Financial pressure closes An Fear Rua site
GAELIC GAMES:ONE OF the oldest and most popular GAA discussion boards has closed down. A closure notice was published yesterday morning on the An Fear Rua site.
Liam Cahill, the former RTÉ journalist and well-known communications and public affairs consultant, who established the site 12 years ago this month, said that financial pressures had played a part, as had the growing difficulty of policing defamation issues on what was still an anonymous discussion forum.
Talking to The Irish Times, Cahill said the effort required to keep anfearrua.comcompliant was now too great.
“I’ve been fortunate enough not to be sued over the 12 years, although there were a couple of incidents where libels published elsewhere were copied and pasted onto the forum. But to keep going I’d have needed the membership collectively to accept that they had a responsibility in this but that has proved impossible.
“We relied on volunteers monitoring the discussions. I have a law degree and perhaps if I was able to spend enough time in front of the screen each day I’d be able to patrol the pages, but there just isn’t that sort of money in the website. I have to work for a living. At best we came close to covering the running costs but since the boom ended advertising has fallen.”
In an interview with this newspaper in January 2007 he emphasised that there wasn’t any guarantee against trouble. “You watch as much as you can,” he said, “but often it can be the 41st posting on a thread that goes mad after 40 perfectly reasonable ones.”
According to Cahill, he will maintain the “Content Zone” of the site for the immediate future, although that constitutes a smaller proportion of the traffic, 20 per cent, than the discussion board.
“An anonymous internet forum is an anachronism,” he said in his statement. “It has been overtaken by the arrival of ‘open identity’ forums such as Twitter and Facebook. This model of internet comment is no longer viable, if the comment is to be within the law at all times as well as the bounds of good taste.”
Saying that the project had cost him around €150,000 over the 12 years, Cahill added: “I have never made more than €10,000 a year on average in advertising revenue, despite trying the services of five or six ad selling agencies. It is simply not possible to make this site a paying proposition.”
The statement is critical of the behaviour of a minority of site members: “There is a sense that they can just register under a pseudonym, pay nothing towards the upkeep of the site or towards an insurance against libel matched by a total lack of any attempt to even understand – let alone accept – that I have a right, and a duty, to administer this site in accordance with the law and in the interests of everyone who used it.”