City Council Forces Forum Offline; Claims Debate Should Take Place At Meetings Only

from the civilized-people-don't-do-online-forums dept

Eric Samson writes "The city council of the small town of Rawdon, Quebec (population: 9400) has managed to get a court order to shut down an online forum (French only) because its users were posting messages that were considered 'defamatory and detrimental to the reputation' of the elected board. Police raided the forum owner's house, copied his entire hard drive and asked him to delete the offending posts, and when he said he had over 8,000 messages to look through, they did not specify which ones were specifically targeted.

So he simply shut down the site.

Five other users, posting under their real name, were visited by police as well. The city's lawyer declared: "What we can't do in newspapers, on the radio, or on TV, we can't do on the Internet. This is the message we're trying to get across." The mayor had this to say: "Debate should be civilized and take place during Council meetings.""


Democracy may be messy, but it seems rather pointless to completely shut off an avenue for discussion just because some parties are a little rude. If any individual was being defamatory, charge them with defamation -- don't shut down the whole thing. And, to then claim that debate should only take place at council meetings shows a council that isn't just out of touch with technology, but with democracy as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Overcast, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 3:22pm

    Still makes one curious what the local council did that would make the citizens so mad.. :)

    hmm

     

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  2.  
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    Raptor85, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 3:51pm

    Google cache?

    anyone know the forum address? maybe the posts are cached. (I'd look myself but I cant get out to the site from here)

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 4:09pm

    god forbid he find a free forum outside the jurisdiction of the local police..

     

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  4.  
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    Ken, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 4:19pm

    Free Quebec

    English Translation, courtesy of the Big G.

    The forum was located at http://rawdon-qc.net/.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 4:35pm

    This is a well establish concept that 'public' meetings have to be 'public' and the internet forum is not 'public' in that it creates an element of 'anonymous'....and secondly, you would be surprised how many people dont have or use the internet, especially the less well off and handicapped.

     

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  6.  
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    Alfred E. Neuman, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    AC said:
    "This is a well establish concept that 'public' meetings have to be 'public' and the internet forum is not 'public' in that it creates an element of 'anonymous'....and secondly, you would be surprised how many people dont have or use the internet, especially the less well off and handicapped."

    That is a rather lame excuse for what the elected officals did. What's next ... you can not say anything bad about an elected offical - no matter whee you are.

     

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  7.  
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    Charles Abel, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 5:24pm

    The internet is 'public'

    In response to Anonymous Coward (the first one at least):

    The internet is public, and simply because it doesn't require or force someone to use their real name doesn't make it private. Here in America we like our freedom of speech, which treats the internet the same as showing up to a public forum. Guess that idea of freedom flies right over the head of you guys and gals up north.

    Just because someone is handicapped or don't have the internet doesn't mean the forum is private. I don't pay for your local newspaper, so its a private forum? Please.

    Funny though, that you would support the actions of the government in this action of restricting anonymous debate, then come on here and anonymously debate with us! Hah!

     

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  8.  
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    trollificus, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 5:28pm

    "This is a well establish concept that 'public' meetings have to be 'public' and the internet forum is not 'public' in that it creates an element of 'anonymous'....and secondly, you would be surprised how many people dont have or use the internet, especially the less well off and handicapped."

    Nice to know there's always going to be legalistic prigs to play off of. So...does this mean a group of friends at a coffee shop or bar can't discuss city business?? I mean, people who aren't their friends are 'excluded' from the discussion, right? What if they were at someone's house, discussing the council's actions? THAT isn't public, is it?

    Blatant suppression of VALID free speech (including insulting the council members, their appearance, dress, wives and official actions), and you are going to defend it?

    F'ing tard.

     

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  9.  
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    trollificus, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 5:29pm

    "This is a well establish concept that 'public' meetings have to be 'public' and the internet forum is not 'public' in that it creates an element of 'anonymous'....and secondly, you would be surprised how many people dont have or use the internet, especially the less well off and handicapped."

    Nice to know there's always going to be legalistic prigs to play off of. So...does this mean a group of friends at a coffee shop or bar can't discuss city business?? I mean, people who aren't their friends are 'excluded' from the discussion, right? What if they were at someone's house, discussing the council's actions? THAT isn't public, is it?

    Blatant suppression of VALID free speech (including insulting the council members, their appearance, dress, wives and official actions), and you are going to defend it?

    F'ing tard.

     

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  10.  
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    Cynic, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 6:09pm

    Obvious explanation to me would be that Canada does not value free speech. It would be ludicrous to suggest that free speach only exists at certain times and locations or if you agree with local town government. So in the final analysis it apparently is not guaranteed in the great white North. That will have a "chilling" (no pun intended) effect on any vacation plans I make.

     

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  11.  
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    DanC, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 6:45pm

    Re:

    "Obvious explanation to me would be that Canada does not value free speech"

    Be fair - it was the wacky French Canadians, not your regular run-of-the-mill Canadians.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 8:20pm

    sad...

     

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  13.  
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    Paul, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 3:55am

    I blame George Bush. What? Canada? Oh, nevermind.

     

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  14.  
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    JiveSucka, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 6:04am

    Correct me if I'm wrong...

    ...but isn't there NO right to free speech in Canada? If that's the case, this doesn't surprise me in the least.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 11:25am

    For the love of (insert favourite deity here)...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_Two_of_the_Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms

    "2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association."

    Took me all of 30 seconds to find it, another 30 seconds to paste it. And somehow, I don't conclude that every time there's a murder in (insert country here) that they don't value life or don't have laws against murder.

    This angry Canadian's going offline now to express some opinions regarding the ignorance of some of the above commenters.

     

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  16.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 3:47pm

    What if the forum were based in the USA?

    Someone with a little extra server space south of the border ought to offer them a new home out of reach of the Mounties.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 10:11pm

    Bordelle Que je suis Tanné des Québécois, ils se pense tous Mayeur que les autres.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Patriot, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 9:56am

    Well, yes and no...

    Well the mayor is right when she says that "Debate should be civilized and take place during Council meetings." That of course does not preclude uncivilized debate, or debate outside of council meetings, but official debate about city business should take place at meetings, and it should be civilized.

    Of course, taking down a web forum because you don’t like what te forum members have to say is just stupid, and as this Mayor is learning – counter productive.

     

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  19.  
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    Rob, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    And i thought our second class brethren were

    So i guess they truly don't understand the concept of free speech, and you would have assumed they were truly democratic, obviously not.

     

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  20.  
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    David Moisan, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 4:08pm

    Open meeting laws

    I belong to a town commission and in MA, we can talk all we want outside regular meetings but I can't go to my chairperson over drinks and decide business; that's for the meetings.
    No censorship here, though.

     

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  21.  
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    delos, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 6:24pm

    before making this an issue about gov vs little guy without knowing the history behind the actions of the municipality someone should,at least read the original news article (http://www2.canoe.com/infos/societe/archives/2008/02/20080208-060002.html). In this article one woman's name is mentioned in particular who was a contributer to the rawdon forum. This individual is a very special person who has spent the last 15 years or so using and twisting the municipal by-laws to her own agenda. There is enough evidence in the minutes of the last 10 years or so of council meetings to realize that this is not just a case of an iron fisted council quashing the real issues of people who have been treated unfairly. If anyone spends even a little amount of time researching this person and her various responses to different sites and articles on the net(mostly french stuff though)you will hopfully see through her veneer of a person who cares about animals and the enviroment.On the other hand i am also against the closing of the forum site because it is a public forum,and as such has the right to express the opinions of the users on it. However sometimes the whole story can get buried under the instantaneous indignation of a specific incident, article or posting. Did the municipality do the right thing? Maybe not, but after years of frustration and complaints about said person they must think that they have legal recourse to do what they did. sometimes The internet makes even the little guy's website sound as important as the big guys (if enough effort is put into it). But also remember that any person or legal entity has the right In law,to defend against defamation that makes a false claim, expressively stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism(From wikipedia). Enough ranting from me

     

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  22.  
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    Jimbo, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    "2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association."

    Ask Ernst Zundel and his bouts with the Canadian Human Rights Commission about how free Canada is. Ask those travelers who want to enter Canada with "banned" books that are confiscated and burned how free Canada is.

     

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  23.  
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    John Fairplay, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Canada

    Quebec is sort of toward the bill of America's hat, isnt' it?

     

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  24.  
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    Former Rawdon resident, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 9:54pm

    While I admit it might be annoying, irritating at times to deal with the same small group of unsatisfied people with an ax to grind at almost every town hall meeting, it is another thing to perpetuate a climate of mistrust that has dragged on almost ever since this administration took office.

    Last time I attended a meeting, only two people on the town side did most of the talking: the mayoress and the director-general, acting as MC and main provider of content, which I find odd given this is supposed to be a meeting for citizens AND elected officials (I don't see why an unelected city official should take center stage). Other councillors were pretty silent, with most of their lines consisting of either "I propose" or "I second".

    What people fail to grasp is that there is no culture of dialogue in these town meetings, with citizens often being talked down to and having little opportunity to voice their opinion (contrary to what happens when the meeting deals with minor zoning/construction derogations); the council doesn't want to have to go through the process of answering questions and incorporating comments from concerned/worried citizens. If the initiatives are so great, how difficult can they be to explain? :-) Things have gotten to the point where people can be considered out of order for ambiguous questions or comments and subjected to fines! (Isn't there a moderator/president at these assemblies?)

    I have browsed the shutdown forum a few times and have also noticed the schoolyard antics of many participants, not untypical of many Internet forums. I would find it very surprising if the 'tough' talk found within it spilled over into the real world; these people were mostly playing knights and elves against evil spirits and the wicked witch of the West! The name-calling and references was mostly hyperbole; you don't like what they do, what they say, you don't have your way, so they're Nazis! That's what it boiled down to. But somehow some people could not accept the fact that somewhere out there, in cyberspace, some people were freely voicing their discontent.

    All the talk was the equivalent of a pressure valve. If they had only put that energy to better use by creating a citizens' group or lining up some candidates at the last election...

    Attempts were made in the past by Town people (including the director-general), family of elected officials, supporters, to voice their opinion, defend their side of the story, provide another point of view. They rapidly found their way to the sidelines, unable to cope with the medium and the sugar-rush behaviour of its more experienced participants.

    Except for one, which didn't make the news and was the author of some of the most foul-mouthed, seemingly psychopathic postings, with many comments as offensive and personal as can be.

    A city councillor.
    A former city councillor to be precise.
    But not one that had fallen out of favour.
    Never said a bad word about the Town or its council.
    Always had a response, a fact to provide to counter statements. Amazing was the insight of this very active forum member; having access to Town files and privileged information would not have made his answers more complete or robust.
    Some people think he was a mole, an agent provocateur, helping to keep the trashy talk going. If that was the case, job well done!

    Outside of these messages, we had a forum administrator, probably happy with all the activity on his website, not willing to shut down the life of the party. Most secretly enjoy flaming wars and hot topics and we all know how boring forums can get when you can't write anything that may get taken the wrong way by some sensitive soul out there. Cops shut down the party because of the loud music, taking away the records and the stereo, taking mugshots of the long-haired punks. Want to make another party or will you settle for a cup of tea and a scone?

    The little treehouse where kids smoked cigarette butts and looked at the Playboy issue 'borrowed' from one of the boy's father collection has just been torn down with a city bulldozer because, well, because it was there and you just can't have kids doing kid stuff...

    Now back to Ottawa.

     

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  25.  
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    Beverly Prudhomme, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 6:23am

    Re: Google cache?

    Google "Rawdon Forum". There are still a few cached pages available.

     

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  26.  
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    Robin Milette, Mar 3rd, 2008 @ 9:38am

    New Forum / Website

    It didn't take long... there is not one, but two new independant web boards on the net this time: Rawdon 2.0 (forum, news, etc.) and Forum des citoyens de Rawdon, ready to serve in French and English.

     

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  27.  
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    Hannabelle, Mar 3rd, 2008 @ 9:35pm

    The Worst City Council

    Acting as an agent for Nexus, a private corporation, the Onamia (MN) city council is forcing 94 convicted sex offenders into our residential neighborhood, next to elderly widows, day cares, children, and vulnerable disabled adults. It is unbelievable the way this city council is proceeding by circumventing city ordinances (if they run into an obstacle, they just change the law). Nexus CEO Jim D'Angelo and board member Peter Freeman are suing me for defamation. My life has been a nightmare this past year, as it has for my neighbors. I've put some of the city council meetings and such on the Internet. Check out http://youtube.com/hannabelle1 and also http://bradburybuzzz.blogspot.com It ain't easy to fight city hall... but Free Speech is a most worthy cause. Never give up!

     

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  28.  
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    who's that girl?, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 3:52pm

    Re: you will hopfully see through her veneer of a

    what is your point about this person? and howcome you know so much about all this issue of gov versus the little guy? You maybe have access to priveleged information to make a case with? ... reads like the words of an english JLB .. I gotta laugh .. but did the municipality of Rawdon do the right thing after years of frustration and complaints against said person .. here I lost you are we still on the subject of CYBERINTIMIDATION or are you referring to some snowfence case ... please liquify

     

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  29.  
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    Barb, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    city council forces forum shut down

    What happened to freedom of speech?? I guess it's only free if council approves. Hope they don't get voted in next term.

     

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  30.  
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    solo, Aug 17th, 2008 @ 5:53pm

    Cyber Intimidation? back to the topic

    some people even it to shade their eyes do you wear yours that way?

     

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  31.  
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    solo, Aug 17th, 2008 @ 5:55pm

    get back on topic dork

    prima facie draconian procedures demand fees and extrajudicial costs 4 freedom of speech
    Rawdon Weather - 5 hours 28 min ago
    Rawdon M&M Weather 4PM 22°C Nice eh?

    Oh I didn't go to the multi-munis festival going down at the beach because the last time I saw her in public she moved away as if I was gonna pop her maybe she has a fixation on guns it was at the last year's festival when she squeezed my ass. Rawdon is a small town with big ambitions a wannabe leader in the county, an experienced judicator and legislater and model to follow. So that's what the munis were thinking after DR had them convinced he could nail vicious community members to the wall with his SLAPP procedure. Well although it doesn't have much bearing in our case we're not the precedent ... oh are we okay so what are we fighting for? find out on the 16th of September when it all crashes down at the Joliette CourtHouse. 2nd floor. I'm so tired of this ridiculous tit for tat. We need male politicians with backbone and heart not a bitch with cougaring tendencies.

    waiting on Bill 99 ...

     

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  32.  
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    solo, Aug 17th, 2008 @ 5:59pm

    get back on topic who are you referring to

    see through her veneer c'mon name names ..

     

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  33.  
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    peter, Sep 23rd, 2008 @ 9:47am

    It is unbelievable the way this city council is proceeding by circumventing city ordinances.My life has been a nightmare this past year, as it has for my neighbors. I've put some of the city council meetings and such on the Internet.

    ================================================
    peter
    For Sale By Owner

     

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  34.  
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    Charles Claybrooks, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    What is the most lucrative Internet business that has a low start-up cost?

    What is the most lucrative Internet business that has a low start-up cost?

    Hi wanna make lots of money???well here is your chance... read this and you will know what i am talking about trust me all you have to do is be honest and follow every step and before you know it you'll start getting money... I started out with $6. Now, I am making thousands. I found this on a bulletin board and decided to try it. A little while back, I was browsing through newsgroups, just like you are now, and came across an article similar to this that said you could make thousands of dollars within weeks with only an initial investment of $6.00! So I thought, "Yeah right, this must be a scam", but like most of us, I was curious, so I kept reading. Anyway, it said that you send $1.00 to each of the 6 names and addresses stated in the article. You then place your own name and address in the bottom of the list at #6, and post the article in at least 200 newsgroups. (There are thousands) No catch, that was it. So after thinking it over, and talking to a few people first, I thought about trying it. I figured: "what have I got to lose except 6 stamps and $6.00, right?" Then I invested the measly $6.00. Well GUESS WHAT!?... within 7 days, I started getting money in the mail! I was shocked! I figured it would end soon, but the money just kept coming in. In my first week, I made about $25.00. By the end of the second week I had made a total of over $1,000.00! In the third week I had over $10,000.00 and it's still growing. This is now my fourth week and I have made a total of just over $42,000.00 and it's still coming in rapidly. It's certainly worth $6.00, and 6 stamps, I have spent more than that on the lottery!! Let me tell you how this works and most importantly, WHY it works... Also, make sure you print a copy of this article NOW, so you can get the information off of it as you need it. I promise you that if you follow the directions exactly, that you will start making more money than you thought possible by doing something so easy! Suggestion: Read this entire message carefully! (print it out or download it.) Follow the simple directions and watch the money come in! It's easy. It's legal. And your investment is only $6.00 (Plus postage) IMPORTANT: This is not a rip-off; it is not indecent; it is not illegal; and it is 99% no risk - it really works! If all of the following instructions are adhered to, you will receive extraordinary dividends. PLEASE NOTE: Follow these directions EXACTLY, and $50,000.00 or more can be yours in 20 to 60 days. This program remains successful because of the honesty and integrity of the participants. Please continue its success by carefully adhering to the instructions. You will now become part of the Mail Order business. In this business your product is not solid and tangible, it's a service. You are in the business of developing Mailing Lists. Many large corporations are happy to pay big bucks for quality lists. However, the money made from the mailing lists is secondary to the income which is made from people like you and me asking to be included in that list. Here are the 4 easy steps to success: STEP 1: Get 6 separate pieces of paper and write down your name and address followed by the words "PLEASE ADD ME TO YOUR MAILING LIST" on each of them. Now get 6 US $1.00 bills and place ONE inside EACH of the 6 pieces of paper so the bill will not be visible through the envelope (to prevent thievery). Next, place one paper in each of the 6 envelopes and seal them. You should now have 6 sealed envelopes, each with a piece of paper stating the above phrase, your name and address, and a $1.00 bill. What you are doing is creating a service. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY LEGAL! You are requesting a legitimate service and you are paying for it! Like most of us I was a little skeptical and a little worried about the legal aspects of it all. So I checked it out with the U.S. Post Office (1- 800-725-2161) and they confirmed that it is indeed legal. Mail the 6 envelopes to the following addresses:(1) (Kaho Mohamed 3042 Blaisdell Ave Minneapolis MN USA 55408) (2) (Andrew Closser 15 Adams street Easthampton MA USA 01027) (3) (Galal AlSafey 44 Beacon Terrace Springfield MA USA 01119) (4) (Hazel Hulse 25 Plum Street Springfield MA USA 01109) (5) (Chane Closser 36 Beacon Terrace Springfield MA USA 01119) (6) Charles Claybrooks, P.O. Box 578, Milwaukee, WI, USA 53203) STEP 2: Now take the #1 name off the list that you see above, move the other names up (6 becomes 5, 5 becomes 4, etc...) and add YOUR Name as number 6 on the list. STEP 3: Change anything you need to, but try to keep this article as close to original as possible. Now, post your amended article to at least 200 newsgroups. (I think there are close to 24,000 groups) All you need is 200, but remember, the more you post, the more money you make! You won't get very much unless you post like crazy.
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If you want to do your postings in different settings, you'll always have this file to go back to. Step 4) Use Netscape or Internet explorer and try searching for various newsgroups (on-line forums, message boards, chat sites, discussions.) Step 5) Visit these message boards and post this article as a new message by highlighting the text of this letter and selecting paste from the edit menu. Fill in the Subject, this will be the header that everyone sees as they scroll through the list of postings in a particular group, click the post message button. You're done with your first one! Congratulations...THAT'S IT! All you have to do is jump to different newsgroups and post away, after you get the hang of it, it will take about 30 seconds for each newsgroup! **REMEMBER, THE MORE NEWSGROUPS YOU POST IN, THE MORE MONEY YOU WILL MAKE! BUT: YOU HAVE TO POST A MINIMUM OF 200** That's it! You will begin receiving money from around the world within days! You may eventually want to rent a P.O. Box due to the large amount of mail you will receive. If you wish to stay anonymous, you can invent a name to use, as long as the postman will deliver it. **JUST MAKE SURE ALL THE ADDRESSES ARE CORRECT.** Now, each of the 5 persons who just sent me $1.00 makes the MINIMUM 200 postings, each with my name at #5 and only 5 persons respond to each of the original 5, that is another $25.00 for me, now those 25 each make 200 MINIMUM posts with my name at #4 and only 5 replies each, I will bring in an additional $125.00! Now, those 125 persons turn around and post the MINIMUM 200 with my name at #3 and only receive 5 replies each, I will make an additional $625.00! OK, now here is the fun part, each of those 625 persons post a MINIMUM 200 letters with my name at #2 and they each only receive 5 replies that just made me $3,125.00!!! Those 3,125 persons will all deliver this message to 200 newsgroups with my name at #1 and if still 5 persons per 200 newsgroups react I will receive $15,625,00! With an original investment of only $6.00! AMAZING! When your name is no longer on the list, you just take the latest posting in the newsgroups, and send out another $6.00 to names on the list, putting your name at number 6 again. And start posting again. The thing to remember is: do you realize that thousands of people all over the world are joining the internet and reading these articles everyday?, JUST LIKE YOU are now!! So, can you afford $6.00 and see if it really works?? I think so... People have said, "what if the plan is played out and no one sends you the money? So what! What are the chances of that happening when there are tons of new honest users and new honest people who are joining the internet and newsgroups everyday and are willing to give it a try? Estimates are at 20,000 to 50,000 new users, every day, with thousands of those joining the actual internet. Remember, play FAIRLY and HONESTLY and this will really works! THIS WORKS ALL AROUND THE WORLD. WHERE EVER YOU ARE, YOU CAN MAKE MONEY..!! seriously, most people think this is a scam, but you actually do get thousands of dollars out of it, it is NOT another stupid scam,if people follow through with sending out $6, it works!!!!! By the way, please DON'T try to deceive people by posting the messages with your name in the list and not sending the CASH to the rest of the people already on the list, you will NOT get any. This is the fairest and most honest way I have ever seen to share the wealth of the world without costing anything but our time!!!You also may want to buy mailing and e-mail lists for future cash. Make sure you print this article out RIGHT NOW! Also, try to keep a list of everyone that sends you CASH and always keep an eye on the newsgroups to make sure everyone is playing fairly.
    Remember, HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY.IMPORTANT: If you're not interested to my article, (don't want instant cash?), please pass this message to anyone who wishes quick money. Thank you so much.

     

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