Seventeen members of Ecademy - a business networking website - have had their accounts suspended following a row on the company's messageboard.
One member was banned for using the word "shit" while others were banned for posting messages in a thread which questioned the original decision. One member was even banned for making rude remarks on a different website.
Ecademy CEO Glen Watkins told the Reg: "A number of people have had their accounts suspended. We're currently deciding if we want people as customers of this business who are abusing management members - it doesn't give them the right to behave how they like. You wouldn't walk into the Institute of Directors and start swearing at people."
Watkins said the suspensions would allow a cooling-off period for all concerned. He hopes the company-appointed mediator will be able to sort the situation out. Company founders Thomas and Penny Power were unavailable for comment because they are at a conference in Switzerland.
Ecademy members who contacted us said the reaction was extreme especially since the site has previously included anti-semitic and sexist comments which were not removed by management. Watkins denied this, saying anti-Semitic comments had been removed in the past following complaints.
One of the banned members told us: "First they were accused of having false identities - despite many of them being personally known to management. Then we got this bizarre "Without Prejudice" email."
The mail said:
This is to confirm your account on Ecademy has been suspended and that the email you may have received last night was an automated one from our system. Please note this action does not in any way allege that your account and profile on Ecademy is in any way a fake or false identity.
Further to this action, Ecademy Chief Executive has made the following statement: "After consultation with Ecademy Mentors we have suspended a number of accounts as there has been an escalating number of debates with members who demonstrated their antipathy to the Ethos of Ecademy.
The blocked members then received a mail saying that a mediator had been appointed by Ecademy to sort the problem out. Psychosexual therapist Simon Halford is the man for the job, but he can't do anything until 1 December. In the meantime, paying members cannnot access Ecademy services and have to explain to potential clients why Googling their names returns a suspension notice from Ecademy.
Watkins denied the suspensions had anything to do with rumours that Ecademy is about to be taken over. He said: "It's not a clean-up campaign, the timing is irrelevant...There are professional standards we want to stand by."®