Niles shuts down city Web forum

The company that runs the site wants to keep the forum going and is hoping for a solution.
NILES -- The community forum section of the city Web site has been temporarily suspended, and there are differing opinions about how long the suspension will last.
Community Homepage of Niles runs the site,, at no charge to the city. Mayor Ralph A. Infante Jr. asked the company to remove the forum section, which allows people to post messages, because of vulgar language, derogatory statements and what some people perceived as threats.
"That's all we need is someone who's thinking about coming to the city, opening that up and reading some of the things that are written," he said.
The site also includes information about the city, its history, schools and other attractions.
The company has posted a message to visitors informing them that the forum has been temporarily suspended and asking them whether they want the forum to continue as part of the site.
Want the forum: "I would say that they're saying 5-to-1 that the forum should stay," said Richard Hale, owner of the company.
Hale said he's met with Infante and other city officials to try to reach a solution. Another meeting is planned for next week.
"We want to keep the forum going but find a way that will satisfy the mayor and the city at the same time," he said.
Hale said between 4,000 and 5,000 people visit the site each week and estimated that only about 5 percent actually post messages.
Anonymous: The problem is that people can post messages anonymously. A subpoena from a judge to the Internet service provider would be required to find out the account from which it was posted. If the user uses a free service provider, such as Yahoo, there is no account information to trace.
One idea is to have users register to obtain a user name and password. Only those who use an Internet service provider that maintains identification information on its users could participate.
"We want to work it out so we can keep the thing going," Hale said.
The message board is reviewed daily by employees, but manpower constraints prevent them from intercepting each message before it hits the board.
Even if the company eliminates the forum from its site, the same problem could crop up on another site.
"We could turn it off tomorrow morning and as soon as we shut it down, someone could start another one the next day," Hale said.