For as long as I can remember, I believe Googlers, including folks like Matt Cutts back in the day, used to regularly visit the black hat forums and communities - including the ones that were private. But are they still doing that?
Well, at least Gary Illyes from Google says he hasn't been to the black hat forums in years. He said so on Twitter. Gary said "I haven't been there for years," referring to the black hat forums.
Here is the tweet:
Truth is, I only monitor the public forums - I don't monitor and cover forums that I cannot link to and quote from.
I'd honestly be surprised if there aren't a couple Googlers who are part of some of the underground black hat communities and monitor them on a regular basis. But I suspect Gary isn't one of them.
Forum discussion at Twitter.