• Forums: The hidden dangers


    When you look at a forum, what you see is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Beneath the surface lies a web of rivalries and antagonism that stretch well beyond the boundaries of the forums. Forum owners enjoy the sensation of power that being in charge of such an "organisation", brings them.

    It's not clear whether they set up the forums in search of power or whether it goes to their head very quickly, many forum owners and admins have very big egos and would go to great lengths to maintain their position, often at the expense of other aspects of their lives. In fact, some forum owners live their lives mostly through their sites and end up morphing into their online personas.

    WHAT LIES BENEATH

    Although in theory, forums are set up with the common aim of helping people, in reality, their owners tend to have their own agendas and, rather than working with other sites, they often work against each other. Some sites routinely criticise what's posted on other sites but, once more, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Some sites will avoid mentioning what can be considered "rival sites" but, beneath the surface, they will plot against other sites.

    Forum wars go well beyond the online world and can affect people's professional and personal lives, their jobs, careers and homes. It really is a jungle out there.

    DANGER ZONE

    Cuts to legal aid and lack of funding for law clinics and advice centres have left most ordinary consumers with little option but to rely on internet forums. While some get the help they need, forum advice ranges from useful to downright dangerous and it can be wildly inconsistent, even within the same site.

    Unlike review sites, forums are fully controlled by their owners and admins, who will swiftly remove anything that doesn't make them look their best. That means they will praise their successes but go great lengths to hide their failures. These efforts go well beyond simply removing content from sites, forum owners will do everything in their power to avoid anything negative being published about them and, sadly, the majority of people give up very easily, so there is very little we can see about bad advice, forum failures and troubles arising from involvement with internet forums.

    Anyone can set up a forum and, despite the level of reach some achieve, they do not belong to any organisation, nor are they regulated, and there's no-one you can complain to if you get bad service.

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