Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Join the club

For a while it seemed FordClubSG would be added to the growing list of forums or blogs who discovered that “what you say can and will be held against you in a court of law” – luckily it all ended happily – the site was shutdown and no one was sued.

The story goes like this, a reportedly disgruntled fan of Fords posted comments on the Ford fan club forum, FordClubSG, dissing its dealership Regent Motors for supposed poor handling of the Ford brand.

Regent Motors took offence and launched an investigation into whether to pursue the matter through the courts. Newspapers reported that the IP address of the offending person was located and a decision would be made on whether to bring in the lawyers.

The matter appears to have been settled outside the courtrooms but unfortunately for the forum and its enthusiasts – it has shut down. As of today, this is what the administrator notice says on the site.

So while freedom of speech may be a closely guarded principle in developed countries, how do you guard it in the digital world where everyone and anyone can say what they like – with our without any motives?

While it’s great to see brands increasingly make the effort to engage its consumers for user generated content, the risks involved are evident for all to see. Not only do you have to worry about the potential for crappy made content but you have to worry about amazingly good content being made which not only doesn’t carry the brand message you’d hope for but instead humours your brand brilliantly enough that it gets sent ‘round the world – in less than 80 days too!

All that and I haven’t even touch on all those fake blogs (flogs) that out there, which leads us back to the FordClubSG story – there is suggestion by some that the ‘defamatory’ posting was put up by a competitor.

So that’s the rub of the green in the digital world then – boy likes ford, creates forum, meets other boys who likes fords, mysterious anti-ford person makes comment, boy shuts down forum.

Guess it’s cruel in the digital world too.

1 comment:

Ryan Chua said...

Honestly that was not wise of the owner to shut down the forum.

I had the same experience with a lawyer sending me a defamatory suit after someone called someone else a "something" on the forums. BTW I'm the owner of another automobile forum in Singapore.

As a forum owner, you should know that most disclaimers will protect the forum owner from such content, and that forum rules should state that defamatory content will be dealt with accordingly. Even a subpoena will provide IP addresses and likely the forum nickname, following which a full scale investigation is just not worth it.

Closing the forum is a bad move because it's really just a lousy scare tactic from the affected party.