Over the years, PAFOA has grown from a small site run as a side-project on a friend's server to a very large forum operating at a scale I never imagined. In the beginning most members of this forum were just enthusiasts here to chat about guns, and I remember a time when most us were on a first-name basis. This quaint time in our growth has unfortunately come to an end in the last few weeks, and now we have to talk about names and identities.

In recent weeks it has come to our attention that an organized campaign has been initiated to "dox", or acquire and distribute the personal identifying information, of users on various online firearm communities such as Reddit, PAFOA, and others.

While we are not entirely sure the true intentions of the people behind this effort and believe it to be directed only at a small group of people, what we have seen concerns us enough that we feel the need to protect our users generally. As the founder of PAFOA, I cannot and will not expect people to expose themselves just because they participated on our forum.

Effectively immediately we are announcing a few changes to forum policies and rules to protect our members and our community.

Firstly, we are clarifying the rules around Sock Puppetry to explicitly include Astroturfing, or engaging in discussions around subjects you have material relationships to without disclosing such conflicts. This is primarily intended to cover situations where users are engaging in discussions around political candidates or businesses without disclosing that they own, are employed by, or have close personal ties to people who work with those candidates or businesses. This has always been considered Sock Puppetry, but this will now be formalized so there is no question that this is a bannable offense.

Secondly, we are also clarifying the rules around Sock Puppetry and having multiple accounts to explicitly allow users to have more than one account for the purpose of separating their day-to-day posting identity from the one they use to engage in activities that may expose their real-life personal information. This could include activities such as participating in classifieds, representing their business, and the like. We believe that every user has the right to engage in honest debate on topics without fear that someone will piece together their real life identity and take it too far. This has always been allowed, but it will now be formalized so that every user knows they have the option to separate their online and offline identities based on their own risk calculation.

Lastly, we are making the same option to separate personal and moderator identities available to any staff member that chooses to use a different account to perform their moderation duties. As a result of a staff vote, all existing moderators have had their moderating privileges removed and new moderator accounts have been created. The new moderation staff is a combination of old and new moderators that will not be linked to their day-today posting accounts publicly. All previous moderators are welcome to continue participating on the forum using their existing accounts in their personal capacity if they choose, but all future moderation activities will only be performed by the new moderator accounts.

Our moderators will continue to be held to the same standards and guidelines. Administrators will still know who is who should reports of moderator abuse be filed.

In closing, I want to warn every PAFOA member to be extremely vigilant in how you connect your online identities to your real life identities here and on the Internet generally. It is far easier than you may expect for someone with very few clues about who you are to piece them all together and end up at your front door. The sad reality is that there are people that you may interact with on the Internet who respond erratically to criticism, hold grudges, and may attempt to turn a minor online disagreement into a real-life crusade against you.

Due to the unique legal and safety concerns that serve as the basis of this announcement, we will not be responding to any questions surrounding these circumstances. If you have any questions or concerns about the changes to our rules, please use our contact form. We are happy to discuss the rules changes themselves, but again, we will not be able to discuss the situation behind them in any more detail at this time. We hope you understand.