in Publishing, T'interwebs

“Mum’s the word” for Mumsnet and a heavy-handed Gina Ford

Dear oh dear oh dear. Gina Ford, one of the most high-profile and controversial parenting gurus has gone all “cease and desisty’ on Mumsnet, a community mother-run bulleting board that, in the past, she contributed to.

For those of you without kids, or who have only heard of Doctor Spock’s advice then the rest won’t matter. For the bulk of late-parenting, middle class Britain though there can be few people who haven’t come across Gina. You’ll either love her, loathe her or – realistically – both.

We were Gina fans for our twins – the strict, routine-based certainty kept us sane and worked for the twins. For ‘tertius’ we’ve more mellow and have a middle path – the Baby Whisperer.

Anyway, the issue here is whether a bulletin board can be fully responsible for all comments made. Are they a ‘common carrier’ or a publisher?

I won’t go into the details since the community owners have done a great summary here.

I sympathise with them in their predicament which seems to me to lack the essential component of compromise on Ms Ford’s part – goodwill.

Having been involved with football forums (language you wouldn’t believe!), youth forums (language you can’t understand) and business advice forums (language you can’t afford to get wrong) I know the issues are real and important. Technology can help with alerting scripts, filters, user flags, warnings etc. Ultimately, however, the two pillars of bulleting boards are:

* good behaviour
* freedom of speech (given the above).

Good behaviour includes forum rules, netiquette, the law…

It’s sad that a combination of apparent determination to bloody someone’s nose, a misunderstanding about the operation of the internet, and a refusal to accept good moderating practice (prompt removal following complaints etc) is endangering this operation.

I’m sure that there must be a US host that’d take over the business…?? 😉

In the meantime I’m reminded of a probably apocryphal tale of Apple’s naming conventions where Carl Sagan objected to his name being used internally as a code name. The Apple guys changed the codename to “BHA” (butt-headed astronomer). Sagan sued again and lost. Story on Wikipedia (must be true then):

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