Are Some Central America Forums Less Impartial Than Meets The Eye?
I claim that many Central America forums that to be appear legitimate community efforts with open participation are in fact closely monitored and highly censored.
Let me provide some background.
One challenge in human society is balancing privacy with free speech, stability and economic progress. Many cultures, independently and collectively, have developed guidelines to help deal with this challenge. For instance, it is generally legal in modern societies to publish information, whether that is in book form, street preaching, internet blog, book, etc. There isn’t per se an obligation on the part of a publisher to present an unbiased view. It’s his prerogative to bias what he publishes if he chooses (whether he is the writer or just the publisher), as he built the audience and pays for the publication. However, on the other hand, there are limits to what information can be published. For instance, lies that damage the reputation of another person are not legal to publish. It is called defamation. Any publisher who publishes defamatory material that is subsequently challenged and found untrue is then liable for an estimate of damages. But what about advertisements? When American Express puts an advertisement on television, do they need to state, “The transaction represented in this advertisement was a fictionalization for demonstrative purposes only. The shopper is not a real shopper but an actor.” Apparently not. Some intelligence is presumed on the part of the viewer/consumer.
One relatively recent development are chatrooms / email groups. These forums are generally controlled by one person or entity, who may have little role in writing, but, like a traditional publisher, has the right and responsibility to select appropriate content according to a combination of his own criteria and law. Some might argue that while one person may have administratively “created” the chatroom / group, nevertheless, that over time as others contribute to it as writers and readers, that they then have some legitimate claim to its fate and administration. I personally do not agree with this, unless it was explicitly agreed-upon as a condition of that participation.
Does the owner of such a group have any responsibility to explicitly state a set of guidelines for what is allowable in his forum? I don’t see why, unless that is part of an agreement he has with a hosting provider or his users. Does the owner of such a group have any responsibility to consistently follow any set of guidelines, published or unpublished? I think he does have the responsibility to obey the law, for instance in matters of defamation, but that beyond that, he does not need to even have or follow any consistent pattern in his habit of moderation.
But what about an author or publisher with a financial interest in given material? We can look at what has happened in the last fifty years in stock market commentary. Now, any writer who publishes about a given security who has a financial interest in it, must state their financial position. This was the resolution of a history of abuses in which individuals used the news media to popularize given securities in order to then sell them at a profit. And yet, does Fox News or the New York Times or Google or the Wall Street Journal or NBC or The Nation or AFT state a similar position about their prospective profit potential under various presidential candidates, while they are editorializing them explicitly and implicitly? If every publisher and author had to spend all his time itemizing financial and personal interests, it might end up being the larger part of every article/story. While that might be a tempting solution for lawyers, on the other hand it is not a realistic possibility to follow when such a small percentage of ultimate consumers of information currently want that extensive background.
I write all this not to teach a lesson on disclosure, but because I believe the context for my main point, which I shall now state once again.
Some of the most popular and impartial-seeming website forums in Central America are in fact closely monitored and censored by the moderators according to unpublished criteria. Those criteria, when recognized by its users, might be as disgusting to the participants and observers in the forums, as the practice of “pumping” a stock in order to sell it at a quick profit. (And of course posts concerning the criteria and partiality of the censors are censored.) I invite any person whose legal and civil posts are rejected on another Central America forum to repost those writings here on central-america-forum.com, with or without additional commentary.