THE EDITOR of a popular gaelic games website and discussion forum, An Fear Rua, has decided to close the site after 12 years – saying he no longer believes anonymous online forums are a viable prospect.
Liam Cahill announced the immediate closure of the website with a post this morning, saying he had decided to end his “labour of love” due to financial and legal constraints.
“An anonymous internet forum is an anachronism. It has been overtaken by the arrival of ‘open identity’ forums such as Twitter and Facebook,” Cahill wrote.
“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.”
He added that he was no longer prepared “to walk the tight rope between an open, anonymous forum like this and the libel laws” – commenting that the comments of some users had “sailed far too close to the wire” in recent times and this could not be continued.
He also criticised the attitude of a ‘growing minority’ of the site’s users, which he argued were unappreciative of the legal requirements placed on online publishers:
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.
Cahill also cited financial constraints in his decision to shut the site, saying it had made a loss every year since its inception and that sustained attempts to find advertising had been unsuccessful.
The site, founded in 2000, was a well-known online hangout for discussion of gaelic games at all levels, and content from the site’s columnists had become an occasional feature in official GAA match programmes over the last decade. The site was also a member of the Press Council of Ireland.
Cahill, a former journalist who now works as a communications and media consultant, was unavailable for additional comment this morning.