MyBroadband banned me because I reported them to ISPA

To get the full back-story leading up to this event, you need to read Mybroadband.co.za censors consumer activism about Afrihost SMS- & email-spam first. The short story is:

  • As an Afrihost customer I responded to Afrihost’s support forum to raise my issues with SMS and email-spam
  • My post which contained consumer advice specific to handling Afrihost spam was deleted without reason by MyBroadband
  • Several subsequent posts were also deleted without reason
  • It turns out that Afrihost company representatives have moderation rights on MyBroadband and delete posts which are “unwelcome”
  • I reported MyBroadband to ISPA on 7th June 2017.

Today, 8th June 2017 I received a notification from ISPA about my code-of-conduct complaint against MyBroadBand:

The above response from MyBroadBand was disappointing as there was a good opportunity to resolve the issue of censorship without having to go through a full ISPA review. The owners of the forum at no point ever indicated that my posts violated any forum rules.

Since a full ISPA review typically requires supplementary information (such as a full list of deleted posts), I filed a PAIA request to MyBroadband:

When I visited MyBroadband today at 4pm, I was greeted with the following notice:

Yes, the ban-hammer came down. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the forum ban happened after the PAIA request and after ISPA placed the complaint on review. Be it as it may, the conduct of the owners of the MyBroadband.co.za website are absolutely unprofessional and unethical. Yes, it is their website and they have every right to grant access to whoever they wish, but running a public website as a registered company also places some responsibilities on the owners:

  • Comply with the code of conduct when you are an ISPA member
  • Responsibly handle a constitutional right in the form of a request of via the Promotion of Access to Information Act
  • Act professionally, honestly and with integrity

The drastic measure of a site-ban without a reason leaves much to speculation and strongly points at that the owners do not welcome constructive criticism and do not support the adherence to regulatory and statuary bodies. Irrespective of the ban, I will continue with the ISPA complaint to ensure that ISPA members comply with the high standards set out by ISPA.

Some people might argue, that MyBroadband.co.za owns their forum and has every right to ban people and it is a “privilege” to be part of that community. This is unfortunately not correct when a website belongs to a regulatory body such as ISPA (yes, it is strange that MyBroadband.co.za is a member, but they are – proof here) and such membership requires that members follow a certain code of conduct. When MyBroadband.co.za deleted my questions why my posts were deleted, they violated that code-of-conduct for those regulatory organisations they belong to.

Although I attempted a dialogue, I was not allowed the opportunity for representation, but was summarily blocked without an explanation. The owners of the MyBroadband.co.za website only much later (after all posts were deleted and hours before I was banned) misrepresented the actual facts (proof with screenshots is shown in the previous post):

  • The first explanation from Rudolph Muller (forum handle “rpm” and owner of MyBroadband) was that the post was not topical. It was as it related to receiving SMS and e-mail spam from Afrihost and the post I wrote was intended to assist people with resolving the spam issue as Afrihost did not allow people to unsubscribe. The “non-topical” post was placed in the Afrihost support forum where Afrihost employees have moderation rights.
  • The second explanation from Rudolph Muller was then that the post was not relevant, since I am not an Afrihost customer. This is also incorrect as Afrihost and their CEO, Gian Visser, have been very well aware of the issues I reported since 30th May 2017.
  • The third explanation was that, although my post was valuable, it was misplaced as it should have had a more suitable place in a consumerism section. This would have moved a topical Afrihost support issue into a really irrelevant section of the website where none of the affected Afrihost customers would see it.

The above explanations are really poor attempts by the owner to justify an action which was not necessary for no other purpose than to protect paying sponsors such as Afrihost. No open dialogue was afforded. This has again become apparent when my account was banned without notice or reason.

As a closing point, I will leave you with the write-up on Wikipedia:

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  • Where do I deposit money too?

  • rodentlover

    Wtf.You will be missed mate.

  • MrYuuZA

    You will be back. 🙂

    • Thanks – I am sure I will.

      • Frikkenator

        It will be interesting to see if he allows you to continue as your original username or not.
        In my case he refuses to even talk to me, at all, so count yourself fortunate that you managed to get a limited amount of interaction with him.

        But your experience with him is precisely par for the course.

  • Frikkenator

    Gerd,
    I was away yesterday, saw this today when I got my updates.

    It is actually a disgusting situation- a once, mighty and respected forum, reduced to being the online shill of any company willing to pay for the privilege. Afrihost, Vodacom, MTN, even Takealot and Multichoice it would seem.

    Even censoring words on their DISQUS comments. I couldn’t take all the credit for the sweeping changes that rung in the year 2017, particularly the BAN warning above the DISQUS box.

  • The One

    Lame – sounds like you got messed around for no good reason.

    And while I admit, it’s a bit of a distraction from the main point. On the topic of ethics, I hope you didn’t write that controversy section to Wikipedia yourself… That really sounds like it should be in the hands of a third party

    • Frikkenator

      The problem over at Wikipedia is that some motherf**ker keeps removing any edits made to the “controversies” heading.
      This has been going on since ’09 already and on at least one occasion I tried to edit the Wiki article, my changes kept disappearing.

  • Warchylde

    LOL, left Mybb a while ago when their articles became foul attempts of click bait. Have pointed this out on numerous occasions and have had my comments removed as well. The once active community has not turned into a pine pit for the butt hurt snowflakes who cannot deal with any form of criticism.

    • Frikkenator

      The thing is now, the site is marketing itself at multiple levels, and attracting the low-level stupid ones. How do I know this? Because people I know of, who are getting spammed somehow with their newsletters (yes you do NOT have to be a member to get that spam) are getting suckered by the click-bait.

      The site is no longer aimed at IT professionals. At most every company I have worked, you mention MyBroadband and you get either laughed at, or someone says “Oh that shyte website”

      • Warchylde

        Have to agree with you, it’s time for a new IT related South African site.

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  • Paul Hjul

    Only saw this little leg in the saga today.

    MyBB’s ISPA membership isn’t the only reason ISPA should ensure MyBB adhere to certain basic premises of integrity. MyBB’s content is hosted in country and is susceptible to the ECAs take down provisions. Now in my understanding of the law here is that there is no positive obligation upon a content host to remove content on receipt of a take down the safe harbour provisions loose efficacy on a valid takedown request and similarly MyBB assume (regardless of the terms to which a third party is not bound) responsibility for content that they fail to take down after a take down request is effected under ECTA.

    Because of the way MyBB operate posts that are made by you can be edited and individual posters can find themselves sued for defamation when MyBB throws the poster under the bus.

    So largely to protect yourself against later action brought by somebody (such as a company claiming defamation) a take down notice is a pretty valuable step. Expect delaying and obfuscating from ISPA.

    • I honestly miss your conversations & insight. My ISPA CoC submission covered various aspects (including TDN). As a “tech publication” MyBB attempted to argue themselves out of it in their ISPA submission by incorrectly quoting ECTA – uh well. The CoC submission was now assigned to an adjudicator and it will probably take 3-4 weeks for a response. The ethics of the company and their owners have become very questionable of late, but my CoC complaint was only based on their censorship.

      Your point regarding TDN: MyBB does not have a TDN process (and they also argued it that it would be impossible to have it due to the frequent nature of removing posts). I will share my full ISPA submission once a ruling has been made, but there are core principles MyBB violates to be exempt from safe-harbour regulations and would never enjoy the same indemnities as an ISP (in the most basic form, MyBB generates content and stores it whereas an ISP handles content/data transiently/temporary). I am sure I will have a good opportunity to explain all of this once the final ruling has been made and hopefully ISPA removes MyBB as a member.