Rule Change Needed

To the SDMB Management:

I’ve been following, with some personal involvement, the sagas of the various recent bannings, and why they’ve occurred.

I note in our current agreement:

IMHO, this needs to be extended with “and will not dispagage another poster on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, etc.” It would, in view of past events, be appropriate to add “and will not wilfully injure the known professional reputation of another poster by your remarks.” Since for most professional people, their professional reputation constitutes their “stock in trade,” this seems to me a reasonable addition.

Most importantly, I would add “You agree to hold the Chicago Reader, Inc., and its agents and assigns harmless in the event of any legal dispute arising as a result of posts made to this board. You agree not to yourself institute any legal action against the Chicago Reader, Inc., or against its agents or assigns unless said agent or assign wilfully acts to your injury in contravention of this agreement and refuses to correct the situation on reasonable request.”

After having the Reader’s lawyers review and revise the language appropriately, I would add these in as part of what new members agree to. And I would place them in the announcements section, along with a comment that by continuing to post to this board, current members are agreeing to those terms.

Nothing could take this board out of service faster than any whiff, however ill-founded, that the Reader was exposed to legal liability on the basis of what one of the Teeming Millions has to say.

IANAL or associated with the Reader in any way other than as a poster on this board. But this needs fixing in my opinion.

While not necessarily disagreeing with you, I wonder what affect such an addition would have on the board. GD often deals with topics addressing these exact issues (don’t forget religion). The line between questioning someone’s belief systems and disparaging that person is not always easy to distinguish. I’d hate to add another layer to moderator duties with posters claiming that someone disparaged them in a thread.

This seems fairly reasonable, and I’m surprised the Reader hasn’t added something like this already. We should be aware, however, that this doesn’t exclude the possibility of the Reader being drawn into a dispute between two posters. The Reader, or administrators, or moderators, could be named as material witnesses without being named as a party to an action. I’m not a lawyer either, so I may be mistaken on these issues.

We’re in the midst of redoing the FAQ, so perhaps it’s not out of line to consider taking another look at the registration agreement.


your humble TubaDiva

I believe that your intentions are nothing but well intended but, in the context of this environment, I am rather baffled by this implication.

Regardless, good luck.

Eh, Bawdy, you mean like “we’re all anonymous user names here, so how can you injure another poster’s professional reputation?”

Trouble is, we’re not all anonymous user names here–some of us are known IRL to others, and our professions are known, and could conceivably be slandered (libeled?) here, and there’s the Reader stuck in the middle.

Still, Poly, some of your OP comes off as sounding like awfully PC, doncha think? Kinda like yet another “let’s get rid of the Pit and all make nice” thread. I agree with the “I agree not to name the Reader in a lawsuit” thing, and possibly “I agree not to libel anybody”–although aren’t there already laws covering that?–but still…Once you start making rules about “I will not use the N word”, “I will not call anyone a cunt or a bitch or a Nazi or a raghead or a redneck or a faggot or a Fundie…”, etc., where does it stop? I think the mods have enough to do on Jerk Patrol without adding PC Patrol to their duties. And anyway, doesn’t “don’t be a jerk” pretty well already cover the issue of addressing somebody as “Jewboy”?

Um, not at all Ma’am. But because you took this route, I will back up and only offer that the original statement leaves open options significantly different than what you assumed.

[sub]this is not the place![/sub]

There are people who use their real names here. And there are people who make no bones of being quite open about the person behind the handle. RealityChuck, for example, is a rather well-known SF author, and is more than willing to link to his works online and admit who he is IRL.

The reason for the “PC” thing was to simply spell out the “don’t be a jerk” issue as regards that. And no, I’m not interested in making a “no-Pit, let’s all get along” state of affairs – but there’s already been a very clear distinction between arguing a case that might be considered less than mannerly to some posters and the use of pejorative name-calling. (For example, there are a few conservative Christians who are convinced that Bible texts condemn homosexuals. Posting this is reasonable; directing it in an insulting fashion at Esprix or goboy as a specific putdown of them, and against the rules.)

The “professional reputation” item was the result of a long-past incident which the lawsuit matter reminded me of, where there was, IMHO, a legitimate case of a former moderator having impugned, at least by implication, the professional reputation of another former member here, with legal threats ensuing. I am very loath to drag out the gory details, but, given that history, it struck me as one area that ought to be covered. We have a number of lawyers, professional data researcher/analysts, and other professional people as members; something that served to provide them that protection while simultaneously protecting the Reader and the volunteer staff struck me as a very good idea.

I used the “hold harmless” language intentionally, by the way, because it would minimize, so far as I know, the Reader’s possible liability and involvement – it would seem to me that any possible legal case might be resolved on the basis of what is actually stored in the vBB database, with no affidavits or background material required from the Reader at all. But IANAL; that’s why I suggested having a lawyer work up the right language for it.

I appreciate where you’re coming from Polycarp and I’m neither a lawyer nor an American (so maybe I don’t understand your legal system at all), but I don’t see how posters offering an indemnity of this kind would work. I don’t see that it would stop the Reader as publisher being joined in an action, and once the bottom of the poster’s pockets were reached an indemnity’s worth is exhausted. I also think that the purported agreement not to sue would be vulnerable if the Reader failed to enforce the rules.

Polycarp, and others, very well put.

With nothing more than words, I offer some of my experience with the written word.

Documents are created the world over, with words that have been copied from earlier sources. Lawyers write new text concerning current issues, daily. Judges make rulings on many of these topics.

In the end, the point seems to be that the avoidance of any potential legal action is what matters the most with regards to this board.

Even in the semi-unique environment of a message board, “jerks” will rear their noggins to the potential detriment of others.

I do believe that legalistic lingo needs be used to diminish any untoward attacks, but the language must be carefully chosen.

We all have been warned of the possibly tenuous future of this board. It is easy for some to believe that that which appears to be so large and well ensconced, would and could ever be usurped.

The “Reader” should be protected from any and all direct or side-mounted attacks from temporarily disgruntled posters.

Familiarity can sometimes breed contempt for that which some take for granted.