The second rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators

Virgin Media 2nd Ban Notificiation
…is DON’T talk about the Virgin Media forum moderators.

This post follows up the first rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators, and is followed up in the third rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators and you can blog about it all you like – we’ll allow you to do that. It also received a minor update on 30th April 2011.

Last night, I was banned from the Virgin Media forums for doing exactly that. The history that led up to this can be found in the item I wrote on the 28th and updated late last night in direct response to the ban, so I won’t go over it here, except where I feel it necessary to provide context in this item. Instead, I’ll go straight to what happened next.

After updating the item (and linking back to it  in the sig for my second account on the forum and posting an open message to the moderators), I turned in and gave the matter some thought as I drifted off in the direction of the land of nod. I decided that, perhaps, the update would be better placed as an item in its own right, in the end deciding that’s what I’d do this morning.

I’m not going to do that after all, though. Instead I’m going to talk about what I anticipated and mentioned in last night’s update – I’m going to discuss my second ban.

Early this morning, somewhere around 7am, and before powering up my computer, I was doing a little browsing from my phone. One of the first things I did was glance at the post I’d made last night on the forum from my second account, the post in which I challenged the moderators to openly discuss their ban. A little later (around 8ish) after looking at something else, I clicked ‘back’ a few times too many, and discovered the post was gone; a moderator had deleted it, along with another post I’d made, which (other than the sig) made no mention of the issue, and was about something else entirely.

Guessing that what I’d anticipated had happened, the first thing I did when switching on my computer was check – and, yes, my second account had been banned. The message presented to me this time was a little more detailed than last night’s, though, and it’s the reason I’ve left the update in place, rather than move it, and why I’m posting this second item about this second ban.

Some clarity on my reasoning can be had by looking at the ‘banned’ screen I received this morning:

Virgin Media 2nd Ban Notificiation
Virgin Media 2nd Ban Notificiation

As you can see, it’s a little more detailed than the error with which I was presented yesterday. It contains all the same text, including the same non-functioning (to a banned member) non-link as before, but now with some additional material. Instead of ending with “This ban is indefinite due to the extreme nature of the violations” it carries on and explains what these violations actually are, which at first glance suggests the moderator who banned me is at least reading and digesting some of what I’d written, so that’s a start. Let’s look at some of these violations in more detail, though.

Defamation of VM employees published online via a blog without their explicit permission.

That first item is the reason I’ve decided to leave last night’s update intact and in place. I’ve read it through to check, and it contains no “defamation of VM employees” – it makes an accusation that one moderator appears to be abusing his position (and possibly others, too, since I don’t know who deleted the discussion about a moderator making threats of banning someone – nor indeed who banned me), but an accusation is not defamation.

Having said that, it’s clear that it was written by someone who has no real knowledge of the issues he is talking about: Not only due to the fact that there is no defamation present in my previous item, but also the suggestion that I’d need permission to publish any defamation – because that’s what the above actually says.

The reality is that this person is trying to justify the his claim that my violations are ‘extreme‘ – and to frighten (or, perhaps more accurately, bully) me into not giving voice to my complaints about them, not on their forums, and definitely not out here, in the wider world of the web* where they can’t control what happens.

The following three examples of my ‘extreme’ violation (which takes them out of their original order) I’ll deal with together:

Advertising the prior violation on a VM Supported Forum.

Criticizing Moderator actions which clearly violate the Terms & Conditions you agreed to upon registering and using the VM Community Forum.

Repeat violations of the Community Guidelines with the secondary account.

I’ve pointed out before that it isn’t technically against the rules to discuss bans – not based on the wording of the forum guidelines – and that also applies to criticisms, but this time I’m referred specifically to the terms and conditions presented at the sign up stage for the forums. Those terms of use (to give them their correct title), in fact, are linked to from the guidelines post mentioned in the error received by a banned user, a post they can’t then read. The closest those terms of use come to saying anything relevant here is to state that you accept these rules and “any guidelines or “house rules” that are posted on such Virgin Media Site(s) (“Guidelines”)” – thus binding you to those guidelines.

As I suggested last night, though, the guidelines don’t actually say what they’re probably supposed to say. It’s therefore arguable, although splitting hairs, that the above violations aren’t actually violations – let alone extreme ones.

I wonder if the person who gave me the second ban read what I’d written about that, and that’s why he referred me back to the terms of use (albeit without a working link)? In which case, I wonder if he actually read them himself, first?

Attempting to bypass the initial ban placed upon you account by creating a secondary account.

Again, a little bit of hair splitting – but to say I attempted to bypass the ban is to say I tried and failed. In fact, this should surely read “Successfully bypassing the initial ban…” because that’s what I actually did (and not by doing anything particularly clever – I simply signed up again). I’m inclined to think that the only reason a moderator has uncovered this heinous crime and banned me again is because I was perfectly open about it: I helped them discover that I’d done it by deliberately drawing the fact to their attention.

However, is this actually against the rules? Well, the guidelines do say “don’t create multiple forum ID’s” but that’s an out of context quotation. The context is “Also please don’t try and game the kudos system, don’t create multiple forum ID’s or try and manipulate it in other ways.” – well, I wasn’t attempting to gain kudos, so I didn’t violate that rule. Yup, that’s another hair I’ve split – but it does show the guidelines to be badly thought out and full of holes.

Or perhaps it shows that a moderator is trying to bully me for questioning whether he is abusing his position – and daring to do so where it might be seen by his peers.

At this point, the following information has been sent to the Forum Administrator who shall be contacting you regarding this matter.

That’s interesting – not least because there is no following information (perhaps he meant the preceding information).

Most people know that a bully, typically, only does what he does because his victim doesn’t hit back, he instills a degree of fear in the victim that he is somehow bigger, stronger, more powerful. When a victim does hit back, however, he’ll often find the tables turned – the bully is shocked, he didn’t expect that to happen, and suddenly seems much less tough. He might even go running to someone else for help.

Such as, in the case of a forum moderator, the forum administrator.

I look forward to that contact, then, and wonder what method the communication will take, since he won’t be able to send me a private message via the forums – from which I am again banned. I could, of course, create a third account, and draw the account to their attention so that they know to PM through that account, but in order to draw it to their attention I’d have to say something like “This is the account at which you can PM me about your ban of my previous accounts” – and that would, allegedly, be an extreme violation of the rules.

Alternatively, the forum adminstrator could email me – my email address doesn’t appear to be visible to other users, but it might be to administrators.

Or he could, perhaps, be able to telephone me using the telephone line supplied by Virgin Media – if the forum staff have full access to account details so that he can see my number. I suspect, though, that this isn’t so.

I’ve received an automated reply to the angry complaint I sent Virgin Media about this last night, suggesting I should be contacted within the next five days. That contact, I suspect, will come sooner than my contact from the administrator – because, I suspect, that contact from the administrator is unlikely to happen. Mainly because I really suspect that nothing at all has been passed to the forum administrator by the moderator who banned me.

It might be time to work on that post about Virgin Media’s NNTP throttling, I think  – but given that my complaint last night covered both the ban and the non-answer to my questions on that issue, perhaps I should wait a little longer. Perhaps, instead, I should write one about section 3.4 of those terms of use of theirs, which at the time of writing says:

By posting content on a Virgin Media Site, you grant to Virgin Media a worldwide, non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free licence to use and distribute (in whole or in part) such content for any purpose in any and all media (whether now known or hereafter devised) including but not limited to the internet and broadcast television and you hereby waive all so-called moral rights you may have in the content. This licence includes the right to grant sub-licences.

Hmm. Food for thought, there.
Minor update

I’ve done the following:

  • I’ve sent a detailed complaint about the moderator, as well as about the NNTP issue, to various ‘high up’ addresses within the company. It’ll probably do no good, but not complaining does no good either.
  • I’ve created a third account on the forums, thus “attempting” to bypass the ban again.
  • Using that account, I sent a private message to the forum admin explaining the situation.
  • I copied that message to the moderator I believed responsible.
  • I’ve created a new forum signature, linking to this item and the last – as well as to the unanswered NNTP questions.

I know that last one is the main thing that got me banned before, but I explained it in my message to the administrator, and therefore to the moderator, thusly:

The forum rules state – no, ask – that users “Please don’t discuss forum bans or other moderator actions on the forum.” By including a reference and a link in a sig I am not discussing anything, I am mentioning it in passing. Users are free to follow those links (or not) and discuss the matter externally if they see fit (and while the comment forms remain open on my site)

The sig, in fact, looks like this:

This is my sig, not a part of the message…
The first rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators… is you don’t talk about the Virgin Media forum moderators.
The second rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators… is you DON’T talk about the Virgin Media forum moderators.

Those questions about the NNTP throttling remain unanswered.

I’ve also pointed out that creating the third account isn’t against the rules as written, not for the reason I’ve done it. I’ll undoubtedly still be banned in a fairly short space of time, of course, at which point, there might be a third rule of the Virgin Media forum moderators.

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