The TOPIX forum, Freedom of speech and Vindication of MICHAEL JACKSON
1. Strange attraction
When going to a wordpress page today, the first thing I saw was the screen practically black from the number of sites with the word “censored” running across each of them. My first reaction was the incredulous “Could we have been censored?”, however when I typed in the password the blog did open (UPDATE: Now I know that it was a general black-out in connection with the Bill discussed in the US Congress. They say it is to prevent online piracy, but actually implies that everyone should pay for the articles now obtained free. I hope it NEVER passes).
But initially it looked like another of those strange occurrences which started taking place in connection with our blog. The first was the news that vindicatemj blog was consistently trashed on the Michael Jackson forum of the Topix site. Another strange thing is that we also found ourselves in the center of attention of the “mjfacts” site whose home page made a special tribute to a certain vindication blog claiming that it has a “far more sinister agenda” than other blogs in support of Michael Jackson.
If it is us that they have in mind, let me state that our “agenda” is simple – we dare refute lies about Michael Jackson and have already found overwhelming proof of his innocence, both of which may indeed look sinister to Michael Jackson’s haters.
Now that Topix and mjfacts site have drawn so much attention to themselves, it is no use guys, to ask me stop looking in their direction and simply go on with vindicating Michael. Please excuse me for my stubbornness, but I am just curious to find out why these strange people are so preoccupied with us and what their agenda is.
For a start let me state that there is a close connection between the two sites mentioned above.
The MJ haters’ site does not allow any comment on its posts, and its contact page directs all readers straight to Topix for contacting them and asking questions there.
According to MJ’s detractor “there are many knowledgeable people there who can help readers with these issues”. And though the author claims he doesn’t post on Topix, he surely regularly checks up its MJ forum for feedback to his own anti-Michael posts.
His advice to contact him there most probably means that answers to their questions will be provided on his blog. The system of correspondence seems to be complicated of course, but speaks to close interaction between the two sites, which turn into a sort of a single entity this way.
On the other hand the Topix writers continually involved in Michael Jackson’s trashing also recommend the “mjfacts” site as the only “credible” source of information on MJ.
So getting first-hand proof of such interaction between the two sites is an interesting fact in and of itself and is reason enough for us to have a closer look at this phenomenon.
Considering the dispute now going on in the US over free speech on internet and the detractor’s advice to visit Topix as “one of the few uncensored Michael Jackson sites”, I am also curious to check whether there is indeed no censorship on the Topix site and if it really gives equal opportunities to people to express their views on Michael Jackson (and other issues).
Topix claims that free speech is its cornerstone and the very reason for its existence.
I am for free speech with my both hands but for this particular post will set certain limitations for myself. What I am presenting here is not just my opinion – no, it is a collection of materials from those who dealt with Topix and can share with us their first-hand experience. The evidence these people provide is trustworthy enough, as unlike Topix anonymous writers these authors give their true names to the public and do not change their internet location every half an hour not to show the place they are writing from.
2. What Topix CEO Chris Tolles says about his company and its strategy
Based on the number of unique visitors to the Topix site its CEO Chris Tolles says that Topix’s popularity is second only to the New York Times. This sounds true as whenever I google search for the name of Michael Jackson the Topix comments always come one of the first on the list. Their hateful posts practically dominate the internet environment – at least as far as Michael Jackson is concerned.
Explaining the goals and strategy of his company Mr. Tolles says that being a news aggregator is “not interesting” and the future of journalism belongs to local news made by the people themselves. He promises to journalists that the restructuring of the news business will be bloody.
Mr. Tolles himself has made a post on his Topix site which shows that Topix has indeed become the #1 most visited site. It is a sort of a report to the board of the three largest newspaper companies which invested millions in it:
April 21, 2009
by tolles at 7:34 AM
In March of 2005, we received investment from the three largest newspaper companies in the US, Gannett, Tribune and Knight Ridder. Flash forward four years: In March 2009, we edged out USA TODAY to become their #1 media property at 6.5M unique visitors (comScore) with a focus on hyper local participation. Out of US newspaper sites, only the New York Times has more unique visitors.
News Site Unique Visitors (000)
USA Today Sites 5,960
Source: comScore, Media Metrix, March 2009
The folks I’ve worked with over the past four years are smart, savvy and realize where they stand. They wanted to make sure they had a stake in a news aggregator with Google having just launched Google news.
A little while into their investment, we told them that news aggregation was a great start to a business, but it wasn’t very interesting, from either a traffic or a revenue standpoint. And that doubling down on hyper local news – especially where there currently wasn’t any – was the strategy we were going to pursue.
…While we started out as a broad-based news aggregator, we noticed that what people wanted most was news about their town. So, we moved to augment our news with comments and stories from our visitors. And today it’s great to see that our strategy has paid traffic dividends, and being the #1 site with respect to unique visitors with company like the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and USA TODAY is something we’re pretty proud of here at Topix.
Despite what journalists think, with the decoupling of classified revenues, there is going to be a huge restructuring in the news business, and it’s going to be bloody. There’s really nothing that would have prevented most of what’s happening here.
Over the past four years, we have grown Topix with its roots in aggregation technology, to the place where people discuss the news and issues important to where the live and work. Embracing audience participation is for us the critical engine for content creation and traffic growth.
There’s still a lot of work to do here, but it feels good to tell my board that we are their #1 most visited site.
In another article Chris Tolles speaks on how to make the internet news profitable. He says that “there is no money in building a news aggregator focused on trust” and that it is “NOT a strategy for direct monetization”.
I didn’t quite get his above idea but from his various statements gather that it is the news built on trust which he thinks not to be profitable business. Does he mean to say that credible sources of information verifying their facts do not give money any longer? And does it also mean that he is suggesting its opposite as a way to make the media profitable – the news built not on trust but on what may be unverified gossip or even shocking lies?
Please check up whether I understood Chris Tolles right:
July 18, 2009
by tolles at 9:08 AM
I guess its time for another crop of news products from journalists. Why is it that when these guys all go onto the field of battle “once more into the breach” style, they don’t understand which side of the Agincourt analogy they are on. They face superior weapons and a difference in culture and ethics. They are the French in this battle. They die.
So, since the grand total is around $36B, Google news is pretty much a non revenue products, and Google was doing just fine with little or no news results in their main index until the last couple of years. Yahoo does put news in a lot of their products, but certainly, nowhere near 50% of their advertising is sold against news, as is the same for AOL and MSN.
(Oh and last time I checked the newspaper industry advertising revenue was $37.85B)
News is a crap search product, and a loss leader, which is a big reason why Google news was in beta for years, and unmonetized, and why many news-centric searches get no ads next to them.
News is an unprofitable search. Since we at Topix are an adsense partner, and I am a downstream beneficiary to what revenues there are here, I know what kind of eCPM news brings and how hard it is to make money on aggregated “news” content.
… I have some experience in running a news site here at Topix. We’ve built a site which is,according to comScore, the #2 “newspaper” site online. We actually had a program for a while where’ we’d give 50% of all ad revenues back to publishers who wanted to syndicate content to us. Didn’t work worth a damn.
…We’ve since moved on to try and create community around our news, which is percolating along, and focus on local — which seems to be an area where we can compete with the lack of anything else out there. The success that we’re having is creating a product where Google (or the newspapers for that matter) can’t, or are unwilling, to compete on even terms.
But Jeez, why is it that all the old newspaper guys think there’s some giant pile of money at the top of the trust pyramid? There isn’t. All the money is at the bottom. In the muck. In the details. Where Gawker plays. Where Techcrunch plays. It’s not aggregating the “top trusted content, it’s owning a category and being the best and, ideally, only ones there.
Journalists don’t win this game. Publishers win this game.
People who care about pageviews and winning, more than they worry about concepts like “trust”.
The “bad guys” win.
…Really, there is no money in building a news aggregator focused on trust. If anything, it can be a start or a loss leader for whatever your real product is. But it is NOT a strategy for direct monetization. Trust me on that one.
Virginia Olive Hoge, a writer from Pasadena, California http://open.salon.com/search.php?allwords=virginia+hoge also has questions to Chris Tolley about the way he is going about his business.
Her questions are fabulous:
In this post, Chris Tolles spells out his media philosophy, rationale, dislike of journalists, views on profitability in media and reflects in general, on the take-over of print media by internet media. He makes very clear, that he is little interested in “another crop of news products from journalists”, he reflects that they do not understand the “battlefield” which he compares to the Battle of Agincourt where the outnumbered English defeated the French in the 100 years war.
I have a few questions for Chris related to this post:
Is this a battle Chris? If so, who are you trying to kill? You do use the word “die”. Are you trying to kill off newspapers and “old newspaper guys” i.e. journalists?
And what are you proposing to replace them with? Citizen journalists? Trolls? Are you proposing to elevate the comment to the place once held by newspaper editorials? What do you propose to replace reporting with? What do you proposed to replace investigative journalism with? What do you propose to replace fact-checking with?
Do you propose to replace news with opinion, which on Topix many times, means gossip and bullying?
Can you explain this sentence from your article: “They face superior weapons and a difference in culture and ethics.” Do you mean no ethics? Is that the difference?
Are trolls what you mean by “superior weapons”?
Topix has no terms of service for its users, no rules at all to follow, no guiding ethics beyond a request to be “nice”, a request that is routinely ignored by both the trolls and the moderators. Its forums are often mosh-pits loaded with slanderous gossip.
Therefore, if one is to take what you have written here seriously, you are proclaiming the superiority of media without ethics to guide it save those within the posters themselves? A world which, without a verification system of what is true or false, without rules to guide it, places brutality and meanness at the utmost pinnacle of persuasion? A world ruled by moderators that are hardly impartial?
You have clearly advanced your support for this type of persuasion and media, by your statement all of the money [in media] is to be found in the “Muck”.
Money matters more than people??? Not when you are running a people business and promoting citizen journalists as the future of Media.
My question to you is, what about the posters who are guaranteed to be harmed by this climate of brutality? Words are powerful weapons and used as such. Is this the objective?
What about those who never even post on Topix but are having their names dragged through the mud there, since the climate you are advancing here, sets up the perfect stage for slander?
For instance, these mothers in Pikesville KY: Deadbeat Mothers
These doctors in Utica: Worst doctors in Utica
There are threads like these on almost every Topix forum across the Country and World.
What about the truth? Should bottom-feeders be encouraged and supported? What media philosophy, besides yours, supports this and ifAmerica understands that this is the philosophy Topix supports, how well do you think they will tolerate it? Since when does it not matter if people are being defamed?
Since when can media exist without ethics?
How can a company that advertises itself as a media company and all about citizen journalists, be so indifferent to the people who post there?
Tolles is declaring victory in The Bad Guys Lose for the very opposite scenario, a scenario where the bad guys clearly, win.
3. THE PRICE THEY PAY FOR CHRIS TOLLES’S NEW “NEWS MODEL”
So Chris Tolles does not even pretend that his new business model of “making news” has to do with information per se. Same as with Michael Jackson it is all about MONEY.
In Michael Jackson’s case it was the life and happiness of one person “only” which was sacrificed for the financial benefit of the media and “entertainment” of millions of people, and now it is the life and happiness of many people which are being sacrificed for the financial benefit of some advertisers and those few who gain huge profits from the new business model devised.
The pattern which was once tested on Michael Jackson is now being promoted for a wider audience – anonymous slanderers trash innocent people by spreading wild rumors about them and never answer for what they do, while the profits rise.
Once the virus of profiteering by human suffering was launched, was allowed to break all ethical norms of journalism, and was successfully tested on Michael Jackson’s life, it started spreading. Now many ordinary people will also taste what it feels like when you are slandered and libeled for no reason at all and even law is incapable to help you to wash yourself from this dirt.
The recent New York Times article, dated September 19, 2011, describes in vivid detail the price people are paying for the huge money Topix makes out of their novel “news-making” strategy:
In Small Towns, Gossip Moves to the Web, and Turns Vicious
September 19, 2011
MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. — In the small towns nestled throughout the Ozarks, people like to say that everybody knows everybody’s business — and if they do not, they feel free to offer an educated guess.
One of the established places here for trading the gossip of the day is Dee’s Place, a country diner where a dozen longtime residents gather each morning around a table permanently reserved with a members-only sign for the “Old Farts Club,” as they call themselves, to talk about weather, politics and, of course, their neighbors.
But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another.
And in Dee’s Place, people are not happy. A waitress, Pheobe Best, said that the site had provoked fights and caused divorces. The diner’s owner, Jim Deverell, called Topix a “cesspool of character assassination.” And hearing the conversation, Shane James, the cook, wandered out of the kitchen tense with anger.
His wife, Jennifer, had been the target in a post titled “freak,” he said, which described the mother of two as, among other things, “a methed-out, doped-out whore with AIDS.” Not a word was true, Mr. and Ms. James said, but the consequences were real enough.
Friends and relatives stopped speaking to them. Trips to the grocery store brought a crushing barrage of knowing glances. She wept constantly and even considered suicide. Now, the couple has resolved to move.
“I’ll never come back to this town again,” Ms. James said in an interview at the diner. “I just want to get the hell away from here.”
The same Web sites created as places for candid talk about local news and politics are also hubs of unsubstantiated gossip, stirring widespread resentment in communities where ties run deep, memories run long and anonymity is something of a novel concept.
… Whereas online negativity seems to dissipate naturally in a large city, it often grates like steel wool in a small town where insults are not easily forgotten.
The forums have provoked censure by local governments, a number of lawsuits and, in one case, criticism by relatives after a woman in Austin, Ind., killed herself and her three children this year. Hours earlier she wrote on the Web site where her divorce had been a topic of conversation, “Now it’s time to take the pain away.”
In Hyden, Ky. (population 365), the local forum had 107 visitors at the same time one afternoon this month. They encountered posts about the school system, a new restaurant and local arrests, as well as the news articles and political questions posted by Topix.
But more typical were the unsubstantiated posts that identified by name an employee at a dentist’s office as a home wrecker with herpes, accused a gas station attendant of being a drug dealer, and said a 13-year-old girl was “preggo by her mommy’s man.” Many allegations were followed with promises of retribution to whoever started the post.
“If names had been put on and tied to what has been said, there would have been one killing after another,” said Lonnie Hendrix, Hyden’s mayor.
Topix, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is owned in part by several major newspaper companies — Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy — but has independent editorial control. It was initially envisioned as a hyperlocal news aggregator with separate pages for every community in the country. But most of its growth was in small cities and towns, and local commenters wanted to shift the conversation to more traditional gossip.
Mr. Tolles acknowledged the biggest problem at the site is “keeping the conversation on the rails.” But he defended it on free-speech grounds. He said the comments are funny to read, make private gossip public, provide a platform for “people who have negative things to say” and are better for business.
Topix said it received about 125,000 posts on any given day in forums for about 5,000 cities and towns. Unlike sites like Facebook, which requires users to give their real name, Topix users can pick different names for each post and are identified only by geography. About 9 percent are automatically screened out by software, based on offensive content like racial slurs; another 3 percent — mostly threats and “obvious libel,” Mr. Tolles said — are removed after people complain.
After a challenge from more than 30 state attorneys general, Topix stopped charging for the expedited removal of offensive comments — which Jack Conway, the attorney general for Kentucky, said “smacked of having to pay a fee to get your good name back.”
Despite the screening efforts, the site is full of posts that seem to cross lines. Topix, as an Internet forum, is immune from libel suits under federal law, but those who post could be sued, if they are found.
The company receives about one subpoena a day for the computer addresses of anonymous commenters as part of law enforcement investigations or civil suits, some of which have resulted in cash verdicts or settlements.
But at Dee’s Place, Jennifer James said she did not have enough money to pursue a lawsuit. And even if she did, she said, it would not help.
“In a small town,” Ms. James said, “rumors stay forever.”
A quick internet search has brought me a pile of complaints made by ordinary people against Topix. Some of them approached the state attorneys general:
Attorney General legal definition:
- The chief legal officer of the United States or of a state, who advises the federal or state government on legal matters, represents the federal or state government in litigation, and heads the United States Department of Justice or a state’s legal department. Abbreviated A.G.
Wiki says that it required the involvement of 30 (thirty) states’ attorneys generals for Topix to stop charging money for the removal of negative posts and “getting one’s good name back”:
Initially Topix charged money to people who requested that Topix take expedited removal of negative posts. After thirty states’ attorneys generals protested, Topix stopped charging. Jack Conway, the Kentucky Attorney General, said the charging scheme “smacked of having to pay a fee to get your good name back.“
By 2010 Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal questioned the website’s practice of charging $19.99 for expedited review of slanderous comments in local forums. According to a press release from Conway’s office, the tools provided by Topix.com to remove the abusive posts are ineffective unless consumers agree to pay the fee. Topix CEO Chris Tolles accused the pair of grandstanding and intimidation, insisting the site operates with appropriate and timely oversight.
.. On February 03, 2009, Mark and Rhonda Lesher filed a defamation lawsuit against anonymous posters on Topix.com. According to the Leshers’ petition, over 1,700 defamatory statements were made about them by anonymous posters on Topix.com. Although Topix was not a party to the lawsuit, it was forced to reveal the IP addresses of the posters and the dangers of unmoderated anonymous posting on Topix were brought to light for the first time in the public eye.
We can imagine how ‘easy’ it is for ordinary people to deal with Topix if this is how the Topix CEO allows himself to talk to two Attorneys General:
Conway criticizes oversight of Topix.com By Cheryl Truman — firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: 12:00am on Feb 12, 2010; Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have asked the community news and discussion Web site Topix.com for additional information about a $19.99 fee that consumers pay for “priority review” of inappropriate posts. But Chris Tolles, the CEO of Topix, accused the pair of grandstanding and intimidation and insists that his site operates with appropriate and timely oversight. The two attorneys general complained about “false and defamatory information about children, as well as adults” that has been posted on Topix, available at both Topix.com and Topix.net. In a letter to Tolles dated Thursday, the two wrote that the Web site’s forums “appear to operate without moderators and contain obscene, vulgar and abusive posts, often concerning minors.” Tolles fired back after a reporter contacted him seeking comment and e-mailed him a copy ofConway’s press release along with the letter. “That’s grandstanding, that’s what it is,” Tolles said of the material from Conway and Blumenthal, who is chairman of the National Association of Attorneys General Multistate Task Force on Internet Safety. “This is not a reasonable inquiry for information.” He said the letter and news release angered him because it accused his company “of running a shakedown service.” Tolles said that the vast majority of posts taken down are removed via the standard review process and that consumers have three methods they can use to seek review of a post: flagging a post for abuse; filing feedback with Topix, with specific information about a post’s contents; or paying $19.99 to “jump the queue” for priority processing of a complaint. “This is clearly designed to be intimidation,” he said of the Conway-Blumenthal letter. The McClatchy Company, the parent company of the Herald-Leader, became owner of an 11.25 percent stake in Topix when McClatchy bought Knight Ridder in 2006.
The above sheds some light on the company’s approach to the complaints of citizens insulted on Topix forums. So the letter I’ve sent to them, demanding an apology for unethical behaviour towards the admins of this blog, can now be regarded as a mere souvenir for the Topix people or as a relic of the deep past when ethics and honor were still having some value.
This however does not preclude us from speaking out against the Topix malicious and libellous practices.
4. Methods used by Topix
A special Complaints Board contains a good deal of complaints about Topix.
One of them is a complaint left by a former Topix employee who discloses some of the closely guarded secrets of the company:
Topix.com, Palo Alto, California
Posted: 2010-06-18 by Topix Sux
Topix.com Commits fraud!
I worked with the management team for Palo Alto, California based Topix.com, and wanted to expose some business secrets this company uses to make money off of innocent people.
Topix.com allows online users to post stories and topics in their local communities on its website. However many users use the site to post hateful and defaming remarks about people and businesses, for the fact that the site is not moderated.
Chris Tolles, the company President & CEO, figured his company could make money by allowing users to post negative remarks about others, than charge the attacked entity to remove the remarks in a timely manner. It became a good source of income for Topix, allowing such unethical issues to be posted on their site. They allow the comments to stay on as long as they can, even after numerous complaints are filed to remove them by users who are attacked by others.
They recently removed the payment feature to charge to remove comments, unfortunately so many complaints are coming in, Topix can’t handle the burden. The company still refuses to moderate the postings, which continue to fall into the category on internet defamation, in which Mr. Tolles and company are truly guilty of.
I left the company, after being asked to do other unethical practices by management, and felt I should share my issues with the world!
|When you read people’s numerous complaints about the destruction of their lives by Topix anonymous writers, you start realizing that what is being done there has nothing to do with real freedom of speech. It is a sort of a travesty of it – due to full anonymity and a possibility to pour any dirt on anyone it becomes a platform for all sorts of perverts who not only destroy other people’s reputations but also impose their sick views on the public and get away with it at that!
These comments will tell you everything you wanted to know about the Topix “citizen’s journalism” and its specifics:
24th of Jun, 2010 by rpennycollector Good grief, Topix LLC is the most evil company in this country. The site is not appropriate for children to look at it yet there is no moderation with the company meaning your kid can be libeled and Topix does not care. Anyone can have their reputation destroyed because Topix doesn’t really have any rules. You don’t have to register, your IP isn’t posted, and you can say anything. Even if it does get deleted eventually, it is usually slow and if you want it faster you have to pay money to have something removed. Oh wait, that’s if the powers that be decide they WANT to remove it. That’s right, they can just take your twenty bucks if they choose. That is criminal. There is a growing movement of people sick of how they are allowed to break the law and hopefully Topix and the companies that own them are going to get what is coming to them. There is no justification for a site that attacks people and isn’t even moderated. Libel is not what was meant by freedom of speech and if anyone doesn’t know the difference, that speaks volumes. http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/topixcom-palo-alto-california-c348887.html 29th of Sep, 2010 by steadythere What gets me is why Topix seldom gets any media mention. Cyberbullying and the dangerous effects of that is a hot button topic and you hear companies mentioned like Facebook and others. Those sites could definitely use improvement but Topix with no registration and moderation is the worst of the bunch. Libeling someone is not protected by the first amendment, period. 20th of Oct, 2010 by MadMaggz Topix is fostering an environment which is not only dangerous to minors but allows pornography, especially the forum titled HUMAN SEXUALITY. Many of us have contacted child advocacy groups and lodged complaints which are being investigated. What I find disturbing is that posters are not required to register before posting like other legitimate news sites online. This allows the ‘trolls’ to post and change screen names with no repercussions. Topix also allows previously banned screen names to continue to reregister and post with names similar to the ones banned. It is high time that Topix cleans up their site or risk having it taken down off the net permanently. Considering what they are allowing, I am not the least bit surprised. Keep up the pressure. http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/topixcom-palo-alto-california-c348887.html?page=2
The comments from a journalists’ site show that journalists are equally appalled by Topix:Topix is even slower than they used to be in removing posts. The forums have gone from bad to worse. Why doesn’t Topix simply require registration, IP banning, and human moderation? They should also delete some of the forums. It would actually help with advertising and reputation and in the long run make them more money. Topix doesn’t want moderation because they are afraid it will hurt their hits. That might happen in the short run but in the long run they will be a stronger company and because of their lack of ethics this is one time the government and Attorney Generals are perfectly justified and actually should do more. Freedom of speech only goes so far and those that don’t understand probably are the ones guilty of libeling and attacking others. Come on Topix! Kat Sep 11th, 2010 at 7:25 pm I think the initial concept of Topix was actually interesting but when you decide to go the route of an unlimited amount of forums, no registration, you basically have gone from what could have been a well-respected valuable website and company to one that promotes trash. The forums are awful and more and more bullies are going on there and trashing whomever because they find some kind of perverse pleasure in that. When you have forums where people are posting about fathers sleeping with their daughters, come on. That cannot be defended in any shape or fashion. While cowards are always going to find ways around things, at least make it harder for them. Require registration with a valid email address, make people check they have read the Terms of Services, have IP banning, and no more hiding behind proxies and list the real location where the posts came from and you will clean the forums up to a degree and you don’t need so many forums. I am a firm believer in Karma and to continue to run a company that has thousands of people including children just isn’t a good idea. Taylor Aug 25th, 2010 at 3:36 pm To me it is simple. Start by requiring registration to post, moderate the posts, as others have said eliminate the ones that are immediate trouble like the Human Sexuality and drug forums (which are harboring illegal activity and that definitely voids out the freedom of speech argument) and do away with people being able to change the location of their posts or the ones who hide behind a proxy. This will not stop some from changing user names and possibly using other computers but it makes it more difficult and Topix could use an IP banning system very easy. It would please all involved, make for better forums, and it would say them thousands in legal fees. Cyberbullying and stalking is big news right now and the company would be wise to make the real changes it needs to. Now THAT would be a good business model. Drew Sep 28th, 2010 at 11:33 am Require registration with a valid email address and have a human moderator for each of your forums and IP banning and you would solve a ton of the problems and it actually might increase advertising so there would still be money to be made by Topix. Currently it is the worst cyberbullying site on the internet not exactly something to be proud of. McGee Nov 1st, 2010 at 10:09 am I visited a forum and saw a post that had pedophile like remarks in it about Jr. high kids I reported it to topix! of course I do not know how many more reported it, topix promptly removed the thread but did not ban the poster, he was back the next morning trying to start the same thing. Also this same poster has said that white women that had anything to do with Mexicans should be killed, they remove the thread but not the poster. Topix is pure trash!!! Patti Foster Dec 28th, 2011 at 5:03 pm Topix…
All of the above and worse.
Chris Tolles is an unethical, greedy, SOB who deserves a taste of his own “medicine.”
I am one of the few who actually got a court order for internet harassment on a troll named Eric C. Fahrner…
It is possible to get harassment injunctions for internet harassment. Harrassment is not protected by the free speech clause. http://www.courantalumni.org/2010/08/09/topix-more-polish-same-crap/comment-page-1/#comment-3416
However it is the comments by writer Virginia Hoge which will be a truly eye-opening experience to us all:
19th of Jun, 2010 by Virginia HogeI have been conducting a 10 month investigation of Topix and what I have found out is horrifying. The management is sponsoring gangs of trolls, plastering their advertising onto their comments, who are beating up commentators across the country. They are practicing censorship, and the persecution of their critics. Here are the articles I have written about my ongoing investigation: http://open.salon.com/search.php?allwords=virginia+hoge 19th of Jun, 2010 by Virginia Hoge “They allow the comments to stay on as long as they can, even after numerous complaints are filed to remove them by users who are attacked by others.” AND they pay the trolls who are doing the attacking. The also use Topix employees – like Selecia Jones – he organizes bands of trolls and direct them to threads where they proceed to stick their fangs into commentators, to try and get more “hits”. AND they plaster advertising into the comment boxes of some of the worse bully-trolls. AND the censor critics of the trolling problem, after they have first attempted to persecute them off threads with their trolls, if the trolls do not work, they censor critics by shadow-banning them. AND a method of persecution of their critics is to allow the trolls to build Topix attack forums, naming their critic by name, on which the trolls will load the forum down with harsh, foul, profane slurs against their victim. 21st of Jun, 2010 by Virginia Hoge The lack of moderation is a cover-up to their facilitation of the trolls, who they pay, organize and send out in organized packs on ‘hot” threads to beat up commentators and make more “hits” for Topix. The fact that these trolls sometimes carry Topix’s advertisers ads right in their comment boxes proves this, and well as what I have learned in my investigation. The general attitude towards trolling – ignore them – has facilitated this master plan Topix has to not only use the trolls, but make them a central part of its income. Topix bans opposition to the trolls, and also had the trolls beat-up on anyone who dares speak out. The huge problem with this is trolls are harming millions of Americans across the country with harassment and vile slander and profanity and debasement, that is causing real psychological damage to hundreds and hundreds of people. Topix is ACCOUNTABLE for the serious harm they are promoting across the country. http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/topixcom-palo-alto-california-c348887.html Posted: 2010-12-28 by Virginia Hoge Topix forums, are the number one internet community forums, linked to newspapers across America.
From their website:
“Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the information and discussions, that matter to them in every U.S. town and city.”
The three biggest newspaper corporations in the country, are heavily invested. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Topix LLC is a privately held company with investment from Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) and Tribune Company.
These three corporations invested $15-million dollars in Topix. “November 6, 2006: Topix Receives $15 Million in Additional Funding from Tribune, Gannett, and McClatchy”
From Local Media Watch: Indeed, its potential was deemed so great that Gannett, Tribune and Knight Ridder paid $60 million for it in 2005, expecting it to play a key role in the future of local news.Topix and GoogleTopix is affiliated with Google, whose search engines give Topix, the highest priority.
These forums have become notorious across the nation for the number of trolls clogging their threads and the degree of repugnant human conversation going on. They recently changed their user terms of service, stating only that the the company is not responsible for anything published on it, no other rules for behavior are given. Yet for many small towns across America, Topix has replaced their local newspaper.
I have been investigating Topix for a year and a half and recently interesting and disturbing comments, have been posted on one of my Topix posts, ironically entitled: “Something way funky is going on over at Topix.com” If they are accurate, they are saying that Topix is gathering user’s personal data, in conjunction with the NSA, to use it to, “spy on citizens, profile them [and] invasion of privacy”: “The “Tolles Trolls” can observe the habits of millions of Americans, perhaps report them to law enforcement, mess with their credit report, etc.” The comments declare that Topix has allowed the National Security Agency, to breach their encryption codes, to access users private information. They point out the background of Topix founder Rich Skrenta, as the creator of a computer virus that is “widely believed to be the first large-scale self-spreading personal computer virus ever created.” The NSA has been working with internet companies, in the Silicon Valley similar to Topix, to gain access to their encryption codes, to access the private information of users. Topix CEO, Chris Tolles, at the time with Sun Microsystems said this: “Everyone in Silicon Valley, including us, has to have specific staff, highly paid experts, to deal with (the NSA) them, ” said Chris Tolles, security group product manager at Sun.” http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/topixcom-california-c404472.html 5th of Feb, 2011 by TiredofAwful Service I so agree with you. It states Be Polite right under the box you post in. No one, but the innocent victims of cyberbullies & a few brave souls, are polite there. There’s a woman now, by the name of RavenzMoon, who claims she can get your ISP just from clicking on your nic. We check with IT tech, and they said unless she’s the moderator, that’s not possible. She also claims to be have worked for the govt, but won’t say who. I would proudly tell someone whom I worked for, if I was hired to be in the federal govt, wouldn’t you? Well, if she can get your IP, or ISP, I do believe she might be able to get your personal info, and also maybe hack into your computer, I’m not really sure, but that alarms me big time! She’s attacked so many on that site, but the other cyberbullies there, stick up for her, and her rude/deceitful/inflammatory/degrading posts are never removed there. We’re trying to warn others about her, but nothing is getting done. She’s also got a website that she advertises there, but if you click on it, you’ll get a strange message saying this is not secure and your confidential info could be disclosed. This makes me think twice about her truthfulness and her innocence. But one thing is clear. Those people are putting other people’s lives at risk…. Close this site down http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/topixcom-california-c404472.html
Topix has stuck a pack of troll thugs onto me and my supporters, who are hacking into our computers, posting our personal information like addresses, hacking into our profiles, threatening our bank accounts, and saying this is all information and passwords handed over to them and sanctioned by Topix. This thread is a must-follow: http://www.topix.com/forum/news/topix/TF3D2UNT1MC4J9QB4/p7#c133
“dem: kelly sent me all the passwords you use on your computer. think maybe i’ll make some purchases from artists den today.”
And this Chris Tolles: “The idea that somehow it is immoral to provide a forum for people is just arrogant and foolish.”
It IS immoral to provide a forum without ethics, as Topix is. http://www.courantalumni.org/2010/08/09/topix-more-polish-same-crap/comment-page-1/#comment-3416
5. HATE IS EASY; LOVE TAKES COURAGE
A heoric woman like Virginia Hoge deserves great respect. She is doing a fantastic job of cleaning the internet of the mud spilt there by the Topix forums. However at the moment Virginia is going through all circles of the Topix hell. This article of hers shows the extent of monitoring people Topix is capable of and the work those “in the office” do when they handle someone who is not to their liking:
Virginia says about herself:
6. CENSORSHIP GAMES or the DEMOCRATIC FUN THEY HAVE ON TOPIX
As regards censorship on Topix I have had my own first-hand experience in this respect. Their censorship is a very specific type. In addition to all the troll games you have learned of above, Topix also practices the so-called shadow banning.
It is called shadow banning because they do censor you but no one knows about it, so on the surface of it it looks like the best of democracies.
You wanted to post and they allowed you to do it. Even if you are speaking up for Michael Jackson. Even if you are from Russia. Even if you the admin of a blog which adheres to the views opposite to those of their favorite “mjfacts” site.
However later you find out that it is only a make-belief game as people start asking you where your post is.
You tell them that it is there, and they tell you that it is not.
You can see it, and they cannot.
This is when it begins to dawn on you that you dealing with a special “Topix type” democracy which is not quite what you expected and is definitely not the ideal you’ve always cherished in your dreams.
It is the illusion of it.
Shadow banning creates the illusion that your voice has been heard, your message posted or your views have been expressed – only you are neither seen, heard nor noticed.
And if you were all alone and didn’t have someone to tell you that you are actually invisible in this Topix world of theirs you would never have known of it.
This way Topix keeps everyone happy – you are happy that you’ve posted and they are happy that you are happily deceived. This is the type of democracy they are imposing on you on their Topix site.
At this stage you begin thinking what wrong you have done to them. If you have posted there some 6000 comments like Virginia Hoge did your banning would be at least understandable from the procedural point of view – they know her, they are afraid of her and don’t want to see her there anymore.
But what if you posted there for the first time? How do the Topix people know who I am and what my intentions are if they have not yet even published my letter there?
Trolls will naturally say I was shadow banned because I’d been posting there on numerous occasions – to which I disagree.
Firstly, I know that I was writing there for the first time. Secondly, they also know that I know it. And thirdly, even if I try very hard I am totally incapable of masquerading as someone else as my English will always betray me to be a foreigner.
In fact I am unable even to understand what they are writing there – not to mention my total inability to imitate their style of writing (and thinking).
Since this post is meant to be a well-documented one here is the proof of what I am talking about. Let it be my contribution to the Topix deception portfolio and be another proof that you cannot believe everything you see on the Topix forum of “people’s” journalism.
Picture 1 shows you the way I see the main page of the Topix MJ forum.
The last line shown here lists my post called “For the attention of “vindicatefailedforwacko”. You see that the post is very much there.
And picture 2 shows the same page of the Topix MJ forum the way others see it.
No matter how you search it for my post you will not find it. It is simply not there. Its place is taken by “MJ photo’s with Young boys vs. Women”.
It seems that my personality is also becoming important for Topix.
You know what I have learned from one of the Topix threads about the fate of my letter on that forum?
I’ve been informed that my letter (the one that was unpublished) was reported to the Topix CEO himself, i.e. Mr. Chris Tolles – so apparently now I will be enjoying all the privileges of the attention they are paying to Ms.Virginia Hoge…
And it was reported by the very person whom I expected to apologize for the slander against our blog.
7. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
By now we have obtained some clear facts indicating that the authors commenting on the anti-Jackson forum may actually be its moderators.
Virginia Hoge and many other people have also noticed a certain correlation between trolls and moderators, and even my first modest experience in dealing with Topix speaks to the same – at least on the Topix Michael Jackson forum.
Surprisingly, but the article Topix itself published on April 1, 2007 about the launch of its forums (what a day to select for starting the project! they definitely think us to be Fools!) provides substantial proof for the above point of view.
Let us recall the notable April 1, 2007 day in the Topix history:
Wiki said about the Topix newborn baby:
The point about “inviting volunteers to edit the topics of their choice” attracted my attention, so I followed the link to the original article. It is taking us back to how it all started.
Is it possible that Topix managers simply forgot what they wrote back in 2007?
Up till now we’ve been somewhat in the dark as to who edits Topix on the Michael Jackson forum.
However now we have obtained first-hand evidence from Topix itself that their editors are mostly volunteers who “edit the topic of their choice” and who, according to Topix founders, help edit the news, help moderate their forums, work under the editorial guidelines and even “take over the controls”.
Let me translate what the above means for the news about Michael Jackson.
All the above “help” in moderating a forum about MJ means that a good deal of Michael’s haters who signed up upon hearing Topix’s call are now “editing” news about Michael, are “helping to moderate” the forum about him, and have been guiding its content ever since its beginning on April 1, 2007.
Of course Michael’s supporters probably volunteered too, however if you look at the names and posts of those who started back in 2007 and continue trashing Michael Jackson now you will see the same old familiar faces of Michael’s haters only.
Most probably Michael supporters simply did not survive there.
I am also a bit wary about the point concerning editorial guidelines. Though generally we understand guidelines as professional journalistic help – on the ethics of journalism and how to actually edit and moderate according to rules – we know how the media people themselves adhered to these principles when it came to Michael Jackson, and this is why the point about the editors’ “guidelines” sounds especially sinister to me.
You can have some idea of what guidelines Topix moderators receive from their management by the reply the Topix CEO Christ Tolles gave to some of his fellow journalists . This man makes it clear that what he is waging is a battle. A battle against journalism. A battle against ethics. A battle for a special kind of freedom which should depend “on the context of the day”.
He says that the battle is already won and the gate is crashed.