No, Ed, it's not your blog -- blogs are not private or personal
Here are some good reasons why blogs should not be regarded as private or personal and why arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments on blogs should be banned or discouraged:
(1) By no stretch of the imagination is a public blog a private communication. It is open to anyone in the world who has access to the Internet (this statement added 4:45 PM PST, 05-08-07).
(2) The freedom-of-expression right of blog visitors should be given priority over the bloggers' freedom-of-the-press right to control content.
(3) The more popular blogs have become major de facto public forums. Many of these blogs are dominant now because they got off to any early start and many of their bloggers are now playing "King of the Hill" by denying others an opportunity to express their opinions on these blogs.
(4) The "fairness doctrine" should be applied to blogs. The reasons for exempting other kinds of forums from the fairness doctrine do not apply to blogs because comment space on blogs is virtually unlimited and free of charge to the bloggers. Also, a person who is defamed on a blog should be given an opportunity to respond on that blog. Also, people can normally buy space or time in a newspaper, magazine, and radio and TV stations, but I never heard of anyone buying comment space on a blog. Hey, Ed and PZ -- how much do you charge for comment space on your blogs? Do you charge by the word or by the column inch? What credit cards do you accept? Don't laugh, folks -- people are selling advertising space on their blogs, so why not sell comment space? And maybe Ed and PZ could make some extra dough on the side by advertising that they don't accept American Express cards -- just like in the ads on TV.
(5) Blogs are being authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, etc.. IMO a blog that is cited by a court opinion becomes like an official governmental rulemaking public comment period in which all comments must be accepted. Furthermore, since court opinions have cited thousands of law journal articles and since law journal articles have cited hundreds of blogs, it is very likely that a blog could influence a court decision indirectly through a court's citation of a journal article that cites the blog. It is not inconceivable that a single act of cybercensorship could be the deciding factor in an important court decision. Since it is often not predictable which blogs are going to be authoritatively cited, it is important that all blogs that have a potential to be authoritatively cited avoid arbitrary censorship of comments. An example of a statute governing governmental rulemaking comment periods is 42 USC §7607, "Administrative hearings and judicial review," for US EPA rulemaking on air quality control regulations. 42 USC §7607 (d)(4)(B)(i) says,
(i) Promptly upon receipt by the agency, all written comments and documentary information on the proposed rule received from any person for inclusion in the docket during the comment period shall be placed in the docket. The transcript of public hearings, if any, on the proposed rule shall also be included in the docket promptly upon receipt from the person who transcribed such hearings.
and 42 USC §7607(d)(5) says,
(5) In promulgating a rule to which this subsection applies
(i) the Administrator shall allow any person to submit written comments, data, or documentary information;
(ii) the Administrator shall give interested persons an opportunity for the oral presentation of data, views, or arguments, in addition to an opportunity to make written submissions;
(iii) a transcript shall be kept of any oral presentation; and
(iv) the Administrator shall keep the record of such proceeding open for thirty days after completion of the proceeding to provide an opportunity for submission of rebuttal and supplementary information.
Of course, cybercensorship also causes big problems in fields other than law. I just used the field of law as an example.
The statements here about cybercensorship on blogs also apply to cybercensorship on Wikipedia. Like blogs, Wikipedia is also a major de facto public forum and is also being authoritatively cited by court opinions, articles in scholarly journals, etc..
Laws are nice, but all the Internet laws in the world are not going to protect the average Internet user who has neither the time nor the money to pursue Internet lawsuits. What needs to be done is to change the Internet culture so that cyberbullying and arbitrary censorship of comments are widely frowned upon.
Labels: Internet censorship (2 of 2)