Just in February Flight Sim Labs caused a real scandal because the company deliberately hid anti-piracy malware in the installation program of the A320-X. Now the development team is already under criticism again, after FSLabs’ marketing manager, Simon Kelsey, apparently wanted to censor critical comments on Reddit and threatened the Reddit moderators with legal consequences if the critical contributions were not removed. This is stated in an open letter from the Reddit volunteer moderators to the FSLabs staff member.

Addendum of June 3, 2018: Simon Kelsey has written a reply to Reddit, which we have summarized in parts. He also apparently wanted comments on FSElite.net deleted.

Flight Sim Labs installs file in Windows system folder

Background is that a Reddit user made a strange discovery three days ago: The A320-X installation program copies two files named “cmdhost.exe” into the Windows system directories “system32\” and “SysWOW64\”. Numerous users are outraged: Hiding files in the directory of the operating system is another “malware level tactic”, writes one user – many others agree with him. This approach is intended to trick customers into believing that the two executables are part of the operating system and therefore trustworthy.

Quick clarification by the developers

Flight Sim Labs reacts quickly and publishes a clarification on Facebook. The file “cmdhost.exe” is part of the company’s eSellerate infrastructure and communicates between the eSellerate server and its own interface for product activation. The file was developed to fix problems with product activation that occurred after the release of the FSX version of the A320-X. Furthermore, “cmdhost.exe” has been verified by all major antivirus software vendors and no new discovery at all. However, Flight Sim Labs does not explain exactly what the files in the Windows system folder are looking for.

One day later a Reddit user succeeds in de-compiling the questionable files. And he gives the all-clear – the content is by no means malicious. That could have been the end of the story. But things will be different.

Flight Sim Labs apparently threatens Reddit with the lawyer

Simon Kelsey has reported numerous FSLabs-critical contributions in the r/flightsim subreddit as “false and offensive”. Afterwards he is said to have written a mail to the moderators of the subreddit as “a friendly reminder of Reddit’s duty to remove insulting content as soon as possible”. Furthermore, the mail should say: “I would hate for lawyers to have to deal with this issue and I am sure you[the Reddit moderators, editor’s note] will take all reasonable steps to stop writing such insults”.

In an open letter: Reddit moderators settle scores with the PR manager

On this email, which is visible here in the original wording, the Reddit moderators react now in an open letter. “We strongly disagree that you[Flight Sim Labs, Note of the Red] welcome well-founded and fair comments and fair opinions,” it says in the introduction. Rather, the exact opposite is true, as the censorship in the FSLabs forum and the attempted censorship in the r/flightsim subreddite showed.

The moderators accuse Simon Kelsey of abusing the reporting system. In addition, the threats with legal consequences created a sense of insecurity for all people who want to express their opinions or participate in FSLabs-critical discussions. In addition, there are concerns regarding the manipulation of the voting system. Furthermore, some new user accounts have been opened in recent days that attack, insult or discredit other members of the community. All this would violate the Reddit rules.

The moderator team reminds Simon Kelsey that there are numerous ways in the United States and the United Kingdom to legally give alleged defamation to defend themselves. Therefore, no post that does not clearly violate the rules of Reddit will be removed.

FSElite.net also raises the hand

As this article shows, Simon Kelsey has also threatened the portal FSElite.net with legal consequences because the site operators allegedly had not deleted insulting comments. In addition, FSElite.net was asked to disclose personal data so that Flight Sim Labs could react directly to the allegedly insulting comment. FSElite.net did not grant this request because it violated its own data protection policy and numerous laws. As a result, FSElite.net was asked to defend Flight Sim Labs against Reddit, which was also immediately rejected. For these reasons, they now only want to publish “fact-based news” on FSLabs products until the development team has regained “the community’s trust”.

Public response from Flight Sim Labs PR-Manager

At first Flight Sim Labs had not reacted to the open letter. Instead, the developers announced a new feature for the A319-X in their forum. According to this, the Airbus is to come along with insect sprayers on the cockpit windows.

Meanwhile, Simon Kelsey of FSLabs has publicly responded to Reddit. He would have liked the moderators to discuss the topic with him privately and not immediately share it with the public – but in the end it doesn’t matter. Kelsey makes it clear that Flight Sim Labs neither wanted to censor anything nor delete the whole thread. Rather, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. This also includes not being exposed to false accusations or attacks.

Simon Kelsey does not receive a salary from Flight Sim Labs. He works as a PR manager because he believes in the product and the people behind it. He also writes that FSLabs’ action in February (meant is the malware scandal) was wrong. However, this scandal could by no means be compared to the “hysteria” that has arisen on Reddit in the past 24 hours. It goes on:

“I know that these events have hurt and betrayed many, and frankly I was one of you at the time. I don’t expect this trust to be easily regained, and I don’t expect you to turn around and say that you trust us.”

Certainly the second e-mail was aggressive, but Simon Kelsey also sees a lot of aggression on Reddit itself. And whoever distributes, must also be able to take it. One must then be prepared for a “robust response” and finally defend one’s own comments in court.
Simon Kelsey accuses Reddit of spreading fake news

As long as someone had the honest and fact-based opinion that Flight Sim Labs was a “gang of criminals”, this could of course be written. However, neither the company itself nor FSLabs employees were convicted of an infringement in court. If there were to be legal proceedings for defamation, the law would hardly support the user concerned in his assertion. Simon Kelsey continues: “Freedom of expression does not extend to freedom of slander and discredit without control or balance in any jurisdiction I can imagine.”

As long as criticism is honest and based on facts, Flight Sim Labs can be criticized as much as one wants. At the end of his post, Simon Kelsey accuses the Reddit moderators of unknowingly supporting the distribution of fake news by not deleting some apparently unfounded and defamatory comments.

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