Thursday, December 09, 2010

Online free speech doesn't exist ~ By Phil Elmore

Phil writes about a subject that many people have had to deal with already. In fact, many of my conservative friends had been booted off such sites as one or more times for writing things that had "offended" somebody. Even I was suspended one time from, but was reinstated quickly for the fact that the person who complained about me had probably blatantly lied to's complaint department. But I had to write to the complaint department to ask why I was suspended. My theory was that it was a case where would suspend users first, and ask questions (investigate complaints) later, only when the suspended user requested it.

So, based on my own personal experience, I can assure you that Phil's point he makes in this column is completely valid. It can happen to just about anybody. It doesn't always take writing something that is considered highly controversial or that would offend the majority of people. It could just be that somebody doesn't like your opinion. That's not freedom of speech! And even though it doesn't mean that jackbooted thugs are going to come kick down your door, arrest you, and throw you in a gulag for what you write, it is still just as dangerous to our freedom of speech.

Online free speech doesn't exist

By Phil Elmore

December 09, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

As a freelance writer, I publish articles on a variety of topics, including expos̩ pieces on noteworthy individuals' political and trade-specific claims. One such individual, angered by my truthful article, filed a complaint Рnot with my lawyer or with me, but with my Web hosting company. That company's legal team initially seemed inclined to dismiss the complaint as without merit Рuntil they received four more complaints, simultaneously, in nearly identical language. My critic had solicited complaint letters from every registered member of my blog's feedback section, misrepresenting my website as a "hate site" and suggesting to my contacts that they complain to my host's legal department.

Overnight, I was forced to remove the "offending" material – which, in some cases, contained individual words the offended party didn't like – or face the termination of my account and the loss of my website. To lose years of work over something so foolish, without even the opportunity to present my case or defend myself, was disheartening. It also taught me a valuable lesson. Online, free speech isn't about the truth or about what you can back up. It is, instead, about whom you can threaten and whether you can bully them into folding.

Arguably malevolent front-page "news" organizations like WikiLeaks have learned this lesson. Individual conservative journalists like me have learned this lesson. You, too, must understand it. You have no true freedom of speech online. To fight for the truth is harder now than it ever was. The technology that gives us a voice and helps us reach an audience is itself vulnerable to lies, subject to intimidation and only as strong as the frightened legal functionaries whose job it is to protect your online services from imagined liability. Those people and those companies do not exist to protect you, nor do they care if you are in the right. They want only to stay out of trouble and to remain free of controversy.

That is the truth, even if no one wants to hear it.

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