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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blogger White-Outs

Upon perusing the many newly-updated blogs today, I come upon this "interesting" little blog:

Censorship By Blogger

In it, the blogger condemns our blog host's new "flag" mechanism, to report objectionable blogs or indeed, blog content.

Most of us probably raised a quizzical eye at the innovation, with immediate co-reactions.

1) Ah. Blogger.com is finally trying to do something about the spam
2) Ah. Blogger.com is finally trying to do something about the porn


I didn't really think they would be de-indexing, or removing blogs from their server, for the espousal of ideas.

Now, the blogger in question doesn't mention in the above-mentioned link why he had problems with Google/Blogger.com.

It could be, for all I know, a matter of copyright violation, pornography, or espousal of violence through the printed medium -- all of which have legal strictures, and conditions, no matter what manner of free speech we have guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Obviously, since the internet is world-wide, though the parent corporation is located in the United States, specific guarantees of free-speech are not so much in effect, protected by constitutions or international laws, as loosely accorded to each person blogging by that entity's own standards.

Being private, not public, it is up to each of us to determine what is correct, or appropriate in our blogs, given the guidelines we signed off on before joining.

Without specifics, it is difficult to weigh in adequately on what prompted my fellow blogger to launch this new forum on Blogger censorship.

He gives us some clues, though, as to why he finds this new state-of-affairs, troubling.

Google's Blogger is simply a service-provider.

In the same way that the electricity company has no right to tell you and me what to do with the electricity it provides, Blogger has no similar right either. Some commenters have pointed out that Blogger is a free service, and so we have no rights against it. But there is no such thing as a free service (unless it is provided by a charity).

For example, some newspapers are distributed free of charge in order to be able to collect advertising revenue.

Blogger is one of the many ways for the Google conglomerate to make a name for itself and sell other products and services through that reputation. It is not free.

As you can see, there is much one can discuss in these statements. Some of his commenters already mentioned that:

Only government censorship (at least in the USA) is unconstitutional. Otherwise, freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses. And, here, Blogger owns the press we're all using. It can make whatever rules it wants about what appears here.

Making the private versus public argument quite neatly, I think.

Another chimed in to say:

We have no right to force Google to continue to host our writings, no matter how wonderful we think they are.

Google has no right to force us to keep our work there, either, if we decide to move it or delete it entirely. You seem to believe that Google has some permanent obligation to host our blogs even if it decides doing so is harmful to its interests.

You can read his or her replies to both these rebuttals via the link.

But the blogger does mention this, as his start-off point to his reply.

I appreciate these thoughtful objections, but they leave me unconvinced, perhaps because our starting points are different. I never take the rights that powerful groups in society have arrogated to themselves for granted. Of course, not everyone sees things that way.

And this, unfortunately because one has to delve almost into the existential, is the crux of the matter.

Everyone who knows the internet, knows it is still very much a Wild West. Anything and everything goes, even if it's a question of time when even "workarounds" will be deleted.

(Say there's a pervert who wants to post quasi-child porn, but works-around that in the age-old National Geographic manner, of showing children in underprivileged, un-clad circumstances. Who's to say what are his true motivations, if he covers them up well)

I know we have some lawyers on Sundries, so I will let them weigh in with point-counterpoints to the topic of censorship on Blogger.

Doubtlessly, even if there are legal arguments that can be used in favour of privage censorship, some people have come to believe that the internet is the last bastion of freedom of actions, amongst them speech, as mentioned above.

Never, in the history of this modern world, have actions been completely divorced from strictures.

Even if government bodies did not prohibit certain speech or associations, private individuals enforced their own standards on their families, and communities.

This is PRECISELY why governments at one and the same time, increased vigilance, whilst allowing greater press freedoms as the modern age progressed.

Because one alternative scenario would be for individuals to become violent vigilantes, taking codes of private honour as exists in some cultures, and meting out punishment whenever they felt aggrieved.

Modern life is complex.

It's a parallel bar of dos and don'ts which, no matter how that complexity is explained to them, there are those who feel that something is owed them, just because.

Freedom of speech to me is qualified, by my own standards as well as that of my society's.

I am perfectly able to ignore, circumvent, or claim I have rights beyond that which the law says I do, but the consequences that follow are beyond my control.

This is ultimately the problem in this matter, for which, no easy solution exists.

It's about expectations and world view.

And a sense of proportion.

For at the very end of the blog, he posts photo reproductions Nazi book burnings.

Google = Nazi Germany

Yeah, I'll buy that.

4 Comments:

  • The good man has not a leg to stand on from a legal standpoint. Blogger's terms of service are pretty clear. (I'll quote relevant passages below). Essentially they say "play nice, or we shall delist you". You have to agree to these terms before signing up. Now there have been many cases dealing with such 'clickwrap' agreements, and they are generally cosidered to be enforceable, if they are not 'unconscionable' - a profoundly mushy category, but whatever.

    I don't think the TOS are unconscionable for three reasons: 1. The terms are pretty reasonable on their face "be nice, don't break the law." 2. The service is free. 3. You have plenty of other blogging options.

    6b. CONTENT RESPONSIBILITY Member acknowledges and agrees that Pyra neither endorses the contents of any Member communications nor assumes responsibility for any threatening, libelous, obscene, harassing or offensive material contained therein, any infringement of third party intellectual property rights arising therefrom or any crime facilitated thereby.

    and

    12. MEMBER CONDUCT Member is solely responsible for the contents of his or her transmissions through the Service. Member's use of the Service is subject to all applicable local, state, national and international laws and regulations.

    Member agrees: (1) to comply with US law regarding the transmission of technical data exported from the United States through the Service; (2) not to use the Service for illegal purposes; (3) not to interfere or disrupt networks connected to the Service; and (4) to comply with all regulations, policies and procedures of networks connected to the Service.

    The Service makes use of the Internet to send and receive certain messages; therefore, Member's conduct is subject to Internet regulations, policies and procedures. Member will not use the Service for chain letters, junk mail, spamming or any use of distribution lists to any person who has not given specific permission to be included in such a process.

    Member agrees not to transmit through the Service any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, or harmful material of any kind or nature. Member further agrees not to transmit any material that encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any applicable local, state, national or international law or regulation. Attempts to gain unauthorized access to other computer systems are prohibited.

    Member shall not interfere with another Member's use and enjoyment of the Service or another entity's use and enjoyment of similar services.

    Pyra may, at its sole discretion, immediately terminate Service should Member's conduct fail to conform with these terms and conditions of the BTS.

    By Blogger Pooh, at Sun Dec 18, 03:44:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Layman speaking: All individuals will be governed by the group in which we choose to live. Here they can only be changed, should conversation fail, by the judicial process.
    In this case, Blogger wrote the rules, we accepted their rules in order to blog and/or comment using their service. Even establishing your private domain with a DNS server has rules.
    Is this too simplistic? Again?

    By Blogger Paul, at Sun Dec 18, 04:28:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Generally, you are right Paul, but there have been special rules developed for dealing with lenghty form contracts when it was (wisely, IMO) decided that assuming that the consumer read every word of what they were 'agreeing' to is unrealistic.

    Because they put us in a 'take it or leave it' position, they are somewhat constrained in what they can demand from us.

    By Blogger Pooh, at Mon Dec 19, 02:55:00 am GMT-5  

  • Thanks, Pooh.
    His Electric analogy didn't seem very good in that it is a regulated utility that really has no choice except to provide us electricity, assuming they've accepted responsibility for furnishing that area and that I'm able to pay.
    I don't think Blogger, because of a plethora of choices, has that same duty.
    As far as reading the agreements, I have actually succeeding in doing that once or twice but always swear that I'll never do it again. And usually don't.

    By Blogger Paul, at Mon Dec 19, 10:03:00 am GMT-5  

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