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Free Speech on the Internet
April 30, 2013 8:48 PM   Subscribe


 
This was a very interesting article! Thank you for posting it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:28 PM on April 30, 2013


This is a fascinating article, the scale in terms of numbers of users, the complexity of the philosophy of control, and the possible impact on world events is almost unimaginable. And then we come to this photo and we realize that the fate of the world is in the hands of a gaggle of 20 somethings.
posted by HuronBob at 9:31 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm curious -- do people who support stricter moderation on forums (reddit, Metafilter, blogs, etc) also think that Facebook and Twitter should strictly moderate for bullying, flame-outs, hateful/ offensive language? Or do people think that Facebook or Twitter should not be subjected to the same moderation because they involve private conversations, or are an important space for free speech, or some other reason?
posted by dontjumplarry at 10:46 PM on April 30, 2013


if you're gonna invoke 'libertarian' as a smear, isn't it more 'libertarian' in the smear/ancap sense to support private companies' ability to remove peoples' shit by fiat and at will

also i like how everybody being ~so done~ with that lame "free speech" deal is threading back through the "preventing conflict" thing into the space of needing an absolute authority to judge things-- so they go ahead and literally use "deciders"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:03 PM on April 30, 2013


Along with tougher rules on hate speech, the European regulators are weighing a sweeping new privacy right called “the right to be forgotten.” If adopted, it would allow users to demand the deletion from the Internet of photos they’ve posted themselves but come to regret—as well as photos of them that have been widely shared by others and even truthful but embarrassing blog comments others have posted about them. The onus would be on Google or Facebook or Yahoo or Twitter to take down the material as soon as a user makes the request or make the bet that a European privacy commissioner—to whom requests could be appealed—would determine that keeping the material online serves the public interest or provides journalistic, literary, or scientific value.

For me, this was the most interesting part of the very interesting article. As a member of the Internet Generation, I've grown up hearing that we must be careful what we post online, because it can follow us forever. ("Colleges and employers will Google you! Search your Facebook! Find your Twitter!") Whether or not colleges and employers are indeed going to the trouble of sifting through the entire Internet to find my mistakes, the message is that I don't have a right, let alone a process, to have my mistakes be forgotten by the Internet.

I like the idea that I could have such a right, yet I can't begin to imagine how the policy could be effectively implemented. Maybe I'm not creative enough. But with the amount of trouble that Google and Facebook and YouTube already have just deciding what content needs to be taken down, how could they also enforce taking down the content once it has started to spread—been linked to in tweets, referenced on blogs, etc.?
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 11:22 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Insert joke about the expected success rate of a "right to be forgotten" policy by MetaFilter, with obligatory reference to the famous taters incident.]
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 11:29 PM on April 30, 2013


I'm curious -- do people who support stricter moderation on forums (reddit, Metafilter, blogs, etc) also think that Facebook and Twitter should strictly moderate for bullying, flame-outs, hateful/ offensive language? Or do people think that Facebook or Twitter should not be subjected to the same moderation because they involve private conversations, or are an important space for free speech, or some other reason?

Metafilter and other forums are communities. When you join you agree to abide by the rules, which include bad comments getting deleted, because it makes for a better community.

On Twitter or FB you can just unfriend or unfollow people who say things you don't like. It's not a community. The two situations are almost completely different, except that neither has much to do with "free speech," which is an almost entirely useless concept in this conversation (unless someone is proposing putting people in jail for bad internet comments.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:30 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


we realize that the fate of the world is in the hands of a gaggle of 20 somethings

The gaggle is merely the implementation crew. The fate of the world is in the hands of major businesses -- for which you are generally not the customer, but the product being sold -- and will be decided largely by what is in their business interest.
posted by dhartung at 11:30 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


...(unless someone is proposing putting people in jail for bad internet comments.)

Now we're getting somewhere!
posted by mazola at 11:38 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm curious -- do people who support stricter moderation on forums (reddit, Metafilter, blogs, etc) also think that Facebook and Twitter should strictly moderate for bullying, flame-outs, hateful/ offensive language? Or do people think that Facebook or Twitter should not be subjected to the same moderation because they involve private conversations, or are an important space for free speech, or some other reason?

What I would want from an ideal social network is complete control over my own space. If I want to post porn or hate speech on my wall, that's my call and people are free not to visit. I want robust controls to moderate my own wall and control who can visit. I don't mind being subjected to other people's rules elsewhere.

Get my own blog is the solution of course, but I'd rather be where the people are already and people can easily find me. The Google index is becoming more and more a mess lately.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:47 PM on April 30, 2013


Somehow, my brain envisions a new moderated Google+ and Facebook, where anonymous moderators take down posts that contain any non-sanctioned commercial hate speech and sternly asks the poster to not breach their terms of service further unless they are posting something related to hating a commercial product or service or promoting a different or preferred commercial partner or advertiser. All speech will be relegated to either lively debates on the value of shopping at Wal-mart or Target, and the only political discussions allowed will be to "like" a particular brand of politician, so you may be marketed to better by other similar brand of politician in your geographic area. Posting pictures of yourself are only allowed if a specific brand product is clearly identifiable by the services image matching algorythms, and thus it prevents any of those embarrassing images being stored on their servers, letting everyone know that while you say you shop at Wal-mart, you are a liar and have been sneaking over to the Target to buy your Q-Tips. The only other allowable content is pictures of cute things, since the terms of service allows the marketers to use any picture you post in advertising auto-generated content that they then display to anyone remotely linked to you through their Byzantine privacy system, which changes every 4.28 minutes, because they are trying to serve their customers better. Don't forget, YOU are the product, not the customer.

Happy shopping.
posted by daq at 12:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And then we come to this photo and we realize that the fate of the world is in the hands of a gaggle of 20 somethings.

It always has been.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


daq, if Facebook was too censorious people would stop using it. There are market pressures in favor of restrictive censorship and market pressures in the direction of laissez-faire. That's the balance the gaggle is trying to strike.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:20 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ataturk deserves better fans.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:37 AM on May 1, 2013


Now we're getting somewhere!
they say he screwed up his comment so bad he almost got lethal injection
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:24 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


@daq

did you just invent pinterest
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:30 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]




The company that has moved the furthest toward the American free-speech ideal is Twitter, which has explicitly concluded that it wants to be a platform for democracy rather than civility. Unlike Google and Facebook, it doesn’t ban hate speech at all; instead, it prohibits only “direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but: good for Twitter. Of course, I realize a whole gaggle of Europeans are even now getting ready to tell me I'm a dumbass American who doesn't realize that hate speech hurts people; I also realize that they are as sincere in their views as I am in mine, and there's no principled way to resolve the disagreement, and I'm afraid the anti-free speech views will win out in the end because they're doubtless a majority around the world. But just so we're clear: I'm very aware that hate speech hurts people; I'm also aware that values may be equally correct and fundamental, and yet in conflict with each other, and since a choice must be made, I choose free speech. The suppression of speech winds up hurting everybody, however satisfying the suppression of a particular bit of speech one feels is hateful may be. But of course that's a particularly American view. I don't know how to resolve this.
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am an absolute believer in free speech but I feel equally strong that there is no right to have an audience. Once there is an audience--whether it be voluntary or involuntary the right o free speech is moderated by civility and the right of the audience to privacy and the pursuit of happiness. It is one thing ( and is fully appropriate) to have a public space where free speech is absolute ( virtual or physical) but not every public space is/should be a free speech zone. I sincerely applaud the work of the "Deciders" for their work on finding that ever shifting and difficult balance.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2013


I must admit I find that kind of appalling. The entire concept of "free speech zones" is repugnant. And if your speech becomes limited as soon as there is a (voluntary!) audience, how can it be said to be free? You're free to say whatever you want as long as no one can hear you? Huh?
posted by Justinian at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Justinian--what an over reaction--you are free to say what ever you want to say, there simply is no duty to listen or be heard when the audience has no choice but to listen. And this can be a voluntary setting--public transit, park, elevator etc.--while there certainly can, and should be quiet zones, there also should be free speech zones. You are free to speak aloud and openly in many public spaces just as you should be free to sit in silence in many public spaces (libraries, memorials, sanctuaries etc). I happen to be a vigorous proponent of the first amendment but that does not negate the right to be an equally vigorous proponent for civility and boundaries. Just as you are free to print and disseminate your written words there is absolutely no duty for anyone to read them. "You're free to say whatever you want as long as no one can hear you? Huh?" No, you are free to say whatever you want as long as no one is made/forced to listen to you whether by default or design.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:38 PM on May 1, 2013


Except that in your previous comment you specifically said "whether it be voluntary or involuntarily". That's a very difference statement than this one, where you are limiting it to "as long as no one is forced to listen to you". I agree with the second comment, I just think it's not at all the same as the first comment.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought free speech zones too. A disgusting idea. The default should be a state of free speech and any place that has reason can opt out, but not public spaces. And if "public spaces" become owned by corporations, we need a way of addressing that so free speech isn't lost due to commercialization. Of course companies are going to prefer the path of least resistance. And it only takes one incident for them to become weak in the knees and bend to public (or advertiser) pressure. The "deciders" can be fired if they hurt the bottom line.

As for government bodies administering it, corruption is way too easy. Think Islam and all the things you can't say and express in many Islamic countries. Think the comedian that was jailed in Egypt over making fun of the president there. All it takes is the wrong party coming to power and you've set up the perfect framework to crush opposition in the name of decency.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2013


I think that trying to remove writings or utterances that merely hurt people's feelings from the greater Internet is a fool's errand. Trying to draw a bright line in the grey area between polite and unlawful just means everyone gets angry.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:58 PM on May 1, 2013


Metafilter and other forums are communities. When you join you agree to abide by the rules, which include bad comments getting deleted, because it makes for a better community.

On Twitter or FB you can just unfriend or unfollow people who say things you don't like. It's not a community. The two situations are almost completely different, except that neither has much to do with "free speech," which is an almost entirely useless concept in this conversation (unless someone is proposing putting people in jail for bad internet comments.)


Why is being thrown in jail the defining characteristic of a free speech issue? Free speech is typically defined in international human rights law as the right to seek and receive information without interference from public authority. Plainly, then, as per TFA, policing Twitter for hateful or offensive or anti-government comments at the instigation of public authorities is a free speech issue. Twitter has been and is an importance space for freedom of expression because of the way it has resisted such interference, as demonstrated in the Arab Spring.

As for your earlier point, you make some pretty fine distinctions, I think. You say that Metafilter is a voluntary community and when you join you agree to abide by the rules because it makes for a better community; but that applies to Facebook, too. It's just that the community is a lot bigger. You also say that FB gives you the ability to just unfriend or unfollow people who say things you don't like, but that principle doesn't apply in many parts of the Facebook ecosystem; for example, discussions with those who aren't your direct friends on Pages (which is where I suspect much of the political debate, dissension and organising happens). In short, I think your dichotomy of Metafilter=community, Facebook=not community is suspect.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:04 PM on May 1, 2013






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