Decline to publish unacceptable content

Kos thinks women (well, specifically Kathy Sierra) whine unjustifiably about being harassed online, which is not a big deal, apparently. Bitch PhD explains to him that he is being an arse, as do quite a few Kossacks.

Kos and Bitch are both right about the unpracticability of some universal blog civility code, as I ranted about a bit in the previous post. However, unlike the proposed highly prescriptive Blogger’s Code, a simple statement that a blogger declines to publish unacceptable content (lifted from BlogHer) makes it clear that they are asserting their right to control their own publication as they see fit.

Pavlov’s Cat made a great comment last week at LP in response to my noting that “free speech” arguments tend to confuse government censorship with a blogger’s control of their own blog:

It has always totally bewildered me that anyone should use the “free speech’ mantra in this context, for that very reason, and interestingly it’s always the private-property cheer squad that seems to squeal the loudest about exercising their freedom of speech on someone else’s blog, which indicates to me a fundamental incoherence about their world view in general.

It also strikes me that many bloggers who proudly flash their libertarian comment anarchy credentials are simply too lazy to adequately monitor their comment threads. Bitch PhD alludes to this as well. Time on the comments threads is what it takes to ensure that abuse and cyberbullying comments are simply not allowed to stand. If one doesn’t have the time to do that, then perhaps one should either not blog, or at least not allow comments at all.

Choosing not to allow someone else’s comment on one’s own space is not censoring them (they are always free to say it on their own blog), it’s simply not publishing them. A commitment to the principle of free speech does not mean forgoing one’s right (and responsibility) to shape the content on your own web publication, including the comments made by readers (different bloggers will obviously have different thresholds for “unacceptable” and will explicate those thresholds as they choose).

In the end, no publisher is obliged to publish unacceptable content. Our comments policy here has been amended to make this explicitly clear.



Categories: ethics & philosophy

Tags: ,

7 replies

  1. Just last night I was discussing a similar issue with my husband. Here in the US, there’s been a recent brouhaha regarding some unacceptable comments made by radio personality Don Imus about the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team. He was suspended and then fired by CBS. Husband reported that yesterday morning, on NBC’s Today show, during an interview of someone about the issue, a newsdroid said (I paraphrase husband’s paraphrase), “Some of our callers have asked, ‘Is free speech only for black people?’”
    As someone who handles First Amendment/Free Speech issues for my clients, I rolled my eyes, and then had to explain why I was rolling my eyes. Imus isn’t being fined, sanctioned, arrested, or somehow punished by a governmental agency. His employer — another private entity — has simply decided that it does not want to have him speaking on its dime. And the protestors are doing exactly what the First Amendment/Free Speech provisions encourage — engaging in the vigorous, spirited public debate.

  2. I’ve been following the Imus stuff.
    I’m continually amazed at how many people can’t get their heads around the idea that as long as the government is not involved, then free speech may not be being listened to, and may not be being published, but it is not being SUPPRESSED.
    Bloody dogmatic libertarians.

  3. P.S. John Stuart Mill would slap the whole lot silly.

  4. Three in a row from me!
    Just wanted to link to metaphorical’s post, which is tangentially related, on the responsibilities of bloggers as we start to become more accepted as a new arm of the media.

  5. Teresa Nielsen-Hayden at Making Light gives out useful certificates

  6. Sorry, we’re way ahead of you this time, Dave: we got our certificate yesterday, and it’s linked to from our Guidelines main page and also a Guidelines subpage about TNH’s moderation principles.
    TNH rules!
    Thanks anyway.

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