I’m returning to one of my regular themes again this week although I promise for the final time, it is the scourge of the internet forum.
The internet has opened up the world, providing information at the touch of a button, it also allows people to have a voice, to express their views and feelings , no matter how outlandish or perverse.
Blogs allow for individual expression and internet forums allow for “discussion”.
Most of the time the discussion, although lively, is generally good natured and harmless.
However there is also a nasty underbelly, which has been highlighted in the past week.
The Racing Forum is, unarguably, the best of the racing related forums on the internet, it bills itself as being the home if intelligent debate and, doubtlessly, it is by far the best of breed, excellently managed and moderated.
Those who post on the forum fall into three categories, a small minority (like myself) post under their real names. Another minority post using a pseudonym but their real identity is obvious. However the majority of posters are totally anonymous.
Now for the majority of threads on the forum this is not a real issue as the content is generally harmless.
However there are also a number of insidious threads which are used to attack racing “personalities”, the majority, of course, being pocket talking so excusable, if not generally pathetic.
Occasionally, however, a thread appears which just goes too far, is just vindictive and were it, for example, to appear in the same form in the printed media would feel the full force of the PCC.
Once such thread has appeared on The Racing Forum in the past week or so …. now I am the first to admit this particular thread it not unique and, compared with what appears on in some other forums or internet sites, is by no means the worse.
However it does clearly illustrate one of the biggest problems with the internet and it highlights why I believe governments need to consider passing legislation to ensure enforceable regulation over internet content.
The thread was simply entitled Peter Naughton. I had a quick look assuming it was going to be another thread picking holes in something a presenter had said on television. Theses types of thread are two a penny, generally ignorant, ill informed comment , almost always coming from an anonymous contributor.
However this one was different, it was attacking Peter Naughton’s tipping line. Now let me say from the outset that tipping lines generally are fair game when it comes to criticism. Very few offer value for money and very few and certainly only the very best survive for any period of time.
On a couple of occasions I have been asked if I wanted to invest in a tipping line. Now whilst I have nothing against tipping lines per-se, close examination of the business model, or more importantly considering questions not addressed in the business plan, show they are not a get rich quick schemes and there is a very real risk of losing money on the investment – but I digress.
It was quickly clear from the first few postings that the thread was going to take a particularly nasty turn.
Needless to say the thread was started by one of our anonymous heroes. It seems he has been following Naughton’s tipping line and has discovered, how shall I put it, inconsistencies in some of Naughton’s claims.
He has been calling Naughton’s tipping line for several minutes each day and editing his findings, alleging several inconsistencies.
Now on the face of it what was being alleged certainly appeared to be in breach of the guidelines for premium rate telephone services, indeed there appeared to be a prima-face case.
So I asked on the thread whether the original complainant had raised the matter with the appropriate regulator? He, of course, refused to respond but one of the “usual (anonymous of course) suspects” came back with a completely irrelevant answer saying it wasn’t necessary.
Anyway, each day the “findings” continued to emerge so I asked another question, one to which I already knew the answer, and that was had the person making the allegations actually put them to Peter Naughton and I also made a comment about the credibility of anonymous posters.
Well the abuse and allegations made against me then had to be seen to be believed and it has made me, once and for all, walk away completely from internet forums.
Let’s look at some of the issues raised by this particular thread.
Let me say from the outset if a tipping line, no matter who it is hosted by, is deliberately setting out to make misleading claims then it deserves to be exposed and, if proven to be in breach, shut down.
However there are ways and means of doing it properly.
Firstly all the allegations being made are being accepted at face value by most of those reading the postings, yet there is no credible substantiation.
First of all the allegations are coming from an anonymous source. Who is he / she? Why is he/she conducting this exposé?
What are they hoping to achieve by posting the findings on an internet forum. It will not lead to the site being shut down as they seem unwilling to present their so called evidence to the regulators.
How do we know this individual does not have some vendetta with Peter Naughton? Why pick on this particular tipping line, when there are plenty worse?
Secondly, how credible is the “evidence” being presented. He claims he calls the tipping line each day and the calls last around seven minutes, yet he only selectively quotes snippets from the call which support his own point of view?
Does he have recordings / transcripts of all the calls? How do we know the quotes he is providing are not being quoted out of context?
Certainly in that very same thread comments I had made were being taken out of context to try to “prove” something I did not actually say.
Thirdly, why have the allegations not been put to Naughton for a response?
If these allegations were being made in the written press the journalist making them would have to make them openly, would have to keep full records and notes and would have to present the evidence to the “accused” to allow a response prior to publication.
Because these allegations are being made online none of those rules have to be followed and
that cannot be right.
Indeed more than one individual actually made the point that because it is the Internet then it does not matter if the allegations are made fairly.
Even one of the more sensible contributors to the forum, an established and respected owner, made the comment there are many critical threads on forums and individuals are not given the right to reply. Indeed there are but that does not make it right.
I happen know these allegations had not been put to Naughton because I actually mentioned them to him when I saw him at the races last week. Before I had spoken to him he had never even heard of The Racing Forum, so he had know way of knowing about the allegations, yet alone have an opportunity to respond.
He was concerned by the allegations but interestingly one of the first comments he made to me was “I suppose they being made anonymously?”
When I replied they were he, understandably, seemed to lose any interest in even bothering to look, yet alone respond and, frankly, I cannot blame him.
When I made a point in the forum about allegations coming from anonymous sources lack the credibility of openly made allegations the person making the allegations, predictably, came back with the pathetic argument that what he writes behind a pseudonym is equally valid to something written openly.
What complete and utter rubbish …. the comments, no matter how well intentioned are absolutely worthless.
Then again how can you argue with somebody who has such a misguided, moronic view and perspective.
He is not clever, he is a coward, happy to snipe, make unsubstantiated allegations and conduct a character assassination with what he believes to be impunity.
I will say it openly – he, and his ilk, are spineless cowards, bullies who are “brave” behind a cloak but who do not have the guts or courage of their convictions to openly come out and say what they thing and believe.
The sooner the internet and everyone who contributes to it or publishes content is covered by the same rules and laws which apply to the print media the better. I realise the government have more pressing priorities but this cancer on the internet needs to be excised.
I would have put these points to the individual calling themselves “Armchair Jockey”, so they could respond – but as they choose to remain anonymous how can I?
Of course, in the unlikely event "Armchair Jockey", or any of his ilk are reading this and wish to defend their approach and actions then I am quite happy to give them the space for a response - only one condition though - the response has to be open and not hidden behind some pathetic pseudonym - I won't hold my breath waiting for a reply though.