Is discussion of VPN's banned on the SDMB?

In a recent thread engineer_comp_geek has told us that any discussion of VPN’s that don’t keep logs is banned as it could be used for filesharing. As the main reason for using a VPN is privacy, this essentially means that discussing any decent VPN is forbidden.

Apparently, the only reason someone could want to keep their internet history private is for illegal purposes.

Other posters have privided cites that file sharing is not the primary use for VPN’s (the number of businesses using them should have been a clue), but apparently that’s not good enough.

I’ve asked if there’s a rule stating that VPN’s are banned, and all I’ve been shown is a rule about filesharing being banned, which is irrelevent, and a random moderator post from 16 years ago about ip-spoofing.

Engineer_comp_geek even admits in his first post that it’s his personal opinion that VPN discussion should be banned, despite being allowed elsewhere on the forums, purely because he sees them as being just for p2p. He seems to have decided that because a perfectly legitimate & useful service could be used for illegal reasons, the entire srevice is illegal and shouldn’t be discussed. By that logic we may as well ban discussion of ISP’s advertising fast speeds and unlimited downloads, as they’re also usful for torrenting.

I have no problem with moderation of discussion of using VPN’s for p2p/torrents, but this should be restricted to discussion of actual illegal activity, not perfectly legal services.

Can tptb clarify, is a new rule being implemented, banning discussion of VPN’s, or is this just the whim of one moderator, in which case the thread should be reopened so that Bear_Nenno can get a proper answer to their question?

Agreed. That’s like banning the discussion of muscle cars because their primary purpose is to exceed the speed limit.

To be fair to the mod, he closed that thread because he kept asking people to move questions about the moderation to ATMB, and they didn’t.

To be fair though, a discussion on what VPN to use when you can’t mention any functional options might as well be closed. There was no need for any moderation in the first place.


I think it incoherent for the mod to come into a thread make a series of the strong assertions about supposed facts about the subject matter of the thread as a kind of unclear editorializing on a modding / not-really modding of the subject matters, then when the editorializing not surprisingly provokes reactions (yes on the moderating but also on the real basis of the subject matter factual assertions) cut off the reaction on the content with the excuse of no discussion of moderation…

If they wish to ban the discussion based on the technology practices and rules of 2001, sure, it is in keeping with the time-frozeness of this board. Why not.

What is less coherent is to engage in the non-rules content strongly worded editorializing on the subjet matter and then cut off any responses to that because it touches on a statement that also had rules observations.
Nothing in the moderation action / semi-action required the editorializing or the assertions, it was the mods own choice to do that and the actual factual assertions seem to me within the realm of the IMHO forum threads evolutions on a subject matter.

What is worse is the mod blaming the posters for reacting to his own strong editorializing comments with assertions of facts that were not core to the actual rules. The poster that said “I am surprised by the overbearing and sanctimonious tone displayed in this thread. Conflating VPN use with copyright violations does not wash these days. Privacy is a major concern and secure communication across the Internet is actively encouraged in many quarters.”
This is an observation of fact content of subject relevance to subject, not of moderating.

engineer_comp_geek displayed much more patience with that thread than other mods have allowed with previous VPN discussion attempts. He made more than enough attempts to steer the thread back to the purpose of the OP and to split the discussion of his steering attempts to this thread.

But a few posters decided that that had to be the hill the thread died on.

So now we have this thread anyways.

Eh, Bear_Nenno specifically wanted to know which VPN services offer a USA-hosted gateway to the Internet, and, more generally, which services are recommended/legitimate as opposed to flashy but shady operations. In a strict sense the other commentary was a digression.

I am only posting to add (since the thread was closed) that some very well-regarded VPN providers avoid US-based servers altogether, to sidestep the Five Eyes, so what might be the best or most secure VPN for a banker/diplomat/journalist, and well regarded for those reasons, may not be the best for his or her specific purpose.

No, that is not what I said. You keep arguing against things that I did not say, which makes it difficult to get any point at all across to you.

I will concede that there is a security reason to want a lack of logging. That said, every single case where I have seen a VPN service advertise a lack of logging, they have advertised it along with P2P.

No, that’s not good enough because (1) none of the cites were anything close to comprehensive use of VPNs across the entire internet and (2) we are discussing VPN services like those listed in that thread. VPNs like what I use (my company setting up a VPN server that is not for public use) are not being discussed. (3) Cites aside, the majority of the VPN services listed in that thread were aimed at file sharing as either their primary or secondary customer target.

The point of the 16 year old post was to show that the rule was nothing new (since you keep repeatedly asking if this is something new despite being told repeatedly that it’s not).

As was stated repeatedly in the thread, VPN discussions are not banned. Really, I don’t know how many different ways I can say this. VPN discussions are not banned.

P2P and file sharing are what is banned.

I have explained this a couple of different ways, but it seems to me that you are clearly not getting the concept. At this point, I don’t know what more to do to explain it to you.

Yes, I personally do wish VPN discussions would be outright banned here, because moderating them is a royal pain in the backside. I have consistently tried to lay out ground rules to keep everyone on the legal side, and have been burned many times by folks rules lawyering and using implication to get their point across without actually violating the letter of what I have said can and cannot be discussed.

But they aren’t banned, and I do not try to impose any sort of ban on them.

After several problematic threads, we had a brief discussion around the mod loop about exactly how we should moderate these types of threads. The conclusion that we came to is that we can allow legal discussions of VPNs as long as no one mentions the name of any VPN provider that is geared towards file sharing. For a while now, that is how we have been enforcing it. What we have generally been doing is saying that folks can discuss VPNs but not name any specific provider.

This leads to a rather obvious problem with the thread in question. The OP asked a perfectly valid and legal question, and was trying to stay within the bounds of what can be discussed here, but our current moderation rules did not allow it. So I decided to bend the rules a bit and let folks name VPN services.

And most of the responses named VPN services that advertised P2P, which is the one thing we are specifically trying to avoid here.

That is exactly what we are trying to do. What you do not seem to be able to grasp is that VPN sites that advertise P2P are aimed towards file sharing.

I have already stated over and over and over again that there is no rule. But I am sure you will ask this again. And when you do, the answer will be the same. There is no new rule.

The thread was closed because you (and others) completely derailed it. It was not closed because of the topic.

To clarify:

Discussions of VPNs in general are permitted on the SDMB.

P2P discussions are not permitted at all on the SDMB. This includes torrent software, illegal streaming, the specific mention of VPN services that advertise P2P for file sharing, and the specific mention of sites that host illegal files.

Discussions of hiding your IP for malicious reasons (ban evasion, trolling, socking, spamming, etc) are not permitted. This includes using VPNs or proxy servers for said uses.

And again (and again), none of this is new.

Beware that “P2P” is often used as a buzzword. For instance, Skype used to be p2p, sort of.

One point I’m going to have to disagree with you on. While Filesharing is used for illegal purposes, there are also plenty of legitimate uses.

Gutenberg Project: The CD and DVD Project

Linux and other software distributions.


Literally, almost all of them. Linuxtracker

These are just the ones I’ve used it for.

Just found this
8 Legal Uses for BitTorrent: You’d Be Surprised

While game updaters and FB/twitter are internal usage they still utilize the same ports and protocols and will have to be supported by VPN.

True, but the rules here completely prohibit all P2P discussions, legal or otherwise. Again, not my rule, and it existed long before I became a mod.

Torrents in particular used to be specifically called out as completely forbidden in the rules. That rule was broadened and generalized and no longer specifically mentions torrents. Now the rule just says the much more generic “P2P and file sharing” instead of specifically mentioning torrents.

One exception: Debates about legal issues regarding P2P and file sharing are specifically permitted. That is the only exception in the rules.

But any VPN that’s good for privacy will also be good for filesharing. You’ve decided (whether you personally or the mod team) that any VPN that doesn’t keep logs and allows p2p is only useful for p2p and therefore should be banned, which is ridiculous.

As previously mentioned, not keeping logs is important to anyone who wants privacy on the internet. And it’s worthless having a VPN that doesn’t allow p2p (if any exist) due to the many legitimate uses. For example, I have many games on my pc that use various flavour of p2p to distribute patches etc. I believe Microsoft themselves use p2p to distribute windows updates (that may be only within a LAN, but it’s the same protocols). A service advertising itself as offering those two features is the bare minimum I’d expect from a VPN.

Also, a post from 16 years ago isn’t a good cite for it being an existing rule, especially when there’s no mention of it in the rules you linked to, and it’s not even refering to VPN’s.

This seems to be all based on your opinion that the only reason to have a VPN is for p2p, despite all the cites and anecdotal information showing otherwise. Even NordVPN, the provider you picked out as “advertising p2p”, lists security, privacy and speed as it’s 3 main features on it’s hompage. The only mention of p2p is a smaller list of 12 features at the bottom of the page, one of which says “P2P Allowed”. I honestly don’t see how you can call that focusing on p2p.

If you’d left it at just not discussing using VPN’s for p2p that would have been fine, but your instruction was to not mention any VPN service that, purely in you opinion, was p2p focused. Despite the fact that the features you argue are for p2p are vital for any VPN.

This is exactly the rules lawyering and exceptionalism that is going to get any discussion of VPN banned for good. We could do it just for easy-of-use, actually.

Rules lawyering to point out the asssertions on fact made by a moderator about sole utility of a service are factually in question?

That is “rules lawyering”? What a strange interpretation.

Good, you should indeed ban the discussion, it bears too much risk of change in the parlor room too quickly.

There are occasions when the need and desire for truth are superseded by the needs of the sponsor. This is a free site, after all, if you want to use it that way. This appears to be one of those occasions. Everyone’s righteous indignation is pointless.

Probably, for clarity and to prevent discussions like this in the future, discussions of VPNs should be banned, as it appears to be virtually impossible to discuss them without crossing various lines. There are plenty of other places to discuss them, I presume. Googling “VPN reviews” gets quite a few results, including Reddit.

Why would showing that VPNs, file sharing and torrenting are, far from being illegal, actually legal and useful be cause for banning them? This isn’t a situation where they are only technically legal, it’s a case where they are the main way of distributing certain things.

Making rules to ban things because you are ignorant of them goes against everything this board supposedly stands for.

What needs of the sponsor?

prejudices of certain parties, but needs of a sponsor?

It is one of those occasions where there seems to be a strange prejudice and irrational response to changing environment and technology.

Well of course with the lines defined by asserted views not defended

… and on the big media news sites like the New York Times or the other online media news sites -yes even free ones depending on the advertising like this one - you can also find discussion, indeed the in-depth articles promoting the utilization of the VPN (and even naming them including ones asserted as being illegally oriented here) for reasons not having anything to do with the illegal.

So another strange example of the board being caught in a frozen attitude and more occasions to drive a conversation to Reddit or other forum, because 16 years ago a decision was made by the perfect manager, and there is the fear of any soupçon of change and risk to go against revelation…

Why not, it is better and safer to have more conversation go to reddit.

but at least it is still safe to have the long and never ending pondering and debates of if it is truly a bad thing to consider and examine the possible inherent genetic inferiority of the african, and luckily the terribly hurtful labeling of such is not permitted so this discussion can be very fully explored.

That post was neither.

So where should the line be drawn? VPN’s are nothing to do with p2p. Should we also ban disussion of ISP’s (faster speeds & larger download limits are attractive to filesharers)? Computers (can’t fileshare without a PC). The internet in general (a significant portion of internet traffic is p2p afterall).

It’s one thing to have a ban on p2p discussion because of our Paranoid Media Overlords™, albeit still stupid to ban the legal side of things, but’s it’s completely idiotic to censor anything remotely connected to p2p just because the moderating staff don’t understand what it is.

If there’s a sensible reason to stop discussion then it would be useful for the mods to share it with us, but just repeating that we can’t discuss it because of the ban on filesharing is useless because VPN is not, and has nothing to do with, p2p.

Thank you for this reasoned response to our complaint. I’m sure the best way to handle things is to say you can’t be bothered and ban the whole lot. It’s not like the board was set up to discuss things. [/sarcasm]

His post wasn’t even about VPN’s, so why would it cause you to ban discussion of them. I thought we’d moved past the days of the modding team defensively refusing to discuss moderating decisions? Do you have anything useful to say on the topic, or do you just want us to shut up and go away.