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The Contender
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Psychology Forums Should be Regulated by the Government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,614 times Debate No: 31331
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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In contrast to most internet traffic, psychology forums deal with disturbed personalities who are looking for assistance. Allowing such forums to exist like ordinary forums does not protect the disturbed who can be marginally provoked into joining due to desperation. Therefore, when trolling happens on these forums, it is particularly heinous.

Any administrators or owners of said websites who tolerate trolling in the slightest should be personally charged as criminals on the basis of fraud, misrepresentation, intimidation, provocation, duress, etc. They are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the disturbed and desperate.

My opposition might say that trolling is subjective, but psychologists hold themselves to high standards already. Ergo, it should be understandable what trolling really is on these forums.


I accept the challenge and thank my opponent for opening this interesting topic.

Please elaborate how these regulations would work and why those, who own a platform and may not know about the bad behaviour of certain members can be made responsible for the action of others.
I would also like you to prove that such communities fail to deal with trolls themselves in such a dimension that would justify passing such a law.
I will try and prove the opposite.

I am not going to challenge that trolling can be a problem in this case as this debate is specifically about mentally weak people that might require protection.

Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1


If you would like an example forum of administrative failure, I would offer this example (it's a link to recent threads):

The forum is administered quite anarchically with little to no administrative oversight. Users constantly bash on one another's anxiety in telling each other to suck it up and deal with it. The conflict of different forms of anxiety (and lack of evaluation to see if people actually have anxiety) is not mediated at all.

A better example of a forum ran with administrative responsibility can be found here:

This forum is far more calm and collected, giving its users the peace of mind needed to arrive at constructive solutions to their problems.

Regulations should come from a combination of ministries/departments involved with information technology, mental health, and media censorship. That way, we know that sites are run with technical, professional, and social expertise. If administrators are not willing to keep a close eye on users in this especially sensitive profile, it's vital that they not be permitted to do so at all. Otherwise, the desperate and disturbed of society will have no reliable way of finding refuge. This includes understanding that expecting newly registered users to accept any "terms of agreement" is insufficient. The desperate and disturbed are equal to victims in a torture cell. They are willing to do anything to get help, even if that means clicking through material without reading it, material they might not even understand.

Instead, duty of care must primarily lay on administrators since they are offering refuge to those in need. If trolling happens after the fact, it's a quintessential "bait-and-switch" form of negligence where they were offered refuge, but couldn't find it.


I would consider the idea of government getting involved in self-help forums to be rather redundant for several reasons.
The vast amount of information that would need to get processed in such a manner would slow down the moderation process that already takes place in all respectable forums, and as I suspect in most self-help forums, by a great amount of time.
I also doubt that it would be possible from a technical point of view. But that's to be neglected in this debate.

I do not agree with my opponent's indication that self-help forums are particularly for the desperate and disturbed of society. Social and mental problems are fairly regular and those forums provide information to people who do not require professional assistance or get it additionally.
Such forums function similar to self-help groups in real life. They attempt to solve personal problems through a process based on shared experience in a context of mutual understanding. They do not offer professional assistance and the community my opponent proposed as example of a community that requires regulation does point that out. [1]

A community cannot replace a psychiatrist a desperate and disturbed person would certainly require and therefore it should not be treated as such.
They can hardly be considered a refuge for anyone under any circumstances either as they are virtual boards that rely on exchange of information in written form. Any other sort of communication is not available and therefore a comparison between a forum with an institution that actually offers refuge is a misplaced one.
Self-help groups in real life are hardly regulated either as they are usually organized by laymen. Joining self-help groups get recommended by many scientists. [2] [3]
Debate Round No. 2


There are a few problems with those considerations:

1) The forums are advertised specifically and explicitly in conjunction with psychological disorders. Social anxiety disorder, for example, is not just a self-help issue:

Acknowledging them as "self-help forums" would tolerate "bait-and-switch" fraud.

2) When "self-help forums" are run anarchically, they drift towards conflict. Different people need help for different things. It's important that qualitative differences are managed separately so they don't get on each other's nerves. Those who exist within secure self-help forums are not entitled to relief at the expense of those who exist within insecure self-help forums. One's disturbance is not quantitatively more important than another's.

As for technical moderation process concerns, the government could hire bureaucrats to focus solely on this task.

3) The desperate and disturbed of society are not well off. Their desperation and disturbance itself inherently prevents success, prosperity, and connections with social resources such as professional psychiatrists. On the other hand, the disturbed deserve access to organic solutions so they're not stuck on a vicious cycle of professional help. Therefore, they're in need of government assistance. The private sector cannot be left to correct the situation on its own because the lack of personal resources is an inherent market failure.

On top of that, people can be disturbed and desperate due to government neglecting to monitor dysfunctional households, school districts, and elsewhere in the public sphere in the first place. Therefore, from the social contract, the disturbed and desperate are entitled to specific performance damages in terms of government monitoring.

4) Yes mutual aid can be effective without oversight, but that aid is real. Forums are not.


My opponent's suggestion that forums do not fit into the self-help category because they can specialize in certain disorders such as social anxiety that cannot be cured by those groups alone is false as I proved in my previous argumentation.
I pointed out that forums are not required to have therapeutic effects, as they do acknowledge themselves (see source 1), because they are essentially about nothing but an exchange of information.
No self-help group that offers support for people with certain disorders or diseases such as autism, aids and so forth, may it be online or in real life, can go beyond the exchange of information and social aspects of a community.
They still posses a great value as the exchange with people with similar problems can lead to a better understanding of ones own situation.

Calling such a forum out for fraud because it offers help for a certain disorder is preposterous as they hardly offer therapies that can cure disorders. They offer information which they certainly provide and that usually for free. There is no financial loss which is per definition part of a fraud.

Having the government interfere with those communities will greatly lower their efficiency if the quality standard of a forum needs to be verified and then kept up by closely moderating the content of each and every thread that gets submitted.
A quick exchange of information would no longer be granted and many people would get deterred by the idea that the content of their own posts will get analyzed by bureaucrats that probably do not have a degree in field they are supposed to monitor either.

As for the relative few desperate and disturbed my opponent carelessly generalized as unable to connect with professional psychiatrists themselves: Trying to help them by monitoring online communities is a rather poor attempt. Other institutions such as schools would be way more efficient. Altering the current system and in a rather ineffective way to help a few is no good.
Debate Round No. 3


Con has never argued that psychological forums deserve to be qualified as self-help forums. The label of "self-help" is currently being used as a shorthand semantic. The dismissal of social anxiety disorder mispresentation is also insulting to social anxiety disorder sufferers who are one among many sufferers and don't deserve to be labeled as trying to take an excuse of specialization. Furthermore, no alternative disorder have been presented by Con to associate with self-help forums, so it would be appreciated for this nastiness to cease and desist.

I also agreed with Con that real life self-help groups can be therapeutic, and the matter of professional psychiatry can be helpful as well. However, the issue at hand has to deal with the integrity of services offered. The resolution at hand is about whether those services should be regulated, not whether they're ideal treatment for a condition. If a service offers social aspects of a community, those social aspects need to be sensitively respectful in comparison to ordinary internet forums. Yes, they can possess great value, but that value can be easily jeopardized by trolls.

Con also referred to slowing forums down as a problem, but if anything, slowing down said forums would be beneficial in order to ascertain quality standards. As it is, forums can runamuck, and that leads to short-term attention spans where issues are not really dealt with since traffic is so high. For example, clicking on the "new posts" link above will yield new threads constantly being created such that mature people with serious yet boring issues are overlooked.

Con is also very dismissive of the matter of inherent market failure. Again, mental disturbance prevents socio-economic success itself such that people cannot connect professionally. I agree that better efforts should be made to facilitate their recovery, but that goes beyond the scope of this debate.


Pro executed an ad hominem attack by calling me nasty. I am not going to comment on or return pro's attempt to undermine my position through insulting means.

The character limit does not allow me to address all of my opponent's points so I have to keep to the important ones. That does not mean that I am dismissive. I need to be selective. A discussion about free market versus market regulations would exceed this debate greatly.

The term self-help is defined as helping oneself by joining or forming a group designed to help those suffering from a particular problem. [4]
That definition is very clear and applies in this context, if my opponent wished to challenge that definition he should have done so before, not in the last round.

My opponent's claim that I did not propose alternative disorders that can benefit from online communities is a blatant fabrication as I did mention aids and autism, both incurable, as examples for disorders that do require a real treatment and do benefit positively from the exchange in order to comprehend their own situation.

Pro failed to define explicitly what kinds of regulations would be appropriate in his opinion. Whether bureaucrats would moderate forums themselves or merely keep a quality standard up through indirect actions remains unclear.
Considering pro argued that not only moderation would be slowed down greatly but also the activity on such forums I assume that he is not only in favour of governmental moderation but also a review of each single post before it gets submitted.
That would slow these forums down so greatly that they would become incredibly inefficient in the process of exchanging of information.
The amount of personal required to guarantee such a moderation is also rather impossible.

Furthermore no data have been presented that would prove such measures necessary in the first place. One single example has been proposed whose validity I find questionable as I argued in round two.

Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
You too mate. :-)
Posted by EgoDuctor 4 years ago
I thank you for this successful debate and wish you good luck in the voting process. :D
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