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Is First Amendment The Primary Rule For Blogs And Newspaper Forums?

March 27, 2008

This past week I had to make a decision about whether to post a certain comment from a reader or not on this blog.  The person wrote a very long and highly charged response to a political post here, and made it sound as if ‘any means’ to stop the election of a person to the White House might mean more than defeating a candidate at the ballot box.  It was way over the top, and really quite reprehensible.  The comment was deleted. 

The comment raises yet again a most interesting set of questions in this new world we live in, as we obtain more news and information from online sources.  Blog sites are not the only ones in need of some answers, as newspapers that have online forum sites where the public can weigh in with conversation on a whole set of topics, also might be in need of guidance. 

While no one should have any concern about deleting the type of comment mentioned above, there does seem to be questions about other types of offensive speech.  I admit I have no clear answers to the issues that confront bloggers and other type of forums.  I do however have a series of questions.

For instance, how far should a blogger allow a person to comment on racially divisive matters regarding immigration when the words used are the kind intelligent people would not use in dinner conversation?  Should I allow a person to use the “N’ word here on my blog while commenting, when I would not want to read it on another’s blog?  Or in the online forum section of The New York Times?

Perhaps more murky and questionable is the role and responsibility that we have as bloggers.  Do I have a responsibility to insure accuracy (as best I can) over issues that have major consequences? 

For example if a comment paints Iraq as being responsible for 9/11 (it was not) do I allow that to be published knowing that far too many thought it to be true, and it added to the national mood that resulted in a war?  False information repeated endlessly has a way of becoming the truth.  Do I want to be a part of the echo chamber of lies?  We all witnessed that very thing, as we all know too well, and now continue to pay the price for being lied to as a nation.

When charges fly in hate filled messages about Barack Obama and his faith, and readers try to paint him as a radical Muslim do I have a duty to stop the lies since Obama is a Christian?  (Forget for the moment that religion should not even play a role in the first place when deciding a leader for our nation.)  Do I have a higher responsibility to the First Amendment by allowing dreadfully false comments to be posted, or to the facts about the man who could be our next President if we do not allow lies from preventing it?

If someone were to verbally gay-bash in a comment to a post should I have ethical qualms if I delete it?  Or should I consider all conversation to be equal and part of the larger dialogue that can now happen as a result of the internet age we live in?  

These questions have gripped me for some time and I have mixed answers.  Am I a blogger AND a gatekeeper?  If I am a gatekeeper then do I undermine the civil rights I champion when fighting for freedom of speech?

As we journey down the technology road these are issues and questions that need to be addressed.  I know that this blog is but a drop in the ocean, and yet I feel a duty to act in a responsible manner.  For the most part I have very few examples of the shallow end of the swamp posting here on my blog.  Most of that type are not reading my liberal blog from Madison.  But after the comment that needed to be deleted this past week I have a new found sense of  what many others deal with on perhaps a more frequent basis. 

I trust they also are concerned about the larger issues that develop as a result.

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4 Comments
  1. March 31, 2008 1:21 PM

    Well it is YOUR blog and it is quite possible for the commenter to start their own blog if they really need to rant. Best strategy is to think about your boundaries, write them down, and when a problem arises review what you got down. Maybe a poster will reach territory you could not have imagined, then you get a new boundary for your list. It could help organize your thoughts into coherent action and over time make the decisions flow, rather than each one being another struggle with conscience.

    Cheers

  2. March 28, 2008 6:13 PM

    Sounds great Jeff! However, full disclosure for the willfully delusional angry and insane simply does not exist. Placing a disclosure message on a blog makes the author of the blog feel great, BUT, most ( off-base commentators)who love projecting their anger upon others are addicted to such a behavior. It is the happiest they feel they will ever be. Why? Because they need to feel better about the depth of the pain they passionately hold onto as proof they are in fact inferior.

    Thanks dekerivers for allowing me this extra comment. Sorry if it seemed verbose….

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  3. March 28, 2008 2:09 PM

    Well, since the First Amendment only applies to government entities, you have nothing to worry about.

    What you can do is include a notice above your comment box stating that you reserve the right to delete any offensive or off-topic comments. That way you’re giving potential commenters full disclosure.

  4. March 28, 2008 1:39 AM

    “Should I allow a person to use the “N’ word here on my blog while commenting, when I would not want to read it on another’s blog?”

    I have found the answer to your question is “No!” You should not all a person to use the “N” word (or any method or manner of visceral verbage) on your blog while commenting. The person expressing such language is not expressing an opinion they’re projecting deeply held anger issues onto any given topic they deem a stage for their aimless fears. Hence, the reason SPAM blockers were created.

    Those who choose to use words that accomplish very little sense little purpose to their own presence on the planet. Expressing little verbal insanities to another makes them feel better about the disqust they apparently have for their own lives. When they say or write deplorable comments it is at that moment they feel their life is “the happiest they will ever be.”

    So, continue maintaining a conversation hell bent on learning more and more about life. Whatever you will to accomplish on this site will happen as you deem it to become.

    M.A.Tkacik
    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God
    Available on Amazon.com

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