I wasn’t going to comment on this earlier when I read it as I wasn’t registered, but I just registered to answer something else, so here goes:
I used to be a moderator on a UK-based forum for owners of a certain make of car. I was a moderator for nearly 4 years on the site and along with 5 others we saw it grow into the UK’s biggest discussion site for this particular make of car. Neither I, nor any of the other moderators saw a penny of the profit made from advertising on the site. I’m led to believe it was all ploughed back into the hosting fees, although I didn’t care, that wasn’t why I was part of the site.
Anyway, some muppet posted something about an independant garage (no need for details - but it was an allegation deemed worthy of Police attention). Within a week, the administrator of the site had been served with a notice of intent by the garage to sue the original poster, the site admin, and all 5 moderators for libel. Sueing the 5 mods was dependant upon the admin giving the solicitor our home addresses, which he was able, but unwilling to do.
Here’s the thing: because we had the ability to delete the libelous comments, but didn’t, we were also guilty of libel. We sought legal advice and were basically told that settling was a distinct option.
Their solicitor latched on with the tenacity of a bull terrier as he was of those “no win, no fee” types, and their suggested settlement figure was UK£10,000. Even split 6 ways, that’s a fair old chunk, especially when you consider that I was on holiday at the time the libelous post was made.
To his credit, the site admin (as far as I know), never divulged the mods’ details. I have since left the site as we were soon embroiled in a trademark infringement case with the car manufacturer. As I had been warning the admin about using the logo on the site for some time, I decided that it was time to pursue other interests and haven’t been back since.
From what I can gather, the original poster was sued, but I neither know nor care about the outcome. The case against the website was reduced to just the site administrator, with a much lower settlement figure (I believe UK£1200). I don’t know the outcome of that either. The case against me and my 4 other unwitting counterparts was thankfully dropped.
I suppose the whole thing left me a bit wiser, and a bit more cynical. You give up a significant portion of your time to help a website that has the sole intention of helping people, and you end up exposing yourself to abuse, misdirected (and sometimes shocking) anger (all of which is easy to type), and then a law suit.
I won’t be moderating any forums again.