Tuesday, February 20, 2007

RealGM.com - Improper Conduct

It’s time to clear up an on-going situation with the Forums at RealGM.com.

In my opinion, the people responsible for that website do not conduct their affairs in a fair and ethical way. Until such time that they change their present practices, to conform with generally accepted standards of operation, it says in this corner, they need to be exposed by all upstanding members of the basketball community who value responsible freedom of speech and the democratic rights we have as law-abiding citizens.

Now, time for some background information:

- RealGM.com is a website that provides basketball-related information to the public.
- Part of their service includes a series of public Forums where anyone with an interest in basketball (or other sports) can join and contribute information and their opinions about the game.
- There are more than 50,000 registered accounts at the RealGM.com Forums.
- I am a long time member of the basketball community, who has played, coached and worked within the game at a variety of different levels.
- I joined the Forums at RealGM.com on August 25, 2006 under the username “enkhata”, the same name as this blog you are reading.
- The first few messages I posted in the Forums were in a variety of areas pertaining to different NBA teams, e.g. Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, etc.
- On September 22, 2006 I started a new topic in the Toronto Raptors’ Forum titled, “Where is all the unbridled optimism coming from?” which eventually generated 24 pages of messages. As a Raptors’ fan since the inception of the franchise (’95), it was interesting to see the passionate response to this topic.

Here’s the link.

http://realgm.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=566619&start=0

You can read it for yourself.

This is when the problems started.

- I was accused of being a “troll” in the Raptors’ Forum.
- I was accused of not being a Raptors fan at all.
- I was told that my viewpoints and opinions were not welcome in the Raptors Forum.
- I was told by certain individuals that I was now on their “Ignore List”.
- I was told that I didn’t deserve to be a member of the Forums.
- I was accused on being a former member of the Forums who had been “banned” previously, had now returned under a different username and should be banned again.
- I was insulted by certain members of the Forums (including specific Moderators and Retired Moderators).
- My IP Address was displayed in a public Forum in a message by another person (when, as far as I know, only Moderators & Administrators have access to this private information).
- I was harassed by specific members of the Forums across a range of different thread topics.
- My account was terminated.
- At no time was I sent an email or a Private Message (PM) by a Moderator or an Administrator with the Forums to indicate that I was in danger of violating the Terms Of Service (TOS) with their Forums or that, with my conduct to-date, I had already been deemed to have done this by those responsible for the operation of the Forums.
- At not time was I sent a “Warning” from a Moderator or an Administrator.
- At no time was I given a “Suspension Notice” by a Moderator or an Administrator.
- Without corresponding with me directly, in any way, my account was simply terminated.

Included below are a series of messages which I then exchanged with the person responsible for running these Forums, asking why my account had been terminated and what could be done about it.


(1) The message I sent to RealGM.com using the “Contact Us” form on their website:

Subject: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account
Submitted by: enkhata
Board Username Entered : enkhata
Comments: Please provide me with an email address for "Winterpeg", an Administrator with your message board.

(i) The email which I received back from RealGM.com:

From: "Rene Mattila"
To: enkhata
Subject: Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

Enkhata,

We are aware of your desire to be reinstated on the message boards but we are not going change our mind about our decision to ban your account.

There were enough similarities between your debate style and that of a user who has had numerous aliases banned in the past for us to be suspicious. We also found that you shared an IP address in common with the banned user. In situations where we suspect that a user who has caused problems in the past is once again posting under a new name we do not follow the warnings/suspensions/ban guideline that is posted at the top of the forum. The suspected alias is immediately deactivated and the account is banned. As outlined in our terms of service RealGM may, in its sole and exclusive discretion, terminate an account for violating any of our rules. We determined that as a previously banned user your presence was disrupting the forum so your account was terminated.

I'm sorry if we were incorrect in our assumption that you were another user but I'm afraid that we are not going to take a chance and lift the ban on your account. I'm sure that there are many other message boards on the internet where you can share your opinions with other sports fans.

Rene Mattila


(2) The email which I sent in return to Mr. Mattila:

From: enkhata
To: Rene Mattila

Subject: Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

Rene, According to your web site, what is the IP address I had in common with the banned user?


enkhata


(ii) The email which I received back from Mr. Mattila:

From: "Rene Mattila"
To: enkhata
Subject: Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

The IP address that you share with the banned user is _ _._ _._ _ _._ _

Rene Mattila


(3) The follow-up email which I sent to Mr. Mattila:

From: enkhata
To: Rene Mattila

Subject: Re: resending - Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

Rene, The facts are these:The only account that's mine on RealGM is enkhata. Whoever else has used the same IP Address as mine, is none of my concern and beyond my control. Since I have never:


- violated any of the Terms Of Service for this message board
- violated any of the Policies of this message board
- had another account on this board
- been "warned" or "suspended" by a Moderator/Administrator
- rejoined the board after being banned previously

1) what is the reason my enkhata account cannot be re-activated?
or
2) is there a reason I would not be allowed to join the board again using a different IP Address disassociated from the one used by me previously and any other problematic member of the board?

enkhata


(iii) The message I received back from Mr. Mattila:

From: "Rene Mattila"
To: enkhata
Subject: Re: resending - Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

Enkhata,

As I explained in my first email to you, we determined that your presence and debate style was disrupting the forum. Disrupting the flow of dialogue is a violation of our terms of service. Coupled with our suspicion that you have been previously banned from the message board we decided to terminate your account and ban you from the forum.

Your account will not be reactivated because all bans are permanent and we no longer want you as a member of our message board community. When we ban someone from the forum it is a ban on the person not just the username or account they were using. A new account with a new IP address does not hide the fact that it is still the same person who was banned in the first place. If you register a new account using a new email and IP address it will be terminated.

Rene Mattila


(4) The next email which I sent to Mr. Mattila:

From: enkhata
To: Rene Mattila

Subject: Re: resending - Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

There appear to be different issues at work here, as best I can see.The one with which I am dealing right now is this:If my "presence and debating style was disrupting the forum" according to anyone why was this never once communicated to me prior to my ban? How in good conscience and according to any acceptable ethical standard of conduct on your part can your web site choose to ban me (which, as it says on your own web site, is used "as a last resort") without first telling me in some way, shape or form that my "presence and debating style was disrupting the forum" as is?


enkhata

ps - after you answer to this first part, we can then deal with any "suspicion" someone might have had regarding a previous ban associated with an IP Address linked to my enkhata account and whether or not according to the policies of RealGM all bans are permanent.


(iv) The final email message which I received from Mr. Mattila:

From: "Rene Mattila"
To: enkhata
Subject: Re: resending - Re: [RealGM Board Problems] re-activating my account

Enkhata,

Our decision is to ban your account is final. I have explained why you were banned a number of times and no matter how many different ways you try to frame your arguement your account will not be reactivated.

We determined that you were disrupting the forum and decided that the best couse of action was to ban you and your account. No warnings were given because as a suspected alias of a banned user you would have recieved your warnings with your previous account.

I am finished discussing the situation, If you want to debate the details of our terms of service I will forward your emails to our legal department.

Rene Mattila



As you can see for yourself, there are three reasons why I’ve been banned from the Forums at RealGM.com (according to Mr. Mattila):

1) My “presence and debate style” were perceived to be “disruptive” to the Forums.
2) This “debate style” was perceived to be “similar” to a former member who, apparently, had been banned previously from the Forums.
3) It was “suspected” that I was a former banned member because I shared an IP Address used by this other account holder.

That’s it … as a result of which, I’ve been banned, permanently (i.e. forever), from the RealGM.com Forums.

Now, let me state again quite clearly the facts involved with this situation, from my perspective:

* I was never a member of the Forums at RealGM.com prior to joining on August 25, 2006, as enkhata, the same name used for this blog.

* Prior to being banned from the RealGM Forums:

I) At no time was it ever communicated to me that I had violated their TOS or their Forum Policies;
II) At not time was I sent an email or a PM from a Moderator or an Administrator telling me that I was (somehow) in danger of being banned from their Forums as a result of my conduct;
III) At no time was I sent an email or a PM from a Moderator or an Administrator telling me that I was receiving a “Warning” for my conduct in their Forums;
IV) At not time was I sent an email or a PM from a Moderator or an Administrator telling me that I was receiving a “Suspension” for my conduct in their Forums;

* Upon learning of my ban, I initiated communication with the Administrators of RealGM.com via email to attempt to clarify and fix the situation.

* My attempts to do so, thus far, have proved fruitless.

This is the link for the RealGM “Forum Policies” and the “TOS” for RealGM.com so that you can read them for yourself:

http://realgm.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=66
http://realgm.com/src_terms.php

Therein, you can see the procedures which are supposed to be followed in the event that the participation of any Forum member is deemed to be inappropriate.

Does it look to you as though I did anything wrong?
Does it look to you as though I’ve been treated properly (i.e. fairly and ethically) in this situation?

It doesn’t seem this way to me; not in the least.

I have documented evidence from my Information Service Provider (ISP) that my IP Address was changed on September 1, 2006, due to the relocation of my business. On that specific date, I was issued a “new” static IP Address for the first time which had formerly been assigned to someone else and had never been used by me before. This is an indisputable fact which can be corroborated by documents provided by my ISP. Prior to this date, I had a dynamic IP Address, which assigns to me a different random IP Address each time I connect to the internet. This is an indisputable fact which can be corroborated by documents provided by my ISP. At no time prior to September 1, 2006, could I possibly have been associated with the static IP Address that was mine from that day forward and the one Mr. Mattila attempted to associate me with, as also belonging to a previously banned member of the RealGM Forums. This is an indisputable fact which can be corroborated by documents provided by my ISP.

Whether or not my “debate style” resembled that of a former member of the RealGM Forums is irrelevant. The fact is, I am not this person, and I can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, based upon the documentation provided by my ISP; none of which matters according to the people who run the RealGM.com web site.

They have made a decision - which is wrong but - which they are not going to change.

Can I live this? You bet I can. As the old saying goes, “It’s no skin off my nose.”

So what’s the real problem here, you ask?

Since my dismissal from the Forums at RealGM.com, at least two other individuals, who have made me aware of their situation through my blog, have also been banned from the same Forums … because the people who run that site (and certain influential individuals who are members there) believe that these other people are in fact me, as well ... who the Administrators of RealGM believe in error has already been banned on two separate occasions from their Forums, i.e. once, prior to August 25, 2006, the date I joined up as enkhata, and then, secondly, when I was banned on September 26, 2006, as enkhata.

Now, as you can clearly see, this is an on-going much larger problem.

Anyone who joins these Forums and attempts to provide a certain perspective to them, as a Toronto Raptors’ fan but who is perceived by these certain influential members to be “disruptive” or “to resemble in argumentative style” or “present viewpoints & opinions” about basketball and specifically the goings-on with the franchise in Toronto, in a similar way to me, enkhata, can and will be summarily banned from these Forums.

This is patently unfair.

Whether or not these other members have done anything wrong since joining the RealGM Forums is irrelevant according to the Administrators who run the site.

It is their “sole right” to determine who can and who cannot be a member of their Forums, which they claim as being “public”.

To this, this corner now says, complete and utter hogwash.

Those who run the that web site are no more interested in having a diversity of opinion, information and debate in their Raptors’ Forum, than are the former rulers in a variety of fascist regimes around the world. Only if you are going to tow the party line of the Raptors’ faithful, are you welcome on the Toronto Forum.

If not, you are summarily banned for life.

If your “debate style” resembles enkhata you are banned for life.
If your “viewpoints and opinions” resemble enkhata’s you are banned for life.
If your “hoops’ perspectives” resemble enkhata’s you are banned for life.

There is no 1st warning for you.
There is no 2nd warning for you.
There is no 1st Suspension for you.
There is no 2nd Suspension for you.
There will be no “three strikes before you’re out” for you.
There will be no “banning is used as a Last Resort” for you.

If you resemble enkhata you will simply & summarily be dismissed from the RealGM.com Forums.

Whether or not you are enkhata is unimportant.
Whether or not you have done anything wrong on their site is unimportant.
Whether or not you have violated their Forum Policies or TOS is unimportant.

The only thing that matters is that you resemble enkhata.

For committing this egregious sin you can and will be banned from the RealGM.com Forums, while other influential members of the Forums will be permitted to continue on unchecked for their various transgressions on the site, which include:

* Harassing those who they suspect to be enkhata
* Falsifying quotations belonging to those who they “suspect” to be enkhata
* Lying about the conduct of those they “suspect” to be enkhata
* Defaming enkhata

From my perspective, there may well be nothing I can do about this, since I am no longer a member of the RealGM.com Forums … but, at least, now you who read this blog can see the facts of the matter for yourselves and make your own decisions about that web site and how they choose to conduct their affairs.

I suggest that up-standing members of the basketball community who believe in responsible freedom of speech and the protection of our democratic rights as law-abiding citizens:

* Join the Forums at RealGM.com and inform the other members there about this situation and the type of nonsense that happens regularly with that site

* File a complaint against those who run the Forums at RealGM.com with:

Ryan Hoak (Administrative Contact, President and Chief Executive Officer)
109 N. Russell Street Suite No. 2
Marion, IL 62959-1185 US
Phone: 1.618.993.7592 Fax: 1.775.514.6917

Michael Krieger (Technical Contact, registrar@epicworks.com)
2 Old Park Lane Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 2L8 CA
Phone: 416-523-8412 Fax: 416-447-0082

Todd Essman (Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel)
Email: Todd.Essman@realgm.com

* File a complaint against RealGM.com with their domain registrar:

Tucows Inc.
96 Mowat Avenue
Toronto, ON Canada M6K 3M1
Phone: 1-416-535-0123, Fax: 1-416-531-5584

How many other innocent people have been banned in this manner from the RealGM.com Forums?

Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? I have no idea.

The point is ... no one should be banned from a web site in this way, for these reasons, permanently.

Propaganda based operations like this, that allow only a certain perspective (and not others), should not go unchecked.

“Now you know the rest of the story.” – Paul Harvey

Note: Others who have also been banned from the RealGM.com Forums without justification please feel free to add your “username” to this page by submitting a “comment” of your own. It will be interesting to see who else has been banned from these Forums and what their “perspective” was which brought this about.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

you keep mixing the specifics of banning from your various accounts there friend... you're slipping up or just not as smart as you think you are.

Anonymous said...

FIGHT THE POWER!!!

Anonymous said...

Get serious bud. You got banned from one website. Deal with it. You also acted like you were the know-it-all basketball god. Find a new forum and move on.

Anonymous said...

You are a loon. Let's see how many comments YOU censor.

Enkhata said...

The anonymous comment at 5:09 is in all likelihood from another member of the Forums at RealGM.com, "seanied".

This is one of the "house boy" members of that Forum who specializes in harassing other Members in Good Standing if the perspective they present is not in keeping with the "powers that be" who run the Toronto Raptors' Forum at RealGM.com (see the link below).

http://realgm.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=629207&start=0

FYI ... there was no "mixing the specifics of banning" in my explanation of what's happened to this point re: the Forums at RealGM.com.

It is spelled out clearly in black & white.

Enkhata said...

To anonymous (8:15 AM):

So, according to you, a "know-it-all basketball god" isn't welcome in a basketball-related Forum on a web site like RealGM.com. Is this what you're saying?

If it is, please give your head a shake.

To that ridiculous claim, I simply say, this:

Since !@#$%^& when is that, in and of itself, considered to be (in some far-fetched way) a "violation of the TOS or stated the "Forum Policies" at RealGM.com?

ANSWER: It isn't.

(at least, if you read the guidelines on their web site ... and expect them to be followed)

From what I can gather, so far, there are in fact three different sets of "Rules Of Engagement":

i) What it says in their TOS and Forum Policies;
ii) What they actually do to the "house boys" who safeguard their site when they violate these guidelines ... which is nothing; and,
iii) What they do to members like me, who have a different perspective from the "house boys" ... which is disregard these policies when and where they feel like it, and ban whoever they want, without proper justification.

(who knows how many other people they have also done this to?)

When someone does nothing wrong, as I did ... i.e. I did not violate the TOS or Forum Policies in any way ... it is an unethical practice to simply "ban" that person permanently from a public Forum.

End of story.
Case closed.
Finetto.

The people who run that site are unscrupulous, in this regard, and don't have a leg to stand.

Enkhata said...

To anonymous (9:25 AM):

According to you, "censoring" comments submitted to a blog ... would be similar to ... banning someone permanently from a public Forum who has done nothing wrong.

Is this what you're saying?

If it is, then give your head shake.

First off ... I haven't censored any comments here ... yet.

Secondly ... if I did ... that would still not mean that the person who submitted an inappropriate comment be banned from further participation on this blog; not in the least.

Thirdly ... censoring improper commentary is a different matter altogether compared to banning a person for life from a public Forum, when that person has committed no transgressions while a Member (in Good Standing) of that Forum.

To ban someone in this way is unacceptable.

Nuno said...

You should put this much effort into curing the world energy crisis.

Gawd.

Enkhata said...

nuno:

If I had control over the world's energy crisis, then, maybe ... but, unfortunately (fortunately?), I don't.

Something I do have control over though is my blog (enkhata) and how I am treated as a member of the basketball community and as a law-abiding citizen, who's done nothing wrong in this situation.

Why should I allow other people at a web site like RealGM.com to say untruths about me? To defame me? To lie about what they did to me inappropriately, in violation of their own TOS and Forum Policies?

I shouldn't.

Nor should you ... or anyone else who experiences something akin to this.

The internet is no place for shenanigans like this.