UPDATE 2009: We've relaxed these rules a bit over the past six months, but are now going back to a strict interpretation.
This became a hot point in a recent thread, and continues to emerge from time to time. Lately we've been admittedly a bit lax about one particular
aspect of the so-called "illegal activity" portion of our terms and conditions, and I think it's time for a clarification.
One topic that often sparks a great deal of interest and controversy is that of the discussion of illegal mind-altering substances... drugs. Many
members attempt to interject anecdotal comments related to person use or advocacy of legalization into certain topics, and become confused or angered
at our tendency to clamp down.
While I personally believe there are important conspiratorial issues related to the "War On Drugs" and related government malfeasance, there are
four primary reasons we prefer to avoid this topic.
Reason One: Automatic Filtering Systems
Because we operate online, where certain organizations may choose to limit what their users see, we need to be mindful our our "bigger picture
goals" of broad distribution of what everyone has to say. This issue is the potential negative effect certain drug-related phraseology will have on
our domain as automatic filtering is applied to individual pages as well as an aggregate domain score for AboveTopSecret.com. Our founder, Simon Gray,
is now a victim of this, as his employer chose to initiate such filtering, and he cannot visit the site or receive site email from work. I'm
currently working with a large filtering firm to help devise better contextual filters... but it's a long up-hill battle.
Reason Two: Overzealous Politicians
This has been a "background" issue for months, but is increasingly becoming a major potential problem any site that might be labeled as "social
networks" and is open to the involvement of minors. If we're increasingly seen as a place where "adult" topics are conversed, we could be forced
to comply with revised regulations regarding the confirmation of a user's age -- which would require us to make every attempt to ascertain the legal
age of all users, and proactively seek parental approval for the membership of anyone under 13 (but which may soon change to 18 thanks to the
overzealous and clueless legislators).
Reason Three: Stoners
This may seem like stereotyping or "stoner profiling", but the all too often inane chatter and personalities attracted by discussion of drug use
will end up detracting from our long-standing broader efforts to approach topics that are normally ridiculed with a new level of intelligence and
civility. Quality professional writers, researchers, and journalists with important information in our genres are beginning to be attracted by the
high-quality of material being exchanged by our members. The direct involvement with our membership if such experts has been a long standing goal of
ours. But people such as these will not be attracted to a place where certain types of discussions are known to crop up.
Reason Four: There Are Better Sites Than ATS
(Well, for those topics.)
There are well-established sites and organizations devoted to legalization and/or acceptance of certain drugs in many situations. Members who have a
passion for this topic and desire for change will do better to focus their efforts with those groups and sites, not ATS.
All of these core rationales can easily be applied to topics about illegal drugs, computer hacking, hate crime/racism, and child pornography.
Years of work has gone into evolving ATS to the point where it is today. A critical part of our amazing growth has been our rather strict Terms &
Conditions. We've attracted an amazing core of quality people with the ability to express fantastic and educated points of view on a broad range of
provocative topics. The hard work to get us here has been 10% ATS admin/staff and 90% members with nearly 3.4 million examples of a new definition of
what makes an expert -- the crowd at ATS. Together we're smarter than any one of us. Let's be certain that the broadest possible spectrum of people
have access to the hard work and important contributions of our members.
This policy extends to all sites under "The Above Network, LLC" banner -- AboveTopSecret.com, AbovePolitics.com, TinWiki.org, and
[edit on 20-9-2009 by SkepticOverlord]