Editor at NoFakeNews.net
Recently, I had the, unfortunate, opportunity to post comments on one of the many message boards (threads) of a very well known company; a company that sells books and other products. The lesson I learned from my visit to this forum was that the company has a strict policy in place that prohibits self-promotion of any creative works within the various threads found on its website.
When I entered the forum, I did so to learn more about the company’s policy of no self-promotion because I didn’t want to inadvertently break any house rules. As many of you know, I’ve been writing, publishing, and selling books for over a decade. I’d been warned, by several writers, that a small group of posters within the company’s forums routinely policed the message boards and that these individuals would expeditiously report offenders of different policies to the parent company in an effort to get self-promotional comments deleted. I was skeptical about such claims and seriously doubted that people, not employed by the company, were trolling around the threads, on the watch for violators. Boy was I wrong about that one!
Before I entered my first post, I took the time to review prior postings on various threads. One such thread I visited had a theme that addressed posters that were slipping in the fact that they were authors in their comments. The title struck me as being quite odd. When I entered the different chats and began reading comments, it became clear to me that the same names were repeatedly showing up on various threads. These individuals were posting very harsh statements about other posters that had casually mentioned, somewhere in a comment, that they were an author, or something else the group perceived to be a violation of the company’s terms of service rules.
Before I write another word let me first explain that I believe said company has a right to do whatever it wants. If it doesn’t want posters creating comments of a self-promotional nature, I can live with that. I will respect the company’s wishes, and obey the house rules like anyone else. Let me now continue.
When I began posting comments that questioned the need to have a self-imposed police force on the message boards that wasn’t employed by said company, I was swiftly inundated by a barrage of posts that offered explanations about why the group was needed and fully supported by the company. Some of the posts contained polite explanations and others had a much more aggressive flavor to them. When I pushed the issue a bit further and interjected my opinion that the group’s policing activities were not something that people not employed by the company should be taking part in, I received another barrage of posts that told me, in not so very polite terms, what I could do with my opinions.
As our exchange of comments continued throughout the day and into the night, I was insulted, threatened to be placed on a blacklist that would adversely affect my creative works both now and in the future, and I was also threatened by one poster who explained that he was going to report me to the company for being abusive which could, ultimately, lead to my permanent removal from the company’s website. “OUCH.” Keep in mind that I never posted a self-promotional comment on the thread. I was merely questioning why this group, not employed by the company, was acting as a self-imposed police force.
I was very upset after my visit to this forum and it bothered me to know that this type of activity was taking place. I don’t know if what is currently taking place on the company’s threads is supported or endorsed by the parent company. I seriously doubt that it is.
It’s one thing for a company to have a policy that creates a level playing field for all consumers and creative artists. It’s quite another situation when a group of people, not employed by the company, take it upon themselves to police other customers and determine, through their own definitions, what constitutes a breach of the company’s terms of service rules. On top of that, the group, in question, seems to repeatedly bully fellow creative artists by loosely throwing out threats in the form of mean-spirited posts to any individuals that attempt to question the group’s self-imposed authority. Then they post follow-up messages that congratulate one another on how they were able to intimidate a particular customer/author. From perusing many posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that quite a few of the members enjoy making fun of their colleagues.
Some of the comments I received were down right nasty and I found myself, after awhile, in an all out posting war with a lot of different individuals. I tried my best to keep a cool, professional approach when posting my replies. It was difficult to adapt to such a hostile environment. For the most part, I behaved politely considering the circumstances. I was pretty shocked by the sheer numbers of people participating on the threads.
You might ask why I cared so much about a forum on a retailer’s website. Why didn’t I walk away? The reason I am writing this article is because I believe such behavior is unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated by the parent company or its customers. Those customers include creative artists that have published within the company. Said company, currently, has a policy and solid safeguards in place that adequately prevent self-promotional comments from being posted. I believe that said company, and only said company, should detect and determine if a particular post should be removed because a guy or gal slips in the fact they’re an author without listing the name of a publication or a product link. The company even has a convenient link button, on every page, so customers can help point out, to the parent company, abusive comments posted on the website.
New writers often have a minimal degree of confidence to begin with. Any serious writer will tell you that the book writing business is a challenging industry. Why should a group of people, that don’t work for a company, have a regular platform to intimidate and threaten other customers?
On two separate occasions I received cordial responses from forum members that explained the thread was made up of fun loving people that were also authors and they weren’t out to harm anyone. To their credit, they probably do view themselves as being benevolent and not a collective entity that would be injurious to others. The group in question, obviously, believes that they are doing no harm.
I did not encounter harmless behavior. I was most definitely offended by the comments and threats I received. A day after I had made my final post on the thread, the hornet’s nest was still buzzing and they were still insulting me through distasteful and derogatory posts. Keep in mind that these are supposed to be grownups and professional authors.
Very often we see this type of a situation happen in society. People become drunk with power, or in this case the illusory perception of power. Once a group of people have governing power it often seems as if they become corrupted and proceed to abuse the authority they were entrusted with. In this situation the individuals, in question, weren’t handed any governing authority. They imagined it out of thin air!
As a society, we observe similar behavior characteristics in many facets of life and especially within the construct of governments. But even on a much smaller scale, in a retail website featuring a chat room, it is plainly observed. And the people that are creating the abuse are quite oblivious to the damage they are doing to others.
Human beings like to police one another in many different ways. It’s important for readers to understand that there are many sheeple types all too willing to be policed and pushed around. I choose not to be one of them!