09
Apr
07

There’s Too Much Free Speech Out There!

Especially in the blogosphere.

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Civility to the web? I’m more concerned about the NYT Fashion Department!

They want the system to be voluntary, where participants post on their site what set of guidelines they abide by.

What’s insulting about this process is that many of the big, mainstream blogs already self-censor (especially on the “right” side of the blogosphere).

As for me, I will let most comments go so long as they aren’t libelous, spam, or threatening.

But the biggest problem I see is that by abiding by these “guidelines” it could leave operators of blogs open to lawsuits because a comment wasn’t properly policed.

Suppose on Little Green Footballs, a blog which regularly has over 500 comments a post, has a comment on there that wishes death upon Fred Barnes (it’s hypothetical, don’t start looking you ninny!). And suppose Charles has posted commenting guidelines that say he’ll remove any post that is threatening. Could LGF then be sued because they didn’t follow the guidelines? So suppose there’s a flame war on Right Thinking from the Left Coast (something that happens often enough) and one commenter threatens another with a beating. If Lee is following posting regulation #4, and misses the threat, and that commenter gets a beating, is Lee culpable in the threat because he didn’t police his comments? Or is he liable because he didn’t alert the authorities to a threat he should have taken action on?

This measure of “civility” just sounds like a way to attack a blog you don’t like because of their political orientation.

The last bit of the piece is telling:

Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”

I have to scratch my head at that comment. Is he actually saying that speech under the Soviets was more free than speech in the United States?

Let me amend his comments. Civil speech is designed to communicate ideas in an intelligent fashion. Impolitic speech is designed to insult and communicate distaste.

More: Captain’s Quarters


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My name is Doc. Welcome to my blog. If you're visiting from another blog, add me to your blogroll (and I'll happily reciprocate). I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and live in Wisconsin. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. My email is docattheautopsy at gmail. (No linking to deflate the incredible spam monsters).

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