XenForo revokes KiwiFarms' license

TrixieTang

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I was browsing XenForo.com today and came across this thread about KiwiFarms' XF license being revoked.

For those who aren't aware, KiwiFarms is a site that documents internet drama and "lolcows" (people are so crazy or who react so over-the-top to being trolled that they can be milked for their "lulz"). Generally this means finding people who act like idiots online and mocking/insulting them, but sometimes it can escalate into members actively harassing/baiting people offsite.

The following is from the admin/owner of KiwiFarms:

Joshua "Null" Moon said:
Long-time friend of the forum Samuel Collingwood Smith emailed some more threats to XenForo and they discontinued our license. If you don't know, Sam has been the primary actor in trying to deplatform the site for more than 6 years now. He has been quiet for a while but has always been looking for opportunities to insert himself in our affairs.

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The guy who contacted XenForo, Samuel Collingwood Smith a.k.a Vordrak a.k.a. Matthew Hopkins The Witchfinder General is a former Tory politician who's been in a dumb internet feud with KiwiFarms and Encyclopedia Dramatica (a similar site) for at least 5 years now. He's also gloating over on his blog about getting their license revoked.

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From what I understand, he has also used this same blog of his to insult, mock and demean rival politicians and talk about petty internet drama - incredibly ironic considering that that's basically what he's mad at KiwiFarms for doing.

Regardless of whether KiwiFarms' content was offensive, rude and generally just unpleasant garbage, I find it extremely worrying that XenForo would, at the urging of someone who had a clear personal beef with the site, take the step of revoking their license. It really evokes memories of that time in 2006 when Pirate Reports revoked HongFire's vBulletin license because of moral objections to some of the content on that site. That situation ended with the license being reinstated after outcry on Digg.

I have been planning on starting a new forum, and I have been planning on using XenForo, but this whole situation makes me question that choice a bit. What's to stop XenForo from revoking my license if a competitor or disgruntled member goes to them crying about some "objectionable content" on my site? And will that person have even more sway if they happen to be a politician, celebrity or someone else of perceived status?
 
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John H20

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I was browsing XenForo.com today and came across this thread about KiwiFarms' XF license being revoked.

For those who aren't aware, KiwiFarms is a site that documents internet drama and "lolcows" (people are so crazy or who react so over-the-top to being trolled that they can be milked for their "lulz"). Generally this means finding people who act like idiots online and mocking/insulting them, but sometimes it can escalate into members actively harassing/baiting people offsite.

The following is from the admin/owner of KiwiFarms:



The guy who contacted XenForo, Samuel Collingwood Smith a.k.a Vordrak a.k.a. Matthew Hopkins The Witchfinder General is a former Tory politician who's been in a dumb internet feud with KiwiFarms and Encyclopedia Dramatica (a similar site) for at least 5 years now. He's also gloating over on his blog about getting their license revoked.

View attachment 55592

From what I understand, he has also used this same blog of his to insult, mock and demean rival politicians and talk about petty internet drama - incredibly ironic considering that that's basically what he's mad at KiwiFarms for doing.

Regardless of whether KiwiFarms' content was offensive, rude and generally just unpleasant garbage, I find it extremely worrying that XenForo would, at the urging of someone who had a clear personal beef with the site, take the step of revoking their license. It really evokes memories of that time in 2006 when Pirate Reports revoked HongFire's vBulletin license because of moral objections to some of the content on that site. That situation ended with the license being reinstated after outcry on Digg.

I have been planning on starting a new forum, and I have been planning on using XenForo, but this whole situation makes me question that choice a bit. What's to stop XenForo from revoking my license if a competitor or disgruntled member goes to them crying about some "objectionable content" on my site? And will that person have even more sway if they happen to be a politician, celebrity or someone else of perceived status?
Sounds just as appalling a possiblity as I suspected. I didn't even know they could revoke a license, but I guess maybe I should have. Certainly not something I've ever heard of happening till now, however.

Okay, so this raises the following questions:

1. What did I tell you people?

2. What did I tell you people?

3. What did I tell you people?

And finally:

4. What did I tell you people?

And for those who made snide remarks over there, no I'm certainly not within a mile of dumb enough to dream anyone will actually do anything but double down and make excuses for this item here.

And that, Internet friends, is exactly the kind of thing I'm concerned about if these "popular" and otherwise desirable paid platforms were to be used. No doubt it will be claimed this was entirely justified, however (of course).

And that means - the free software platforms, despite any real or perceived deficiencies, are for now looking like the far more safe options in the long run - sadly and unfortunately.

Sick. Just like the kind of sick and appalling (and partisan) "deplatforming" censorship and suppression under a pretense and pretext of righteousness (along with a mountainous side dose of hypocrisy and double standards) that has gone on here in the US.
 
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Pete

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XenForo is just following English law on the matter. For them not to act upon reports of such actually exposes them to legal liability themselves of enabling hate speech in the UK where they are based. We all know this is insane but “the law is an ass” is a saying here for adequate reason.

I‘d note that IPS has a similar restriction (though buried in more lawyerese, and finessed for the US market). So does Woltlab, though theirs is slanted from a German perspective.

Shock, horror, companies ensure their products comply with local laws and to avoid association with disreputabke sites. I’d certainly not want anything I built to be used by KiwiFarms.
 

dtdesign

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So does Woltlab, though theirs is slanted from a German perspective.
For the record: Unless the customer violates the license agreement, we do not nullify/invalidate licenses. (*)

(*) The managed hosting is a bit of a different story, because in that case we are acting as a service provider and as such fall under certain other laws. But this isn't much different from a hosting company, so it's not really a surprise.

Shock, horror, companies ensure their products comply with local laws and to avoid association with disreputabke sites. I’d certainly not want anything I built to be used by KiwiFarms.
Without going too much into German law, we cannot dictate what our software is being used for. (Disclaimer: This is a bit of an oversimplification, the full picture is much more complicated and nuanced.) (*)

(*) Again, the managed hosting is an exception once more for the aforementioned reasons, plus we do not permit certain content, such as "adult content" (You really don't want to venture into that rabbit hole as a company if you don't have to!).
 
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vikvaliant

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For those who aren't aware, KiwiFarms is a site that documents internet drama and "lolcows" (people are so crazy or who react so over-the-top to being trolled that they can be milked for their "lulz"). Generally this means finding people who act like idiots online and mocking/insulting them, but sometimes it can escalate into members actively harassing/baiting people offsite.
The Wikipedia page for this site has all the above, but also adds...

"Harassment stemming from Kiwi Farms has been implicated in the suicides of three people targeted by users of the site."

 

Pete

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For the record: Unless the customer violates the license agreement, we do not nullify/invalidate licenses. (*)

(*) The managed hosting is a bit of a different story, because in that case we are acting as a service provider and as such fall under certain other laws. But this isn't much different from a hosting company, so it's not really a surprise.


Without going too much into German law, we cannot dictate what our software is being used for. (Disclaimer: This is a bit of an oversimplification, the full picture is much more complicated and nuanced.) (*)

(*) Again, the managed hosting is an exception once more for the aforementioned reasons, plus we do not permit certain content, such as "adult content" (You really don't want to venture into that rabbit hole as a company if you don't have to!).
Ah, my bad, I saw the footer link for “general terms and conditions” and didn’t immediately spot it was for Cloud rather than self-hosted. (I assumed “Rental” was for the cloud part.)

But also I couldn’t quickly find the actual licence for the software itself (on mobile at time of posting) to verify.

That said though it still goes with my general statement that companies build products aligned to their country’s law.
 

dtdesign

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(I assumed “Rental” was for the cloud part.)

But also I couldn’t quickly find the actual licence for the software itself (on mobile at time of posting) to verify.
The purchasable licenses are actually rental licenses: https://www.woltlab.com/rental-conditions/. They work pretty much like licenses from XenForo or Invision Community, the different wording has legal reasons.

We have different laws in Germany for making business with consumers, for example, all prices shown on our website must be including VAT. This is a bit of a competitive disadvantage, but it is what it is.

That said though it still goes with my general statement that companies build products aligned to their country’s law.
To some degree, yes. But then again, if you purchase the software from us and run a site that contains content that is illegal in your country, then we legally cannot invalidate your license because of that. It is your property and unless you violate the license agreement, we cannot take it away from you whatsoever.
 

Pete

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That being the case you might find yourself with some new customers.
 

Nev_Dull

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I have been planning on starting a new forum, and I have been planning on using XenForo, but this whole situation makes me question that choice a bit. What's to stop XenForo from revoking my license if a competitor or disgruntled member goes to them crying about some "objectionable content" on my site? And will that person have even more sway if they happen to be a politician, celebrity or someone else of perceived status?
That's always a risk, however small, when using licensed software. I don't know if most of the companies have an appeal process or not, but barring that, there is some solace in knowing they have no ability to actually prevent you from using the current software.

The case is odd. If it were me, I'd be going after the hosting company rather than the software vendor, but perhaps he did and was rejected. I suspect all that was accomplished here was to give the site another target.

This may be a wee bit petty, but should something like this happen and the vendor revokes the licence because of a complaint or their political/moral/religious stance, one could always remove their branding in response.
 

Russ

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This was addressed by XenForo:

You undertake to ensure that the Software is not used by You or others to engage in or promote: illegal activity; any activity that would violate the rights of third parties; defamation, discrimination, harassment, hatred or harm of third parties.

Probably the kicker for them. This isn't a case of someone wanted the site gone and XenForo listened to them, it was reported and they looked into the report.
 

Hostboard

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This was addressed by XenForo:



Probably the kicker for them. This isn't a case of someone wanted the site gone and XenForo listened to them, it was reported and they looked into the report.

But illegal where? Where the host is? Where the owner lives? Where the software company that developed the software is? And if it was "illegal" why were the authorities not involved? Why was a takedown request not filed with the host? There are too many speculative questions that we are not privy to the answers of, in order to make an informed decision.
 

Russ

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But illegal where? Where the host is? Where the owner lives? Where the software company that developed the software is? And if it was "illegal" why were the authorities not involved? Why was a takedown request not filed with the host? There are too many speculative questions that we are not privy to the answers of, in order to make an informed decision.

What? I'm reading it as it can be any of those things will give them the right to revoke the license. I mentioned "probably" because I do not know what the final reasoning was. I'm just pointing to what's probably the most obvious when it comes to this site.

I only posted here because I recalled seeing this thread back at XF.
 

TrixieTang

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"Harassment stemming from Kiwi Farms has been implicated in the suicides of three people targeted by users of the site."

One of those "suicides" that they cite on that article was a guy who was never actually confirmed dead by any reliable news source, and the only "confirmation" that was ever posted was one of his internet friends saying it on Twitter. All evidence points to him simply leaving his accounts behind and telling his friend to say that he's dead.

He also tried to blackmail KF's admin into capitulating to him by threatening suicide. Which is kind of a golden example of the type of behavior that gets KF's attention in the first place.

Not entirely sure about the other two, but I find it telling that the sources on that claim only link to articles on the "death" I previously mentioned and to an article on Chris-chan's incest charge. Apparently one of the other two was only trolled after scamming people on a Crowdfunding site to pay for their sex change surgery... so I wouldn't exactly attribute that to KiwiFarms.
 

Oh!

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One of those "suicides" that they cite on that article was a guy who was never actually confirmed dead by any reliable news source, and the only "confirmation" that was ever posted was one of his internet friends saying it on Twitter. All evidence points to him simply leaving his accounts behind and telling his friend to say that he's dead.
Wikipedia references reliable sources which appear to conform all three suicides.


The US Today article:

 

TrixieTang

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Wikipedia references reliable sources which appear to conform all three suicides.

The "sources" all rely on a single Twitter post as confirmation. As far as I know, no obituary has ever shown up and people have actually scoured through the U.S. State Department's official list of Americans who died overseas and never found any actual record of this supposed death.

You cannot rely on sources when they all use the same Twitter post as "confirmation" of someone's death.
 

Nev_Dull

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Probably the kicker for them. This isn't a case of someone wanted the site gone and XenForo listened to them, it was reported and they looked into the report.
Likely more of a case of who made the report, if this was a known politician. Either way, the language of all those agreements makes it fairly easy for the company to revoke the licence for almost any reason. That they chose to do so in this case is in itself something of a political statement (or at least a statement of appeasement), since revoking the licence doesn't stop the site from operating.
 

Oh!

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No. US Today contacted Ginder's employer in Japan. It's in the article I linked which you apparently did not read.

Wayne Beckett, founder of Hong-Kong-based Datapower Development, said Near, whose full name was David Kirk Ginder, was an employee and confirmed Ginder's death to USA TODAY. Beckett said Ginder, who identified as nonbinary, shared that they were having trouble with bullying online, though didn't explicitly name Kiwi Farms. Beckett said the company offered to help Ginder, but they said they were handling it.

As far as I can tell, although the US State Department does attempt to record all injurious deaths of Americans when abroad, they rely upon others to make the report. They also appear to not list names of the deceased. And, they do report for the last six months. Data is available up until June of last year. But since this right around the time of Ginder's reported death, this is another point where the search might fail.


I am not stating that his suicide/death is an absolute fact. But the preponderance of the evidence so far indicates that it did occur.
 

TrixieTang

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No. US Today contacted Ginder's employer in Japan. It's in the article I linked which you apparently did not read.

It's kind of hard to read an article that's behind a paywall.

Thanks for the info though. It's the first I've heard of that.
 
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