Pulling The Plug?

I read most of the stories in this group and I feel for the people who want to make EP the best that it can be.  I’m not one to condone censorship of any person or group unless they are violating the terms of service, but having read the terms of service just a few minutes ago, I don’t think there is much that would really violate the TOS.  I don’t know if this story will be removed by EP.  I know it happens.  They don’t like bad advertising by their own members.  Assuming this story stays up for at least a few hours, let’s take an honest look at the TOS.  Here’s what it actually says:
“The Experience Project reserves the right (but not the obligation) to remove or edit such comment*, but does not regularly review posted content for these violations.”  and later, “The Experience Project takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content posted by you or any third party.”
*illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing on intellectual property rights, material to the commission or investigation of a crime or other illegal activity, or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable…
I feel for those who are concerned for some of the really ugly things that go on here.  I feel for those who are so hurt, desperate, and naïve that they may be taken in by people here and on other social networking sites.  I guess I have sort of come to the conclusion that wailing at EP administrators to do something is like battling windmills.  They have set themselves up in a situation where they really don’t have to do anything, they don’t have to respond to the users demands. 
Clearly, what used to be a site that wanted to provide support to and among its members has become about the almighty dollar.  They don’t care who comes or who leaves this site.  They don’t care one bit what is posted.  All they care about it selling advertising.  Welcome to the real world.  EP is just like every other business.  They are nothing special.  They are only here to try and separate you from your money just like every other business.  I can’t take that personally.  I don’t.  I understand.  Just like with other businesses, I can’t change how they act, but I can change how I interact with them.  I stopped supporting EP a while back because they stopped being a responsive and (in my opinion) responsible site.  Just like any other similar situation, I let my money do the talking. 
I’m not suggesting that people stop writing or complaining about the terms of service, but clearly EP administrators have laid it out that they are not responsible for whatever violates the terms of service.  They created the TOS and then they stated that they don’t have to enforce it.  How special for them.  I have considered leaving EP in the past because of the cesspool that it has become.  It shows no sign of improvement. 
Some of you would argue (and I would agree) that if you believe in something you should fight for it, that the good people shouldn’t be forced to walk away from something that they value.   On the other hand, I have seen some really frightening things happening here.  I have been able to discover the real identities of several EP members:  unstable individuals.  They didn’t provide me the information, it’s all right there on the profiles/stories/blogs for anyone who is interested.  I also run across plenty of nice people here so desperate for human contact and someone to talk to that they post information that makes them identifiable in real life.
The reason I am now considering leaving EP and taking my writing with me is that I see one of two things happening with this site.  Either the good element will be driven away or simply overcome by the less desirable (and I use that term very generously) element and eventually the stench of this place will become so overwhelming that the advertisers won’t be interested.  Or…  one of these truly dangerous people here – let’s say one of the members who is obsessed with the idea of experiencing what it would be like to actually kill another person – will commit a crime against someone else from EP.  Criminal investigations will reveal that the victim and the perpetrator met on EP and the media spotlight will be all over this place.  The media, as we all know, will not focus on the good side of EP, will not feature the great writing and support that this place was originally known for, but will paint this place as a haven for pedophiles, sexual deviants, serial killers, sociopaths, psychopaths, and every other fringe group that our society fears. 
I hope the second scenario never comes true.  I really do.  I hope and pray that no one is ever physically hurt because of how this place has run amuk.  But the realist in me thinks it’s just a matter of time.   I for one, don’t want my writing or my profile associated with that.  No matter how “anonymous” we want to believe this site is, I don’t want my words, my emotions, my experiences tainted like that.
I love EP.  It’s been a sort of home for me.  A place where I felt connected and supported. And I love some of the people here.  But at the end of the day, it’s just a website.  It’s not worth making yourself crazy over.  WE are what make EP a great place.  That is NOT an intrinsic quality of EP.  We can make some other place just as great.
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7 Responses Jul 21, 2010

It seems I missed the good old EP times.<br />
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But I felt the need to share my experiences/opinion on this.<br />
I have a wiki with a few thousand users, who can contribute to it by writing articles, and once you have that, you want to have a TOS like that, too. You have to put the "no obligation" part in there, so noone can sue you for not deleting a new offensive post within a few seconds. Just like Youtube can't promise to keep their website free of illegal videos. They can only try. And so does EP.<br />
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I flagged a whole bunch of trolls myself and each single one of them got banned. I have never seen any of them again since. So somebody is doing their job, as far as I can tell.<br />
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I also used to be moderator in a public forum and chat, and I can tell: some trolls take it personal if you kick or ban them. Especially if you are not being paid for it. They don't get the idea of not wanting to ruin other peoples day, so they cling to the conclusion, that you do the job for free, because you want to ruin THEIR day. They say they have the same rights as everybody else, they forget about the little fact, that they also have the same duties, and believe you are abusing your "power", because you don't like them being right, even though they aren't. (weird way of thinking, I know...) And they take that personal. They have nothing else in life, so they have enough time to try to make yours miserable. You don't want to put that kind of pressure on any EP member. They already have enough problems of their own.<br />
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And.. yeah, every large website is after money. If you have to spend a lot of time and money, you want to get paid. My wiki started without ads and I paid for it, just a few bucks a month. That turned into 90 bucks per month and is now at 400 per month. I can't afford that, I needed ads to pay the bills. And then I'm not even paid for the time to maintain the whole thing. That I do for free, while spending that time on a job would pay much better. If it was possible, I would love to get paid for working on my own website and turn it into a living. I think EP did just that, but maybe even went a step futher, which is what bothers you. I see your point of course.<br />
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Well, as I said, I missed the good old times. Don't know how things went off then... but when I got here I didn't expect more then what I got. Maybe cause I already lost my faith in people, when there is money involved... and that's almost everywhere the case. Feel free to proove me wrong anytime, as soon as you found a place that's completely different and working big time.

See? Theonlyconstantischange said it! <br />
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EP "Needs" a vigilante. And that is what I was doing before I was shouted down. I did my part from my vantage point. =)

I'm glad you've shared your concern. Our members mean a lot to us and if that isn't coming across then we need to do a better job, and we will. <br />
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EP has community guidelines in place to help maintain a safe, supportive and positive environment at EP. You can find a list of our community guidelines here: <a href="http://www.experienceproject.com/abbreviated_terms.php" target="ep_blank">EP Link</a><br />
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EP has become a large community and it would be impossible for EP staff to review every story, comment, questions, and blog post made that's why we rely on the community to flag inappropriate content.<br />
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I agree with you and that EP is what the community makes of it, so please flag accounts and content that go against the nature of EP and it's community guidelines. We review these flags and will suspend, delete, and ban accounts as need. In serious cases we've reported accounts to authorities. <br />
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EP is as much your home as it is ours. It's time to take action. Though EP can set community guidelines, it's when members themselves decide that inappropriate members and abusive posts will not be tolerated, that we'll be able to work together and make EP an even better place.<br />
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We're always here to listen and help. Please continue to flag inappropriate posts and send concerns about specific accounts and/or members to support@experienceproject.com.

Oh guys...please don't take the stories...Change them if you feel the need to protect your identity. But I hate it when people delete. We lose so much of what we had. Yes. It's a website. Yes it's "just" one place among many. <br />
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But the same as there are hundreds of fakes and malicious people, there are hundreds more of decent people who are just here to share and have a good time. Put your account on vacation, go somewhere else for a while if you have to...but don't delete. Just a website...but the same could be said for any group of friends getting together. No, I don't know how a lot of you drink your coffee. Don't know which jeans make you look fat. But we <i>are</i> a community here. I know your problems and joys. I know your hurts and your happiness. And you know mine. Just like any group of friends. And to lose the record of all that connection - depresses me.

Brilliant post, Sahira. <br />
There's not much I could add.<br />
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I appreciate your last paragraph. <br />
" It's a website." That is exactly right! It's our choice to be here. We should take responsibility for what we do here. Things move very quickly on a social site, stories and comments coming in with lightning speed. I feel like it's very much part of our responsibility to flag posts. The system is flawed, that's painfully obvious, but it's what they've given us.

I'm on a couple. Maybe I haven't found the right one yet but they seem to be less focused on the community aspects. One of them (LJ) has these little forum type things but then when one of them got 'the spotlight' and people joined it, the ones who had been there went berserk because others wanted to join. It was startling. Anyways, yes we are the ones who make EP and I wonder what or how sometimes we could get together and move our happy little commune elsewhere.

I agree Sahira. And I wrote a long note to the staff a while back about someone who was posting some really nasty stuff. A troll? Probably. But maybe not. You never really know, I guess. <br />
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I look at all of the really good people who are not here anymore, and so many of them are not here because of what EP has become. Tired of the pervs and trolls. Tired of everything that comes in and ruins what EP was in the first place. <br />
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Guess they make more money from ads than from the supporters. <br />
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They can do all these things to bring in new members - the volunteer network always has new features. But they can't do anything for the people who are already here. There have been no new gestures in years. It's a little thing, and not worth complaining about, but how much would it take to put some in? They're working on it. They're always working on it. But I don't see the evidence.<br />
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But another point you brought up - WE make this place what it is. They should take care of those of us who write, comment, support...but if they don't, why can't we do it for ourselves? Take the initiative to block them. Careful with what we put in public. If you leave, and others like you leave...the place is worthless. Where would we go? Facebook? Twitter? It's just not the same.