The Definitive ATS Issues Post
As one might imagine, our increasing popularity and apparent success has inspired a degree of speculation in certain circles about our identities,
integrity, and intentions. Some of this speculation is based on old and error-riddled assumptions, some is based in flights of fancy, and others on
outright lies. Hopefully, this post will serve as a single-source resolution for these issues, at least for those with a reasonable degree of logic.
The Origins of COINTELPRO Rumors
Nearly three years ago, another conspiracy-centric website published a derivative work of one of our popular 9/11 threads. While this was in direct
conflict with our clearly-linked Creative Commons usage guidelines, we requested that they simply link back, and give credit to, the original thread
on ATS. They refused, and "flew off the handle" with a flurry of baseless accusations that were apparently inspired by this joke post:
ATS IP Traces to CIA
The "IP's" in the clearly labeled April Fools post were listed as 213.206.128, 213.206.129, 213.206.130. First, never mind that, at the time, an
actual traceroute to abovetopsecret.com
would give you the IP of 188.8.131.52
, in reality the stated IP's are not IP's at all,
they're class-C ranges, which resolve to:
184.108.40.206-255 -- Sprintlink UK
220.127.116.11-255 -- Sprintlink UK
18.104.22.168-255 -- Sprintlink UK
Clearly, fact-checking is non-existent for those who would like to cast aspersions in our direction. However, that joke post (with April Fools
indication removed) has been used hundreds of times by dozens of people as "proof" of our nefarious origins and resulting inspiration of COINTELPRO
We Are Who We Claim To Be
Part of the resulting fallout from the error-prone assumptions based on the IP-address joke was a great deal of speculation about our identities, and
that we are not who we claim. There's also been a round of new speculation that I'm actually in Australia or that "Simon Gray" never really
Well, we've been very-clear about who we are here
, among several other places. It's crystal clear that we formed The Above
Network, LLC which is a delaware corporation that accepted a minority investment position from a small group of SEC accredited investors. With that
mind, if we are not Bill Irvine of New York, Mark Allin of Oklahoma, and Simon Gray of the UK, that would be a serious fraud on two levels, state and
federal; one with the State of Delaware, and the other with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
We Do Not Monitor Private U2U Messages
Some people have made the errant assumption, based on a variety of reasons, that we routinely look at the private U2U messages of our members. The
fact is, nearly all "off the shelf" forum systems grant administrators the capability to review all private messages of any user, on demand. In
fact, we include this message below the form to create a U2U here on ATS: Please Note: Your U2U communications are subject to review in the event
we receive reports of private communications outside the boundaries of the site Terms & Conditions. Abusive private messages may result in immediate
However; how many forums, boards, or other user-generated content venues have a privacy
policy as clear-cut as ours?
In fact, it has contained wording on this very issue for some time: Members are provided with a private
messaging system (U2U service) as part of their account privileges. Every reasonable effort is made to ensure the private messaging system is
maintained in a secure fashion so as to ensure the privacy of any and all messages sent between members. Staff and/or owners will not observe the
content or flow of any private messaging unless explicit reports of Terms & Conditions violations are received. The private messages may be subject to
run-time content filtering (such as vulgarities) that is used to filter the content of thread posts.
U2U's) to take the steps to report us to the appropriate parties (in the U.S., it would be your state's Attorney General). It is rather serious for
We Do Not Owe To Our Corporate Advertisers
First, none of the ads currently running on ATS are from advertisers who have specifically bought space on our site(s). As we've repeatedly stated,
all display advertising is obtained through a variety of networks that distribute millions of banners to thousands of websites every day. The
advertisers in these networks pay very-cheap rates to be "filler" ads on a broad range of websites, rather than higher-rates to be targeted on
Second, whenever we have received ad dollars from specific advertisers (Paramount Pictures, Sumo Lounge, A&E Television) we've been up-front and
transparent about who they are and what the ads are for. Also, we've always audited their ads to ensure their ad technology and landing-page
processes are compatible with our own privacy policies.
Third, and most important, our Online Media Kit
as well as our hard-copy version contains this
wording: The nature of the content and discussions on AboveTopSecret.com may be provocative at times. While a significant effort continually
ensures the style and tone of discussions remain civilized and polite, the actual topics being discussed may not always suit every brand. We feel it
is important to embrace and encourage productive free expression within intelligent and adult decorum. Brands who also support such an environment are
surely going to benefit from the resulting perception. However, at no time will we accept editorial input, control, or guidance from an
We make it clear, up-front, that advertisers cannot influence the content on ATS in any way.
ATS Has Gone Corporate
Well, in a way, yes. However, between the content of our Corporate Site
on the matter, our gala
, and even our old post on
ATS = Altruism - Trust - Sincerity
, we've been consistent in communicating our
long-term goals. And nothing states those goals more clearly than the wording on our corporate site:
The user is no longer "in charge." One-to-one communications between brands and consumers is obsolete. The crowd has taken over with a
new collective intellect that surpasses any one expert. The dominance of the digital crowd is upon us.
We believe in the crowd. We support the free expression of ideas, information, hopes, and conjecture as vital building blocks toward a historic
degree of collaborative knowledge.
We support the crowd. We believe in the self-determination of the crowd and its ability to know how to express and recognize issues, ideas, and
knowledge of vital importance to society.
We know the culture of the digital crowd is one of collaboration driven by the ethics of sharing.
We enable the crowd to collaborate and share. We are above petty attacks, disputes, "flames," and personality focus. We aspire to higher
standards of conduct. We anticipate excellence of each other. We are the crowd. We are The Above Network.
The vision of our Content Ecosystem
requires capital in order to construct a system of
channels that expand on ATS and deliver our member's content to more people, more often, in more ways. We've adopted a corporate mindset and
business plan, in order to promote what you do here.
ATS Manages Some Types Of Content
We are ardent supporters of free expression and the free exchange of ideas. To us, nothing is more important than ensuring that the compelling
thoughts, ideas, and speculation of our members is promoted to the highest possible extent. But experience and the history of online discussion venues
has taught us one simple lesson, many people are not so interested in good ideas as they are a good fight. All too often, in other venues, we see
otherwise good ideas smothered in the back-and-forth bickering of ego conflicts, or the childish overindulgence of vulgarities and off-color
Over four years ago, we decided the topic was the most important thing on ATS. And to ensure that, we adopted several rules of decorum and a handful
of topics to avoid. For the most part, the "rules" are the rather simple common social graces we all use in real life, but which many tend to
toss-aside once online. So, yes, on a daily basis a variety of content is removed or replaced in order to enforce our desire for decorum and/or
restrict certain topics (drugs, hacking, hate, etc.). Unfortunately, some people feel this is "censorship," but we've never hidden the simple fact
that such material is subject to removal.
Clearly, our strategy has worked. Since instituting the rules of content and decorum, our monthly traffic has grown from something less than 100,000
unique visitors a month, to over 1.2 million. The amazing part is that over 90% of all of our traffic comes from non-member visitors who find ATS and
read what our members have to say. And even more important, mainstream news and media is sourcing our members in coverage of the important stories
that began here on ATS... that would never happen if there was swearing, bickering, and drug-related topics.
ATS Does Not Unfairly Ban People
People are always banned for clear violations of our Terms & Conditions
. Or, for issues
related to the very-last paragraph of the T&C:
This is a privately owned discussion board community. The Owners and senior moderator staff reserve the right to take action against any member
who is deemed to be devoted purely to disruption, whose actions represent behavior contrary to community building, or whose content is contrary to the
core ideals of AboveTopSecret.com. This action may include complete banning of your username and IP address.
From time to time, there haven been members that, for one reason or another, require an inordinate amount of attention from our site staff, but who
may not have had a gross violation of a specific item of the T&C. At this point, it typically becomes clear that such members are devoted primarily to
disruption rather than the topics on ATS, and their accounts are banned.
Unfortunately, misconceptions often arise from this aspect of managing ATS. From time to time popular members get caught up in their popularity (and
D-ego) and become a problem... it's unfortunate that this causes a disruption with an online circle of friends that had been developed on ATS... but
we must focus on the large majority of users and visitors. Others tend to think this type of banning is designed to silence their particular
opinion... but nothing could be further from the truth... typically, the intensely passionate have trouble managing the civility of their online
Often times, the reaction is that bannings wre "unfair" or part of "fascist tactics," but in fact is all part of our successful formula for
ensuring the topics get their due.
ATS Does Not Use Spyware
A recent question
resurfaced the issue of the phenomenon of cookies being
lists the companies (with URL's)
that could delivery banner advertising on ATS (but not all at once, usually only 5-7 are active at any given time). These advertisers use an item
known as a "tracking cookie" to optimize the delivery of ads to you, and the cookies contain no personal data
(but may reference whatever
personal information you may have volunteered to the ad serving companies). The optimization is typically in the form of ensuring you see a range of
advertising throughout the day, and not the same ads over and over. For more information on cookies and ATS, visit these threads...
The conspiracy of "tracking cookie" paranoia
ATS and spyware/cookies
Those are the top-most "burning" issues that tend to come up most-often... the first four being the most common, and now, clearly refuted.
As more "hot issues" are identified and responded-to in this thread, I'll update this post so that it remains as the single-source go-to post for
these and related questions.
[edit on 23-5-2008 by SkepticOverlord]