COPA has decided to make some changes to the Public Forum. These changes are intended to ensure that we can keep the Forum available for everyone, without charge. Specifically, the right to post to the public forum will be restricted to registered users; anyone, registered or not, may continue to read the posts, however.
The decision has not been an easy one. The Public Forum emerged from Clyde’s “SR20.org” web site and has a long history of free an open access. COPA strongly believes in this idea and by providing a forum where anyone could post, without joining COPA, we felt confident that we had achieved this goal.
However, since COPA was established last summer, and even before, the open bulletin boards have been misused by some who felt that their “rights of free speech” allowed them to post irresponsible and sometimes damaging comments on the web site. COPA has always maintained that we have the right to remove obscene, insulting or inaccurate posts which may lead to unsafe flying, but we also acknowledged that we would use that authority with great reticence. History proves that we have exhibited extreme reluctance in exercising this authority. To the best of my knowledge, we have never removed or altered a post (except our own).
The arguments for and against change have been echoing throughout both forums for some time now. There are several persuasive reasons to keep things as they are. First and foremost is the belief that more free and open communication is always better. This clearly encourages the highest level of contribution. Some users may be concerned about reporting under their own name for fear of retribution by the FAA a manufacturer or even others on the forum. Finally, anonymous posters have given us some very useful information and certainly a lot of entertainment. Removing the anonymous option may discourage them. Some of the less convincing arguments are the individual’s rights of free speech and privacy.
Conversely, the arguments for some sort of restrictions are at least as persuasive. First there is the idea that these forums are supposed to be a medium for serious discussion on flying, safety and Cirrus aircraft, not frivolous insults, innuendo, overt advertising or just plain lies. Clearly some of the anonymous posters misuse the forum in this way. Maybe one of the most persuasive argument for change has been the number of users requesting it.
In making the decision, we first looked at our http://www.cirruspilots.org/public/about.htmlmission statement, but we did not end there. We absolutely want the forums to remain fun and entertaining. The Members Forum tends to be the home of more serious conversation, factual info and the exchange of all sorts of Cirrus and safety of flight info. The Public Forum, while often addressing these issues, is absolutely the more entertaining of the two. So the question remained: How do we keep the Public Forum from becoming another internet cesspool, without taking all of the fun and utility out?
We looked at all suggestions, including eliminating the Public Forum in favor of just the Members Forum, but this would eliminate a lot of posts and discourage newbies from participating. It would also violate the premise of free and open. We considered only allowing members to post, but allow all to read. We felt the results of this would not be too different from the previous suggestion.
So, trying to meet all of our goals with as little interference as possible, we have decided to require all posters to register. This registration will remain 100% free. Registration will not require COPA membership (although we strongly encourage everyone who frequents this web site to join). The belief is that as long as anyone is willing to stand behind their comments, their comments are worthy to be heard. Registration will not open the user up to any additional junk emails, spam or the like. COPA policy prohibits us from distributing any personal information without the permission of the individual. We will not sell or use the registration info for our gain. Being an internet based application, we cannot guarantee that the information may not be intercepted, but we will not be an active participant.
To respond to the privacy and freedom of speech arguments. The first obligation to privacy is the individual’s. If you want your privacy, by all means please keep it. When you enter a public area you voluntarily give up some of your privacy. When you go one step further and speak out publicly, you voluntarily surrender additional privacy rights. Each person using our Forums understands that their email address will be published.
Secondly, freedom of speech does not include walking into my home and speaking. I am not personally obligated to extend this courtesy to you. I may choose to, but I have no obligation… By the same token, COPA has no obligation to provide anyone a soapbox upon which they can espouse their views, especially those comments which may be false, irresponsible and potentially harmful.
The final argument that I would like to dispel is that anyone can just not read posts they don’t like. Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the content until you’ve read it. Since ‘Anonymous’ is not one individual but many, categorically ignoring these posts may result in ignoring useful information. Conversely, if a user finds he does not want to read another registered user’s posts, it will be easy to choose to avoid them.
Our action is in no way intended to ensure that all comments agree with us or our members. Posts do not need to be flattering to this organization, Cirrus or any supplier. To the contrary, please continue to address all items of concern. If you have issues with us, the aircraft, any component or just flying, please us the forums to bring them to light.
If you are concerned about retribution due to a post an opinion or fact on the Forum, please feel free to conventionally email email@example.com to submit a question. If you want to remain anonymous, indicate this in your email and our Technical Liaisons and Medical Experts will ensure that your name is not reflected on the web site. We try to investigate and answer all questions which we feel will have interest to our members. If you submit a question, you will also get a personal reply.
Thank you all for continued suggestions.