do need some form of policing. But how far is too far? Online forums always breed chaos, going all the way back to Usenet, and the old 14.4k modem ran Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) from some guys basement. How it's handled though makes the real difference.
Having said all of that, Privateer Press has the absolute worst bunch of forum police I've ever encountered in almost 20 years of dealing with people online. They operate like Gestapo, there's I swear at least 10 of these guys, and all of them are quick to infract someone for the very littlest, petty things, and don't ever disagree with them. If you challenge their rulings, you're then almost guaranteed to be found guilty of something else before long too.
While some claim they're not a paid employee of Privateer Press, they are their internet envoys, and therefore their actions, and words do count as being Privateer Press's if they give them the free reign they do to control those forums. That's the way I see it, and the way no doubt most do as well.
To explain here's a little rundown of my experience there lately...
I had an encounter with another forum member, and it got nasty back in February. Maybe I was a little out of line at some point during the discussion, so I might have deserved one infraction, but when you end up in an altercation in the open on any other forum, you're usually told to take it to PMs (Private Messages).
So instead of continuing the disagreement in the open, I took it upon myself to PM the guy thro their site, to not air our dirty laundry any further, and guess what? I was infracted for that too, plus the initial thread! They could have just said, look, that whole incident counts as one infraction, but no, by the time they was done, it counted for 3.
Here's the kicker though, and this explains why I was treated so badly. The person I got into it with, was a person representing another company which Privateer Press is working with to sell a product that both of the companies created together (BattleFoam Warmachine and Hordes bags). I was critical of this product, for a number of valid reasons, and voiced my opinions openly and loudly. After all I've been thro it's clear that I was censored by Privateer Press moderators for doing so on their forums, and I was without question treated differently than the other guy.
Since they considered the PM discussion with the person an infraction too, I was banned for a few weeks, because they stacked up different parts of the same incident as separate infractions. The owner of BattleFoam decided to personally attack me on their forums during the original altercation, something that I never stooped to do throughout our entire exchange. The owner also sent me a nastier PM in return, and insulted me yet again in it!
I was banned, but he was left to roam free on their forums pushing his wares, evidently with no punishment what so ever. Ironically via the PP Forum rules you're not allowed to sell products via their forums, but I guess it's ok since he was pushing a product that they colaborated together to create.
I also counted at least 2-3 infractions, if you were to scrutinize his posts as mine were, and if they were to be stacked up at once as mine were by the other guy too. I mentioned this to the head moderator, and was given some official company line of "we don't discuss how we punish others, blaah blaah blaah". It's clear though that they did nothing to the guy for his behavior, due to his affiliation with Privateer Press.
So after I was allowed to post again, a few days later I had made a post about my concerns with Privateer Press's Plastic Heavy Warjack kits, which detailed the very same issues I brought up in the review I posted here now. In it I also touched upon the frequency I've encountered mispacks, and totally missing parts with Privateer Press products. I was infracted and banned yet AGAIN, because I said that they must have the most "braindead warehouse workers in the industry" since so many mispacks are left to get thro, combined with the quality control issues that exist with the plastic kits.
Braindead was deemed an insult, and I was infracted and banned for it now. The moderator said I could have said "I've seen better QC at an Indonesian sneaker factory", instead of what I did, but "braindead" was an insult and over the line. So I guess it's ok to say something bordering on racism by poking fun at Indonesians, versus what I said based on what this moderator said would have been acceptable. See how stupid that sounds? It certainly looks like each moderator has their own tolerance threshold for what they FEEL is breaking the rules or not. It also is clear that this moderator is racist or hates Indonesians too by his comments. This guy is a moderator, that's the scary part.
Weeks earlier I also made a post replying to another person complaining about BattleFoam's continued blatant plugging of their products on the forums, and in it I mentioned about how PP mods are censoring people (after my first bad experience), and I became their #1 target to be picked at for every little thing I'd do or say after. About 3 or 4 of the mods began to make posts in response to it, said what they wanted to, tried making me out to be the bad guy, then locked the thread.
This is how they act, and they're supposed to be the moderators setting the example. It's clear I was on their list too after I stood up and mentioned how they censor people, based on what went down afterwards.
In Privateer Press's defense I will say that any and all missing pieces, or cards I've ever encountered were taken care of without question by their Front Desk people. Privateer Press's customer service is outstanding, and I've never had an issue with dealing with them. It's their forum Nazis that need to tone it down, to quit censoring, and picking at people who have an issue with anything to do with Privateer Press products, and who disagree with them.
Jumping ahead now to about a week ago...
So I now created a new account, one reflecting the fact I run WarGameGuru, aptly named WarGameGuru. I didn't go out of my way to put in all the time and effort to create WarGameGuru website, JUST to make a new account on PP Forums to post again. That would be pretty absurd.
I never hid the fact that I wasn't the same person I was before either, as my armies are very unique in paint scheme, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see I was previously "that guy" by my posts and pictures of my figures that I previously posted on the Painting and Modeling section of the forums, being the same figures in some of he pictures here at WarGameGuru.
They figured this out just the other day, and have banned me altogether for good because of this, which I think is uncalled for, more so since I did nothing at all wrong with the WarGameGuru account either.
So IF I have any rule questions, or want to ask someone "hey how did you do that", or "what did you use" on the Painting and Modeling section I can't, not without creating a third account, and risking being banned yet again, since only now am I aware that I did anything wrong by making a new account to begin with.
All of this, because the moderators point blank don't like me, because I stood up for what I felt was right, and all along the way I was censored for my opinions, and valid concerns about Privateer Press's products. Where else am I supposed to air my concern with their lack of being able to pack products right, and handle quality control?
It also had a lot to do with me standing up to BattleFoam, with valid concerns regarding their products on their forums too, which is where it all started to begin with.
I challenge Privateer Press to just take their forums down altogether, IF they continue to censor people who have any issues with their products, or that disagree with their friends. Fact is, I won't be the last, because it's clear that there ARE issues with mispacks, missing pieces, quality control with the new plastic kits, and now with their forum moderators.
I always felt a company forum was supposed to be the BEST place to bring up an issue or problem with a companies' products. The message that the moderators of their forums is sending out, is don't say a thing negative about PP products, or you'll be banned, and IF you challenge our judgment we will hunt you down, and ban you for good, because we are the law and that's that. There's also the fact that one of their moderators sure sounds racist with the comments he told me would be accepted, over the Braindead comment.
A way to maybe help avoid some future issues like this is when they send a "You've earned an Infraction from Privateer Press Forums" email the very first time (or any time), they should include a link directly to the FAQ detailing ALL of the exact rules and regulations. One could argue that yes, we all agreed to them when we clicked the checkbox that said we read and understood them all when we signed up.
But really, who actually EVER reads all of that? If you do, you're the same guy who reads the EULA agreement that comes with every software title you buy, you live in your mom's basement, will never have a girlfriend, and totally lack any social skills, because it's just not normal and only a certain kind of person reads this stuff ever.
Two of the ways I ended up infracted, were from ignorance of clearly knowing some of the exact rules, like the PM I was infracted for, and creating a new account for WarGameGuru. I even explained this and was told "ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, blaah blaah blaah".
I'd also like to say that I have absolutely no issue with Privateer Press's ability to continue to make outstanding miniatures, and two of the finest wargames in the entire industry with Warmachine and Hordes. Somewhere along the line, I think they might have grown into a far larger company than it once was, and with issues like this allowed to happen, they've lost sight of the fact that our voices need to be heard, and our opinions and concerns DO matter.
Without us, they have no company, or revenue. We helped to put them on the map, and we all deserve better treatment than this from them on their forums.
If I'm treated this way, how many others have been wronged and treated badly by their moderators is the question that must be asked? That certainly makes me wonder.
I'm far from the worst person who ever signed up to post on their forums too, but they have certainly treated me like I was. My grandmother used to say "the Squeaky wheel, gets the Grease", how true that is.
The question remains, is Privateer Press guilty of Internet Censorship, or just running their forums as they see fit?
You be the judge. The Guru has spoken!