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Twitter Successfully Quashes Sketchy Copyright Subpoena Over Billionaire’s Critic On Twitter

from the call-me-anonymity-protection-bags dept

You may recall that, last fall, we wrote about a truly bizarre legal fight, in which a little-followed pseudonymous Twitter account @CallMeMoneyBags had tweeted out some images of a woman, suggesting a few times that the woman was the mistress of billionaire Brian Sheth. The account put out lots of tweets generally mocking people in the private equity space, including Sheth. Sometime after the tweets including those photos, Twitter received a DMCA subpoena from a company called Bayside Advisory, which had basically no presence online, claiming it held the copyrights in those photos and demanding identifying information on Money Bags.

The most obvious assumption was that Bayside was connected to Sheth and this was a way of finding out who this anonymous critic was. Twitter stepped in to the case to seek to quash the subpoena, noting that this did appear to be an attack on the right to anonymity — and also noting that this was an obvious fair use of the images. Bayside insists that it’s not connected at all to Sheth, but there’s a lot that’s sketchy about the organization (more on that shortly). The magistrate judge in the case first said that it couldn’t determine the fair use issue without hearing from Money Bags, and ordered Twitter to alert the user to show up in court. The Money Bags account appears to have been totally abandoned from about the date of the original subpoena, and it’s unclear if Twitter was able to contact the user, but the user didn’t show up in court at all, leading the court to order Twitter to reveal the information to Bayside.

Twitter, correctly, asked the court to reconsider, and the issue was handed over to district court judge Vince Chhabria, who held a hearing last month (which I viewed). It became clear quite quickly that Chhabria fully understood the issues at play here: he kept demanding that Bayside’s lawyer explain how any of this made sense, and even tried to find out if Bayside was abusing judicial process for the sake of harassing a critic of Sheth’s. Indeed, at one point, the judge demanded that Bayside’s lawyer explain who he spoke to at Bayside, and the lawyer tried not to answer before first only giving a last name, and then finally revealing a full name (Bert Kauffman).

Also, on the fair use side of things, Chhabria wasn’t putting up with any of Bayside’s nonsense. At one point, the lawyer for Bayside argued that they were in the active business of licensing photos (a questionable argument, as the company only registered these photos and a few others as the first registrations it had ever done, just before issuing the subpoena), but the judge made the lawyer call up Bayside’s website during the hearing to point out that there is no contact information at all, and no apparent way to reach the company for licensing.

Also, during the hearing, Judge Chhabria repeatedly suggested that maybe he should hold an evidentiary hearing to find out more about who is actually behind Bayside. He made it clear he was going to quash the subpoena, and at one point asked Bayside’s lawyer if he wanted to further supplement the record to argue why it wasn’t fair use — knowing that this might also open up further investigation into who was behind Bayside — and Bayside’s lawyer flat out said he’d prefer the subpoena be quashed to having to defend who was behind Bayside.

Anyway, it took about a month, but Judge Chhabria has, in fact, quashed the subpoena. He lays out a concise summary of the case, and then notes:

Bayside’s reading of the DMCA raises serious constitutional concerns. After all, it is not enough to say that a speaker could assert their right to anonymity after their identity has been revealed; at that point, the damage will have been done. Fortunately, the statute does not compel (or permit) this result. Section 512(h) provides that “the procedure for issuance and delivery of the subpoena, and the remedies for noncompliance with the subpoena, shall be governed to the greatest extent practicable by those provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing the issuance, service, and enforcement of a subpoena duces tecum.” § 512(h)(6). This provision incorporates Federal Rule 45, under which a court must “quash or modify” a subpoena that “requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii). A recipient of a DMCA subpoena may therefore move to quash on the basis that the subpoena would require disclosure of material protected by the First Amendment. See, e.g., Signature Management Team, LLC v. Automattic, Inc., 941 F. Supp. 2d 1145, 1152–53 (N.D. Cal. 2013); In re Verizon Internet Services, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 2d 244, 263–64 (D.D.C. 2003), rev’d on other grounds, Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. v. Verizon Internet Services, Inc., 351 F.3d 1229 (D.C. Cir. 2003). The fact that the DMCA allows a potential copyright infringement victim to issue a subpoena to a service provider without first filing a lawsuit says nothing about whether courts should consider the interests of anonymous speakers in the same way they would in other situations.

On the fair use side, he’s also not impressed by Bayside’s arguments:

Bayside next argues that, to the extent MoneyBags has any First Amendment interest in this case, it is wholly accounted for through copyright’s fair use analysis, which allows the public to use copyrighted works in certain circumstances without facing liability. As Bayside notes, while the First Amendment does not protect copyright infringement, “copyright law contains built-in First Amendment accommodations.” Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 219–20 (2003). This has led some courts to eschew interest balancing in cases seeking to deanonymize alleged copyright infringers. See In re DMCA Subpoena to Reddit, Inc., 441 F. Supp. 3d 875, 882 (N.D. Cal. 2020) (noting that applying the two-step approach in the context of a copyright dispute would be “problematic” because “[t]he doctrine of fair use provides everything needed to balance the competing interests of the First Amendment and the copyright laws”). But while it may be true that the fair use analysis wholly encompasses free expression concerns in some cases, that is not true in all cases—and it is not true in a case like this. That is because it is possible for a speaker’s interest in anonymity to extend beyond the alleged infringement.

Consider a hypothetical not far afield from these facts. An anonymous blogger writes hundreds of blog posts criticizing a powerful political figure, Mr. X. In one post, the blogger includes a copyrighted image owned by Mr. X. If Mr. X were to sue for copyright infringement, the court would need to consider the interests on both sides—even if the blog post did not constitute fair use. The blogger’s interest in anonymity (with respect to Mr. X) may be so great as to outweigh Mr. X’s interest in enforcing his copyright.

Exactly.

Chhabria also notes that, contrary to the argument made by the magistrate judge (and Bayside), Money Bags’ decision not to show up in court doesn’t take away Money Bags’ 1st Amendment rights:

Finally, Bayside argues that MoneyBags’s absence dooms Twitter’s motion. But although MoneyBags’s presence would be helpful, it is not necessary. There are many reasons why an anonymous speaker may fail to participate in litigation over their right to remain anonymous. In some cases, it may be difficult (or impossible) to contact the speaker or confirm they received notice of the dispute. Even where a speaker is alerted to the case, hiring a lawyer to move to quash a subpoena or litigate a copyright claim can be very expensive. The speaker may opt to stop speaking, rather than assert their right to do so anonymously. Indeed, there is some evidence that this is what happened here: MoneyBags has not tweeted since Twitter was ordered to notify him of this dispute.

The Ninth Circuit has accordingly recognized that internet platforms can assert the First Amendment rights of their users, based on the close relationship between the platform and its users and the “genuine obstacles” users face in asserting their rights to anonymity. In re Grand Jury Subpoena, No. 16-03-217, 875 F.3d 1179, 1183 n.2 (9th Cir. 2017). As a platform that permits anonymous posting, Twitter risks losing users if people learn that the company discloses users’ identities to anyone who asks. Moreover, Twitter’s interest in this dispute aligns with that of MoneyBags; both have an interest in protecting MoneyBags’s ability to speak his mind on Twitter without facing retaliation. Finally, there are genuine obstacles to MoneyBags’s participation, given the expense of litigation and the lack of a contrasting economic incentive in this suit. Cf. Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 415 (1991) (“[T]here exist considerable practical barriers to suits by the excluded juror because of the small financial stake involved and the economic burdens of litigation.”). To be sure, MoneyBags may be better equipped to articulate his interest in maintaining anonymity in this context, but his failure to appear does not prevent the Court from considering First Amendment interests when adjudicating the motion, as it would do in a more typical case.

The court then does a fair use four factors analysis, finding strongly in favor for fair use. On purpose and character? Easily fair use.

The use here—tweets by an unverified Twitter account with a small following that only garnered a handful of likes, retweets, or comments—is not commercial, a fact that “tips the scales in favor of fair use.” Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., 141 S. Ct. 1183, 1204 (2021). What’s more, the use is transformative. Considered on their own, the copyrighted photos may have aesthetic value. But MoneyBags was not using the photos for their artistry. Rather, by placing the pictures in the context of comments about Sheth, MoneyBags gave the photos a new meaning—an expression of the author’s apparent distaste for the lifestyle and moral compass of one-percenters. This transformation fits squarely within Section 107’s examples of fair use, particularly “criticism” and “comment.”

The second factor, on the nature of the work, could go either way according to the court. The ruling notes the fact that the photos were published long before they were registered weighs in favor of fair use, and that many of the photos were regular social media style photos, and not artistic, also weighs in favor — but the fact that some of the photos are “somewhat more artistic” could potentially weight against fair use.

The amount used is also seen as neutral since, while the entire photos are used, “in the context of a photograph” that “is not meaningfully divisible” it’s determined to be neutral.

But the fourth factor, which is often the most important, on the impact of the marketplace is what really dooms Bayside’s claims.

Bayside offers that it is a “communications and strategic advisory firm” that “licenses photographs for commercial exploitation.” But beyond this vague explanation of its business model, Bayside nowhere explains what the potential market for these licenses is, let alone how that market could be impacted by tweets like MoneyBags’s. Further, Bayside’s explanation of its business is hard to accept at face value given the suspicious circumstances surrounding this motion (more on that later). And Bayside declined an opportunity (offered at the hearing) to supplement the record with actual evidence of market harm. This factor therefore weighs in favor of fair use.

From there, though, Judge Chhabria notes that even if Bayside had made a prima facie case for copyright infringement (which it did not, due to the fair use analysis), he still would have quashed the subpoena based on 1st Amendment concerns, the general sketchiness around Bayside, and the caginess of the company’s lawyer during the hearing.

Considering “the nature of the speech” at issue, there is no question that significant First Amendment interests are at stake. In re Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d 1168, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011). The six tweets flagged by Bayside are best interpreted as vaguely satirical commentary criticizing the opulent lifestyle of wealthy investors generally (and Brian Sheth, specifically). For example, one tweet reads: “Good morning from Mrs. Brian Sheth #2. Life is good when you’re a 44-year old private equity billionaire.” The tweet accuses Brian Sheth of having a mistress and links his infidelity to the broader class of “private equity billionaires,” suggesting that wealth (or working in private equity) corrupts. Unmasking MoneyBags thus risks exposing him to “economic or official retaliation” by Sheth or his associates. McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341–42 (1995). And MoneyBags’s interest in anonymity is heightened further by his other tweets, which discuss issues of political importance such as sexual harassment, tax enforcement, and corporate regulations.

This is where the mystery surrounding Bayside makes a difference. If the Court were assured that Bayside had no connection to Brian Sheth, a limited disclosure subject to a protective order could perhaps be appropriate. But the circumstances of this subpoena are suspicious. As far as the Court can tell, Bayside was not formed until the month that the tweets about Sheth were posted on Twitter. It appears that Bayside had never registered any copyrights until the registration of these six photographs, which happened after the tweets were posted. And there appears to be no information publicly available about Bayside’s principals, staff, physical location, formation, or purposes.

Rather than explaining these puzzling facts, Bayside’s counsel simply filed a declaration stating that “Bayside is not and has not ever been owned or controlled by Brian Sheth.” The declaration also notes that Brian Sheth does not own, and has not ever owned, “any interest in the copyrights to the Photographs.”5 Even setting aside the fact that this declaration came from counsel, rather than a party with personal knowledge of its veracity, it raises more questions than it answers. Is Bayside owned or controlled by someone associated with Brian Sheth? Was Bayside formed in response to these tweets? How did Bayside come to acquire these copyrights, and from whom? When pressed at the hearing, Bayside’s counsel, Lawrence Hadley, would not (or could not) expand on these vague assertions.

The court then includes the bit of the hearing that caught my attention as well, when the lawyer was asked to say who he interacted with at Bayside:

Mr. Hadley: I can say that—that the subject of the tweets has no ownership interest in Bayside. This is all set forth in an affidavit.

. . .

The Court: . . . [D]oes the subject of the tweets—Mr. Sheth, does he know anybody who is connected [to] Bayside?

Mr. Hadley: I don’t know. I don’t know who the person is, and I don’t know who they know.

The Court: Okay. Who—can you name a person who is connected to this company called Bayside? Can you name—can you give me some names of people who operate or work for Bayside?

Mr. Hadley: My client contact is a person named Mr. Kaufman

The court concludes that this is all very, very sketchy.

Of course, even a weighty First Amendment interest may give way in the face of a strong interest on the other side. But here too, the Court is left scratching its head. It is not clear what Bayside has to gain from pursuing a copyright action against MoneyBags. Injunctive relief is unavailable, as Twitter has already taken the photos down. Because Bayside registered the copyrights after the alleged infringement, it appears as though Bayside could recover only limited damages that are unlikely to cover the considerable expense of pursuing its copyright claims and no attorney fees. See 17 U.S.C. § 412. And as discussed in the preceding section, Bayside has offered no information on the market harm it could conceivably have suffered as a result of the postings. All Bayside has offered in support of its identity are a few vague descriptions of its services—claiming it is a “communications and strategic advisory firm” that “licenses photographs for commercial exploitation.” A visit to Bayside’s website (which the Court conducted with Bayside’s counsel present during the hearing) revealed a shell of a site with no information about Bayside, what it does, who owns the company, who works for the company, or how any customer could license the photographs the company allegedly owns. See Bayside Advisory LLC, https://baysideadvisory.com [https://perma.cc/26DU-3NNT] (captured May 16, 2022).

Given all the unknowns, at oral argument the Court offered Bayside an opportunity to supplement the record with an evidentiary hearing or additional documentation. Bayside declined, stating that it preferred the motion to be adjudicated on the current record. There would perhaps be some benefit in insisting on an evidentiary hearing to explore the circumstances behind this subpoena—to explore whether Bayside and its counsel are abusing the judicial process in an effort to discover MoneyBags’s identity for reasons having nothing to do with copyright law. Perhaps that hearing could even result in an award of attorney’s fees for Twitter. But Twitter stated that it too prefers not to have an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the record will stand, and the people connected to this mysterious company will succeed in preserving their own anonymity. But Bayside’s choice not to supplement the record makes it quite easy to balance MoneyBags’s interest in preserving his anonymity against Bayside’s alleged interest in protecting its apparent copyrights. On this record, even if Bayside had made a prima facie showing of copyright infringement, the Court would quash the subpoena in a heartbeat.

So whoever is actually behind Bayside remains a mystery. But, thankfully, so too is whoever is behind Money Bags.

Now, the question is whether or not whoever is behind Bayside wants to push their luck, and appeal to the 9th Circuit…

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Comments on “Twitter Successfully Quashes Sketchy Copyright Subpoena Over Billionaire’s Critic On Twitter”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Time to hope for a more gullible judge I guess

‘It is absolutely vital that we find out who posted those images for copyright purposes, but we are willing to see that request quashed rather than have anyone look into our super-duper legitimate company’.

I mean with a marker of legitimacy like that I’m shocked that the judge didn’t accept all their claims about how this was definitely not a rich person’s attempt to unmask someone they didn’t like at face value, who but a totally innocent person would ever act like that?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you don’t want the good name of your tool to be so easily besmirched, maybe you should find better representatives that don’t make the news for all the wrong reasons.

The fact remains that many of the issues with copyright enforcement were baked into copyright law, such as the maximum penalty of $150,000 per infringement used to scare grandmothers and children into compliance. The same goes for the lack of requirement for plaintiffs to allow for fair use. Copyright law is intentionally stacked in favor of plaintiffs, regardless of the legitimacy of their claims.

Again, if you’re angry that people think poorly of your reputation, it’s on you to get better representatives.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Going by how threadbare the evidence is in copyright enforcement cases, it’s telling that defaulting back to “but but but pirates make me angry” is all that plaintiffs have when judges ask them for more proof than a randomly generated IP address.

None of this would happen if only copyright enforcers had more than that to justify their claims, but it seems they can’t even muster the effort to do anything beyond finger pointing.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12

If you legitimately let people download your content for free, then… what’s the issue here, exactly? Do you intend to sue people for copyright infringement which you’ve personally okayed by letting people download your stuff without payment? Why would you feel such a strong need to defend copyright lawyers who came to the court to threaten an anonymous user based on a spurious claim not related to copyright, then run like hell when the judge called them on their bluff?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:13

Why would you feel such a strong need to defend copyright lawyers blah, blah, blah…

Not trying to defend maximalists, actually. Just trying to prevent minimalists bolstering their arguments through the back door. As I originally said, “the tool and its user are never identical.” Ask Art Buchwald if you don’t believe me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:14

Just trying to prevent minimalists bolstering their arguments through the back door

You can point out where copyright lawyers behave dubiously and suspiciously while not being a copyright minimalist.

This idea that calling out copyright abuse will lead to copyright advocates demanding stronger terms doesn’t hold water. Copyright advocates have always made increasing and irresponsible demands regardless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:15

You can point out where copyright lawyers behave dubiously and suspiciously while not being a copyright minimalist.

True, but you can’t say “copyright should be destroyed” while not being a copyright minimalist, so I’m still not seeing your point. If you even have a point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:16

The original point was that Bayside Advisory represented copyright law’s best and brightest, the same way Prenda Law and Malibu Media’s legal representation did. You were the one persistently simping and bitching about copyright law’s reputation, doubling down to playground insults when called out on it.

You’re not Prenda, but it’s very hard to believe that you’re not a fan.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:17

You were the one persistently simping and bitching about copyright law’s reputation, doubling down to playground insults when called out on it.

A hypocritical accusation coming from you, wouldn’t you say? Or do you recognize such behavior only from those you don’t agree with?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5

If these lawyers were not the best and brightest defenders of copyright law, then why wasn’t someone better and brighter deployed? Maybe it’s because they thought simply uttering “Copyright!” would be an Open Sesame password that would open the judge’s legs like the vault of the Forty Thieves.

Seriously, you’re the one here trying to defend suing old people for porn they didn’t download based on incredibly flimsy evidence. With “but you made them do it” as your primary rebuttal. Maybe don’t make arguments that sound like a petulant kindergartener wrote them if you’re trying to insinuate that your opponents are uneducated.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7

the conclusion that I’m some famous or infamous copyright lawyer

Who said anything about you being a famous or infamous copyright lawyer? The only statement being made was pointing out your defense of copyright lawyers.

No evidence for your claims is required. Fans of copyright trolling, just like their legal masterminds, tend to leave a lot to be desired when it comes to evidence. From what can be seen, your strongest refutation to the fact that copyright lawyers primarily rely on trolling and shoddy evidence – like the lawyers attempting to act in Brian Sheth’s interests – is to stammer “It’s your fault because I say so”. I genuinely doubt you can offer up anything actually substantial besides insults on the character of anyone who disagrees with you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9

You jumped from “you claimed they supported Prenda” to “you claimed they are Prenda” pretty quickly, didn’t you? Never mind the impossibility given that one member of Prenda is dead and the other two are safely locked away in prison.

It’s funny how you have to jump from desperate defamation claim to desperate defamation claim.

Raziel says:

Re: Re: Re:10

You jumped from “we claim AC is a copyright troll” to “we claim AC supports copyright trolls” pretty quickly, didn’t you? Read up, stupid. Also, your ability to learn’s clearly not that good or you’d know that any law firm has more employees than the two from Prenda in jail and the one who died.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11

You jumped from “we claim AC is a copyright troll” to “we claim AC supports copyright trolls” pretty quickly, didn’t you?

At no point in this thread were you claimed to be a copyright troll.

The best I can surmise is that you take offense with the insinuation that copyright is defended by people who behave without scruples or moral fiber. And, again, that’s on you. Nobody is obligated to treat you, or someone who misbehaves, with kid gloves because you don’t like the negative connotations that result from the misbehavior.

And, again, the original point stands. If fans and supporters of copyright are angry that copyright law makes the news for all the wrong reasons, it’s not the responsibility of everyone else to stop criticizing them. It’s up to copyright organizations to get better representation than the scam artists they keep relying on.

you’d know that any law firm has more employees than the two from Prenda in jail and the one who died

Prenda did have more employees than the three ringleaders, sure enough – mostly local counsel who carried out their orders of harassment and intimidation. Up until some, like Brett Gibbs, realized that their bosses were throwing them under the bus when judges started denying their subpoena requests.

If copyright law firms had actual cases with legs to stand on, they’d rely on those instead of having to use morally and legally questionable tactics. “I broke the law and harassed people because nobodies made fun of me on the Internet” is a shit argument no matter how much you want to spin it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8

Who said anything about you being a famous or infamous copyright lawyer?

You didn’t read all the previous comments, did you? You just focused on this AC’s comments so you could attack them, and then you have the hypocrisy to point out the bullying carried out by firms like Prenda and Malibu Media. ಠ_ಠ

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9

The original comment focused on was “the tool and its user are never identical”. A response was given on how many of the worst behaviors and outcomes of copyright trolling and abuse were, in fact, enabled by copyright law as written.

The only rebuttals since then can be summed up as “criticizing copyright abuse and trolling encourages it”, and it’s already been pointed out how that’s a silly argument to make. Since said AC(s) keep doubling down on that argument, it raises questions why they feel the need to minimize damage to the reputations of copyright trolls. Guessing that they support copyright maximalism and trolling is not an unreasonable assumption to make.

Raziel says:

Re: Re: Re:10

Guessing that they support copyright maximalism and trolling is not an unreasonable assumption to make.

Yes it is, actually, since the ACs have never asserted that copyright trolls don’t deserve criticism. But guessing that minimalists secretly support maximalism is not, however, since they should know that their cries to destroy copyright will be taken as a evidence of support for infringement, and the maximalists will act accordingly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10

The only rebuttals since then can be summed up as “criticizing copyright abuse and trolling encourages it”…

That’s not what I read, but then, my reading comprehension is intact, as is my knowledge that merely criticizing copyright trolls is not the extreme position taken by copyright minimalists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7

We’re back to the defamation claims are we Jhon Smith?

No court is going to bother with someone claiming to be the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, defamed by nobodies on the Internet. I hear his estate is still grieving over the fact that Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9

The original comment posted by someone triggered on the behalf of copyright trolls was signed off under the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

That user made their choice to use that pseudonym, for some reason – and on the subject of IP, the Doyle estate has certainly been a fan of copyright maximalism. Insinuating that said user is likely to support copyright maximalism was entirely appropriate. Whether anyone believes them, or takes them seriously, is not up to the original poster. It was certainly an exceedingly poor choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Googling the phrase “the tool and its user are never identical” doesn’t bring up any attribution to Arthur Conan Doyle. It returns this discussion thread. Unless you have a citation for that, it seems highly unlikely Doyle himself said those words or an equivalent.

And if the aim was to quote the author, why not just quote him instead of using his name as a pseudonym in the name field?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12

Googling the phrase “the tool and its user are never identical” doesn’t bring up any attribution to Arthur Conan Doyle.

Possibly why AC used the name, to give attribution to the author they paraphrased. It could be they’re a university student who’s had the dangers of plagiarism dinged pretty hard into them, as I did during my own time there, so they didn’t want to take the risk someone might think the words were entirely their own. As for there being no attribution to Doyle, Google the phrase “cerebral tentacle”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12

Googling the phrase “the tool and its user are never identical” doesn’t bring up any attribution to Arthur Conan Doyle.

Which is probably what created fears of misattribution. Depending on what part of the entire phrase you put into a search engine, you won’t always come up with the originator of it, but if you Google his name in conjunction with the quote, then Conan Doyle does indeed come up. As for the AC using the name in the name field rather below the quote, this could be due to confusion over the length of moral rights, as only the right to object to false attribution doesn’t last for as long as the copyright itself does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:13

As for the AC using the name in the name field rather below the quote, this could be due to confusion over the length of moral rights, as only the right to object to false attribution doesn’t last for as long as the copyright itself does.

That seems likely. Putting the author’s name in the name field instead of in the comment box turns the paraphrasing into parody, which preemptively does away with any charge of misattribution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7

Nah, it’s not just copyright lawyers who are worthy of disdain. Malibu Media thought they could make a quick buck out of suing army veterans to fund their mansions and porn productions – then sued the wrong person, refused to pay up, and nearly got arrested for it. The meltdown is immensely enjoyable.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6

And how does an initial statement to the effect of “maximalists aren’t the only users of copyright become “trying to defend suing old people for porn they didn’t download based on incredibly flimsy evidence”? You lost the argument the moment you presented that bad analogy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8

that copyright shouldn’t be defined or criticized based on its worst actors. And that was a poor argument to make. Copyright entirely enabled the opportunity for abuse by its worst actors. The constant suggestion that not ignoring this will simply cause maximalists to double down is equally abysmal. Trolls will troll no matter how much care you take to not offend them.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5

If you choose to make deductive leaps in reasoning based on zero evidence

Making deductive leaps in reasoning based on zero evidence is precisely what copyright enforcement does. As soon as a judge asks them to justify their claims, they demand a dismissal without prejudice so they don’t have to have their evidence scrutinized.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5

No, you’ll find that the public domain is in fact a major driving force for term extensions, since copyright holders are deathly afraid of losing their ownership.

Copyright lawyers go after people regardless. You can “perceive” support of illegal downloads all you want, the bulk of people that the trolls go after are people who don’t support illegal downloads anyway. Another person’s “perceived” support won’t change that.

You don’t have to be a minimalist to CA out the misbehavior of copyright trolls. They’re not immune to criticism.

Raziel says:

Re: Re: Re:6

You don’t have to be a minimalist to call out the misbehavior of copyright trolls.

But you do have to be to call for the destruction of copyright, which small content producers get more use out of than copyright trolls do.

They’re not immune to criticism.

And those that provide the excuses for their bad behavior should be? That’s quite a hypocritical position to take.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7

At what point was the destruction of copyright called for in this thread?

You keep insisting that you have to not insult copyright trolls out of fear of what they’ll do, but between the copyright trolls and the people who hold copyright trolls to task for their wrongdoing, the trolls are the ones who actively want to inflict damage on what you do.

And those that provide the excuses for their bad behavior should be?

You’re the one making silly justifications and claims. “I’m suing this grandmother for a dubious music download claim because someone on Techdirt insulted me” is a ridiculous scenario, and yet that’s exactly what you’re proposing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8

And how does pointing out that something hasn’t been done in one particular place show it’s never done anywhere? And you point out the lack of evidence of copyright trolls…

As for your last paragraph… Well, you can’t accuse someone of lying anymore without being a hypocrite, so there’s that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9

Ah, so you’ve moved from bitching about one comment about copyright enforcers on one thread to bitching about a perceived sentiment across an entire website. A hundred comments later I think it’s fair to say you’re out for a pound of flesh on behalf of all copyright enforcers and their feelings.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11

And how does one make the jump from an observed sentiment of a subgroup of commenters to a perceived sentiment of an entire website?

Your argument here:

That’s right. Point out that a particular thing wasn’t done in this one thread as evidence it’s never been done on this site.

You keep insisting that anything said against copyright trolls will be used as evidence of demanding the end of copyright. When asked when it was done on this thread, instead you shift the goalposts to cover the entire website. Again, the idea that copyright trolls will troll even harder because people call them out is a meaningless claim. They carry out their activities because copyright law enabled them to do so with minimal consequence.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

Copyright minimalists wouldn’t be saying “destroy copyright” if copyright could be used reasonably instead of abused in ways that turn a supposedly limited monopoly over distribution of a creative work into both a welfare check for the successful and a government-supported method of silencing legal speech.

I don’t speak for other copyright minimalists, but this is what I want the government to do about copyright: Shorten copyright terms to 15 years (with an optional 5-year extension). Make copyright an opt-in process instead of a mandatory obligation so people can place their works in the public domain by default. Give people a way to place a work they copyrighted in the public domain before the copyright term on that work expires. Make any abuse of the DMCA takedown system punishable by massive fines (and possibly jail time). Change the DMCA takedown system from notice-and-takedown to notice-and-notice.

Enacting even one of those changes would go a long way towards repairing the balance of copyright that is supposed to benefit, rather than hinder or outright destroy, the public domain. But if⁠—when⁠—copyright becomes an insurmountable barrier to enjoying, creating, and sharing cultural works, the general public will stop trying to climb it and start trying to destroy it.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5

You were the one who claimed that the tool (copyright) and the user (copyright lawyers) were separate.

Paul Hansmeier insisted that copyright law allowed him to set up honeypots, claim representation in states where he was not legally permitted to practice law, abuse and harass innocent people, and forge signatures on legal documents.

There is no user without the tool.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9

That’s not a false analogy. Copyright lawyers have used the “indie” excuse to demand large fines and penalties – usually against other small organizations who can’t easily fight back. Which is what Richard Liebowitz did frequently. You ignoring this will not change the facts laid out in the court record.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Moderation is a platform/service owner or operator saying “we don’t do that here”. Personal discretion is an individual telling themselves “I won’t do that here”. Editorial discretion is an editor saying “we won’t print that here”, either to themselves or to a writer. Censorship is someone saying “you won’t do that anywhere” alongside threats or actions meant to suppress one’s right to speak their mind.

Now tell me which one Twitter does when it dings an account for breaking the rules.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Censorship is when an entity prevents someone from speaking on their platform based on the viewpoint of the speech.

No, it isn’t. You’re not owed a spot on a platform you don’t own/operate. You’re also not entitled to have someone else amplify your speech. Those are privileges⁠—and losing them doesn’t take away or threaten your right to speak.

I don’t use Twitter by choice. My voluntary lack of a Twitter account no more censors me than the involuntary lack of a Twitter account censors Donald Trump. We can both still use any other platform that will have us.

What you’re doing is conflating the idea of “being able to reach a potentially huge audience” with “being able to speak one’s mind”. You have a right to free speech, but not to free reach⁠—i.e., you don’t have the right to make others listen to, host, or amplify your speech.

Of course, if you happen to have a proper-ass citation of law, statute, or “common law” court precedent that directly and explicitly says otherwise, you can always present that citation. But keep in mind that I’ve got a long-as-hell copypasta with three citations of law (including one Supreme Court precedent) that I can and will break out to counter whatever bullshit you present.

You have the privilege of using third-party platforms like Twitter⁠. That privilege can always be revoked. Your inability to deal with that reality is your problem. Solve it yourself.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Again and again, because you like the censorship that they platforms are providing for you, you keep insisting that I am advocating for forcing the platforms to host speech. But I am not. The platforms do not owe me anything, and they may censor as they like. And in turn, I may criticize them for their censorship and ask them to do better.

Your insistence that censorship is not censorship when it is permitted is abject nonsense. Censorship is the silencing of ideas and opinions based on their content. It is censorship when the government does it, and it is censorship when private entities do it. When people gather on the primary platforms for public speech and discussion, and those platforms silence some of those people, those people are being censored.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

because you like the censorship that they platforms are providing for you, you keep insisting that I am advocating for forcing the platforms to host speech

I don’t care what speech a given platform chooses to moderate. Truth Social could ban any mention of Joe Biden by anyone but Trump himself, for all I care. Every interactive web service⁠—from squeaky-clean “family-friendly” forums to the vilest shitpits imaginable⁠—has the right to moderate speech as its owners and operators see fit.

What you and your “moderation is censorship!” brethren have tried to do is equate moderation with censorship to make a fallacious moral argument: “If moderation is censorship and censorship is bad, then moderation is bad.” By default, such a position implies an underlying belief: “The government should stop censorship by way of stopping content moderation.” Whether you actually believe that idea means little if your rhetoric implies the point anyway.

The platforms do not owe me anything, and they may censor as they like. And in turn, I may criticize them for their censorship and ask them to do better.

Literally no one has said you can’t. Hell, Techdirt rips on ridiculous moderation efforts from Facebook and Twitter all the time. What I (and a good chunk of other commenters) want from you is a good-faith effort to stop referring to moderation as “censorship”.

Censorship, by definition, involves the suppression of both speech and the right to speak freely. It doesn’t involve losing the privilege of speaking on someone else’s platform or being denied an audience. The right of free speech doesn’t give you the right to free reach.

Censorship is the silencing of ideas and opinions based on their content.

Donald Trump claims he lost the 2020 election because of massive amounts of voting fraud. That he can’t say so on Twitter doesn’t mean he lacks other places to say so in both cyber- and meatspace. If people don’t want to host or listen to his speech, that isn’t censorship. No one owes him their property or their time⁠—and he isn’t entitled to those things.

It is censorship when the government does it, and it is censorship when private entities do it.

Did Twitter stop Trump from starting Truth Social or getting an account on a competing social media service? If the answer is “no” (and it is), you can’t claim Twitter censored Trump and make anyone other than your “moderation is censorship” allies believe you. Censorship involves someone being prevented from using their right to speak regardless of whether anyone wants to listen to or host that person’s speech. Twitter didn’t do that when it banned Trump.

When people gather on the primary platforms for public speech and discussion, and those platforms silence some of those people, those people are being censored.

Using any platform you don’t own is a social privilege, not a legal right, and losing that privilege doesn’t censor you. Show me any law, statute, or “common law” court precedent that directly, explicitly, and objectively proves that statement wrong.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

The presence of a different place to speak does not make an action to silence speech in one place any less censorship. For example, attempts by public colleges to set up “free-speech zones” (which are actually attempts to silence speech by limiting it to tiny areas and requiring pre-registration) have generally been met by defeat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzuegbunam_v._Preczewski

Censorship is the act of silencing based on viewpoint. It is the action of the censor that defines the censorship, not the universe in which the speaker is embedded. The self-serving “go elsewhere” attempt to define away censorship is obviously false; it would make every act of silencing not be censorship except for the very last one, when there is no place left to go.

I will call viewpoint-based censorship what it is no matter how many times you deny it.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

The presence of a different place to speak does not make an action to silence speech in one place any less censorship.

Except it does. The New York Times can refuse to run an op-ed I submit to that paper; that doesn’t mean I’ve been censored. I can still submit the same column to other newspapers both national and local, and I can post the article online for anyone to read.

Censorship is about silencing people. I can’t be silenced by a private entity’s refusal to carry/host/publish my speech.

(Oh, and as for your “public college” argument: They lost because they’re government entities⁠—something Twitter and Facebook are not.)

It is the action of the censor that defines the censorship, not the universe in which the speaker is embedded.

Two things:

  1. We’re all in the same universe, so maybe tone down the hyperbole and choose a more accurate noun next time.
  2. Losing the social privilege of posting on a popular platform doesn’t censor anyone⁠—Donald Trump alone proves this point so well that I hate how I can point to him as an example of this point.

The self-serving “go elsewhere” attempt to define away censorship is obviously false; it would make every act of silencing not be censorship except for the very last one, when there is no place left to go.

But that’s precisely my point: When you’re left with no other options for getting your voice out to the world⁠—including an inability to create your own platform⁠—you can say “I’ve been censored”. Until that day comes, you can speak your mind on any platform that will have you. That such platforms may not be as popular as Twitter is irrelevant: The right to free speech doesn’t give you the right to make others listen.

I will call viewpoint-based censorship what it is no matter how many times you deny it.

No, what you’ll do is complain about what you believe are “leftist” social media services banning people who break the rules by spouting the kind of hateful rhetoric that forced Mike to start holding your comments for approval.

Every interactive web service has the right to moderate speech depending on the viewpoint of its owners/operators. The law can no more force Twitter to carry “pro-life” propaganda any more than it can force Truth Social to carry “pro-choice” propaganda. If a popular service wants to ban anti-queer speech, that service can do so without legal penalty.

Your “moderation is censorship” argument tries to undermine that right. It implies that any moderation of a specific viewpoint, no matter how vile, is censorship and should therefore be punished under the law. That argument, taken to its logical endgame, would require all interactive web services to allow all of the worst (legally protected) speech imaginable under threat of penalty for “viewpoint-based censorship”⁠—including speech they currently choose not to host.

Imagine for a moment that you run a Mastodon instance. The TOS of your instance bans users from using racial slurs⁠—and since this is you we’re talking about, that same TOS also bans users from speaking kindly about trans people. Now imagine that one day, the law says you must host the speech you’ve had banned from the moment you opened your instance because refusal to do so would be “viewpoint-based censorship”. Would you accept being forced to host the speech you banned, or would you continue moderating your instance as you see fit (which is your actual, factual, no-bullshit legal right outside of this hypothetical)?

Your “moderation is censorship” belief, taken to its logical conclusion, would justify turning the entire Internet into a cesspool worse than 8kun. Your belief, were it to become law, would allow all the worst speech to flood all the best platforms⁠—and leave moderators/admins with no way to fight back. I can’t see how that would help the Internet in any possible way. But if you can, by all means (and I mean this sincerely): Enlighten me. I insist.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

And again, you turn to speaking about force, because you want to hide behind the 1st Amendment to say that censorship isn’t censorship. Private institutions are allowed to censor. But censorship is what they’re doing when they silence speech based on viewpoint.

You keep demanding that cases be cited, but of course the only such cases will involve public institutions, since the 1st Amendment allows private ones to censor at will. (Although FIRE has been trying to pursue some private colleges who declare that they support freedom of speech in their schools policies and then censor anyway.) The point of the cited case is that restricting free speech to a small area is censorship.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

Free speech is not free reach. Losing a social privilege is not an infringement of your legal rights. And the owners/operators of a platform telling you to fuck off (by force, if necessary) because they don’t want to host your bigoted bullshit hasn’t censored you.

You have a right to speak your mind on any privately owned platform that will have you and to anyone who will listen. That right doesn’t entitle you to have an audience, use someone else’s platform, or make someone else give you an audience/platform. Cite a law or court case that says otherwise; if you can’t, at least have the steel-plated balls to admit your argument is built on a fallacy that seeks to turn the Internet into a bigger cesspool than New Jersey. I’d respect that kind of honesty coming from you for once.

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Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8

Free speech is not (only) a legal right, but a moral right. By focusing on the legal right, you are again hiding behind legalism because the immoral but legal censorship being practiced by the platforms is to your liking.

It is not a matter of anyone being entitled to speak in a given place. It is whether the platforms that offer a place to speak respect the freedom of speech of their users, or if they will choose to censor their users based on viewpoint. If they choose to censor, then they are acting immorally, regardless of the fact that their actions are legal.

There aren’t going to be any court cases citing platforms for such immorality, since that is not the business of the court. What we do have are many of court cases striking down governmental attempts to censor speech or to limit the places where it can take place. When private entities do the same, they are permitted to do so legally, but they fail the same moral test that the government fails when it attempts to censor.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

Nobody has the legal or moral right to use someone else’s property as a soapbox. Your argument says “yes they do, and denying them that right is censorship”.

Take this paragraph, for example:

It is not a matter of anyone being entitled to speak in a given place. It is whether the platforms that offer a place to speak respect the freedom of speech of their users, or if they will choose to censor their users based on viewpoint. If they choose to censor, then they are acting immorally, regardless of the fact that their actions are legal.

Private entities can only censor people through lawsuits, violence, or credible threats thereof. Booting someone from a social media service or a private country club or your home for saying shit you disagree with isn’t immoral unless you genuinely believe being denied the privilege of using anyone else’s property for your own purposes is immoral.

I don’t care about the political leaning of either the platform’s owners/operators or the speech they choose to punish. Twitter discourages (and punishes) queerphobia, whereas Parler likely welcome it, and a third platform might ban both sides because they don’t want to host discussions on sexual orientation. All three decisions fall within the legal and moral rights of those platforms to make.

Your argument, taken to its endgame, would argue that all three decisions are equally immoral. Per the logic of your argument, the only viable solution for this immorality⁠—regardless of whether you agree with this conclusion⁠—is to make all three platforms host the offending speech. What makes your argument any less immoral than the idea that a private entity should have the absolute legal and moral right to decide what speech it will and won’t host based on the viewpoint of that speech?

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

Private entities censor by censoring, when they use their physical power over their property to prevent someone from speaking based on the viewpoint of the speech. No lawsuit is required, in the same way that Massnick can simply choose to prevent some of my posts from appearing.

When that private entity is a large platform where people gather to speak about every topic under he sun, that platform should feel a special obligation to the principles of free speech, and choose not to censor people’s speech based on viewpoint. If they do censor, they are behaving immorally, and that is true whether they censor left or censor right.

When a site chooses to host speech, but censors speech so that only one side of an argument appears, they are acting immorally, not only because they are violating the principles of free speech for their users, but because they are lying by implication, presenting a biased view of what people are saying by eliminating viewpoints that say what they don’t like.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Private entities censor by censoring

One platform telling one person to leave based on what viewpoints that person expresses isn’t censorship.

they use their physical power over their property to prevent someone from speaking based on the viewpoint of the speech

You are a private entity. Are you saying that you tossing someone out of your home for talking shit about your mother is censorship?

When that private entity is a large platform where people gather to speak about every topic under he sun, that platform should feel a special obligation to the principles of free speech

No platform, regardless of size, carries that obligation. Twitter is no more or less immoral for banning queerphobic speech than Truth Social would be for banning “heterophobic” speech or a “family-friendly” forum would be for banning all speech about sexual orientation. What you’re arguing for (whether you realize it or not) is guaranteed free reach, which no one has any legal or moral right to claim.

If they do censor, they are behaving immorally, and that is true whether they censor left or censor right.

And yet, you’d defend one and excoriate the other based only on the viewpoints they moderate. (Which viewpoints? You know the ones…)

When a site chooses to host speech, but censors speech so that only one side of an argument appears, they are acting immorally

By that logic alone, the choice to ban speech that denies the truth of the Holocaust is more immoral than those who deny the Holocaust. I doubt you want to die on that hill⁠—but if you do, at least you’ve already dug your hole.

they are violating the principles of free speech for their users

The principles of free speech, whatever you believe they are, don’t give anyone the right to hijack property they don’t own to say anything they want at a captive audience. You have the privilege of using an open platform⁠—and losing that privilege doesn’t rob you of your right to express yourself.

Keep arguing otherwise, though. Your hole ain’t gonna dig itself.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

It is immoral (in a society that holds freedom of speech to be a moral right) to deny people the ability to speak based on their viewpoints, when you host a platform that ostensibly is a place for everyone to speak. That includes advocating Holocaust denial or any other repugnant views. That those views themselves are immoral does not make their censorship not immoral. I do understand that you no longer believe in the principles of free speech, especially when the speech is about topics that have not yet settled in public opinion in the way you would prefer.

My home is not a generic platform for people to speak. But if it were, perhaps because I was hosting some community meeting, then it would be immoral for me to prevent someone from speaking based on their viewpoints.

Denying people a right to speak on a generic platform based on their viewpoints is censorship.

I don’t know why you believe that I defend any platforms that censor. I have explicitly said otherwise. You seem to enjoy arguing with a version of me that says what you want him to say, rather than with what I actually do say. Which, fine, but not very useful.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

It is immoral (in a society that holds freedom of speech to be a moral right) to deny people the ability to speak based on their viewpoints

Yes, it is.

when you host a platform that ostensibly is a place for everyone to speak.

Now tell me how Twitter denies anyone the ability to speak their mind by banning people from Twitter.

…yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking now: “They’re denying people the chance to speak from a platform that’s supposed to be for everyone!” Well, the funny thing about that word everyone: It’s a matter of perspective, really.

A forum for Mongolian basket weaving will open its doors for “everyone” with any level of interest in the art. Doing so doesn’t oblige the forum to put up with rabble-rousers, trolls, and spam. That notion also applies to forums that think of “everyone” as literally everyone in a given area, up to and including the whole damn world.

The use of privately owned services like Twitter is a privilege⁠. That those services open themselves to the public is an invitation to let people use them, not an obligation to host all speech. If you want to argue otherwise, do it from a legal standpoint⁠—your morality argument isn’t changing any minds here.

I do understand that you no longer believe in the principles of free speech

That’s the thing: I do believe in those principles. People who hold the most vile and odious beliefs should have the absolute right to express those beliefs, even if doing so would offend sensible people. We must have the right to provoke, to offend, to make people uncomfortable or else we have nothing.

Where you and I differ in our beliefs is in whether a given platform should be obligated to host that speech. You obviously believe that a platform should carry speech even if it otherwise wouldn’t; while you’ve said you wouldn’t force that hosting by law, the only way to ensure such hosting of speech would be to force it by law. I believe⁠—and the law backs me up on this⁠—that no platform, regardless of size or popularity or subject matter, has any obligation to host any speech its owners/operators don’t want to host.

You speak of the repugnance of Holocaust denial, then call the refusal to host that speech equally repugnant. You’re implying that the refusal to host speech denying the Holocaust is an objective moral failing of anyone who makes that refusal. I hope you realize exactly how fucked up that logic is one day⁠—especially if you apply it to Jewish people!⁠—but I’m betting it won’t be this day.

My home is not a generic platform for people to speak. But if it were, perhaps because I was hosting some community meeting, then it would be immoral for me to prevent someone from speaking based on their viewpoints.

No, it wouldn’t. I mean, yeah, you’d be a dick for doing it, but you’re still allowed to set boundaries as to what will and won’t be said in your home even if you open your doors to your community (for whatever “community” means there). If you don’t want to risk having those boundaries violated, you can refuse to hold that meeting in your home. What the hell is so morally repugnant about setting boundaries for your private property and asking people to respect them?

Denying people a right to speak on a generic platform based on their viewpoints is censorship.

Do you own that platform? No? Then getting kicked off it isn’t censorship⁠—it’s moderation, and it’s the loss of the privilege to speak from that platform. Losing a Twitter account doesn’t violate or abridge the free speech rights of whoever loses that account any more than choosing to not have a Twitter account does the same.

I don’t know why you believe that I defend any platforms that censor.

You never bitch at length about Parler or Gab or Truth Social banning people based on political viewpoints that the owners/operators hate. You only ever focus on Twitter and Facebook, which⁠—despite their insistence in bending over backwards to preserve the comfort of conservative users⁠—are widely seen as “left-leaning” platforms. If you can’t see why I (and probably a few others here) think you’re okay with one kind of “viewpoint-based censorship” because your politics aligns with that “censorship”, that’s your problem.

And by the by, all five of those platforms have the same right to ban speech based on the viewpoints of the owners/operators. Want to argue otherwise? Be prepared to also argue that Mastodon instances run by (and for) queer people should host anti-queer propaganda.

Man, I can’t wait to see you say the mods of queer.party are morally heinous for banning anti-trans viewpoints. 🍿

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14

Censorship is the denial of the ability to speak on a generic platform based on the viewpoint of the speech. You continue to deny that because you like the censorship that the large platforms are providing to support your points of view.

In a society that values the principles of free speech, such censorship is immoral. This has nothing to do with the right to censor speech. Having the legal right to take immoral actions does not make them moral.

I have spoken about the small alternative platforms to say that their censorship is proof that the “go elsewhere” approach to being censored that you would have people adopt is a failed policy.

Censorship is immoral. Holocaust denial is immoral. I did not call them equally immoral. Trying to make such valuations is a game for idiot philosophers. (Morality itself is a construct of people living in a society. When I say something is immoral, I am just expressing my own point of view on how people should behave. I do not believe in any sort of abstract morality that exists outside of people’s beliefs.)

Small platforms that want to adopt positions that must not be disputed can do so, and presumably their like-minded users are happy to go along with it. Large platforms should not do this, because their users are much more diverse and come to those platforms to speak freely, not to be bound by specific viewpoints that the platforms designate as correct.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15

I could go through all your regurgitated bullshit line-by-line again. I’d probably get a kick out of tearing your vomit apart, too⁠—your recycled arguments are easy to tear down. But I’m gonna take a different tack this time.

I want to talk to you about balance.

Balance is a way of thinking about the world⁠—a construct, if you will. Think of the scales of justice: Society tries to balance the need to seek justice for victims with the need to respect the rights of the accused. You seek a sense of balance for Twitter and Facebook: Leftist speech and left-wing propaganda balanced by rightist speech and right-wing propaganda. Pro-trans speech and anti-trans speech “should” be on the same platform or else the platform is “censoring” people based on whatever viewpoint the platform deems bannable.

But balance is a fallacy. It’s a horrible construct in almost any context. In this context, I can prove it’s bullshit.

Take these two opinions: “gay couples should be allowed to marry” and “only straight couples should be allowed to marry”. At first glance, they seem to be polar opposites. You might even think the “balance” between the two would be “gay couples can have a legal equivalent of marriage, but it can’t be called marriage”. (Indeed, that was the “balance” sought by conservatives and even some scared-ass liberals before Obergefell.) But that idea has two fatal flaws.

The first flaw is in thinking those two statements are polar opposites. Look at the first statement again⁠—it says nothing about opposite-sex marriage. If you think in Horseshoe Theory, the first statement is at the top of the horseshoe, the second statement is on one end, and on the other end is a third statement: “only gay people should be allowed to marry”. The first statement, then, is the “balance” between the second and third statements, not the polar opposite of the second statement.

Even if we ignore that bit of rhetorical interpretation, that “balance” still has a fatal flaw: It’s a false balance. The first statement seeks to recognize a right gay people deserve as citizens, whereas the second seeks to deny gay people that right. Any “balance” between the two would still make gay people second-class citizens by way of inequal treatment from the government.

Therein lies the problem with your whining about “viewpoint-based censorship” on Twitter and Facebook: You want a false balance where a position that demeans, diminishes, and otherwise harms queer people should be allowed to stand on the same platform with a position that treats queer people with dignity and respect. You think a pro-queer “leftist” position needs balance from an anti-queer “rightist” position⁠—no matter how extreme that position⁠—and anything standing in the way of that balance is “immoral”. (And to further drive this point home: You’ve never asked for the opposite “balance” from sites like Gab, Parler, and Truth Social.)

Twitter doesn’t have an obligation⁠—moral, legal, or ethical⁠—to make that balance happen. Whether you agree with the idea of the law making that balance mandatory is irrelevant: The logical endgame of your argument will always involve the law forcing Twitter to “balance” speech in the way you think it should be balanced. So long as you hold onto the belief that Twitter “should” have that false balance, you can’t avoid that fate. You will make that argument one day.

All I want you to do is question the assumption that the false balance you want from Twitter is morally righteous. Right now, your belief is putting you in the same company as fascists who want to enshrine that belief into law. Do you really want to make queer-friendly social media services host extremely anti-queer speech because of an undying loyalty to a shitty belief⁠—or be on the side of people who want to do exactly that?

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Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

I will stay here, thank you.

I don’t know what point you think you’re making. The venue where this play was to be staged engaged in viewpoint-based censorship in rescinding permission, just as the large platforms engage in viewpoint-based censorship. Or, at the very least, they gave in to a heckler’s veto, an act of cowardice.

This sort of thing isn’t new. In the past, publishers of certain material would have trouble finding printers willing to handle the manufacturing.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

I don’t know what point you think you’re making.

They’re making two points:

  1. That article contains an example of actual censorship because the play is now far less likely to find a new venue due to the potential for further protest (and possibly death threats), which means the chances of it being put on have dropped considerably.
  2. You’re not denouncing this particular form of “viewpoint-based censorship” as immoral because you agree with it.
Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

Huh? Of course such censorship is immoral, especially the heckler’s veto, where threats are used to silence speech. Even moronic plays like the described one should not be prevented from being staged. (Are we sure the play is real? The description reads like something Alan Sokal would have written to prank liberals.)

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8

What in the world are you talking about? The venue should not have given in to threats and intimidation, and should have staged the play. It is immoral for them to give in to a heckler’s veto. Again, you are arguing with an imaginary version of me that says what you want him to say, not with me.

Whether the theater has violated the principles of free speech by declining to stage the play depends on the details of how the theater functions. If it is merely a venue that any production can rent for their shows, then their refusal to stage is an immoral violation of free speech. If the theater normally exercises editorial control over the plays they stage, they have the right to consider the content and opinions about it in making decisions about what to stage, because in that case they are not a generic speech platform for their customers but rather a participant in the speech.

From its description, the play should have been rejected by anyone in editorial control with a modicum of sense or taste, but that’s a different story.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

From its description, the play should have been rejected by anyone in editorial control with a modicum of sense or taste

That you’re whining about the content of the play even after defending the idea that it should’ve been put on is the height of hypocrisy. Those “principles of free speech” you keep talking about don’t (or shouldn’t) make exceptions for content you find distasteful, objectionable, or otherwise morally repugnant.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

“I disagree with what you say but I defend your right to say it” has been the core tenet of freedom of speech since, like, forever.

That apparently doesn’t apply to speech you disagree with, given how you said (AND I QUOTE) “the play should have been rejected by anyone in editorial control with a modicum of sense or taste”.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

You seem very confused. People in editorial control are the ones who are supposed to decide whether something gets published, or staged, or shown. Unless it’s a public speech forum with infinite capacity, such as YouTube or Kindle Unlimited, there are people whose job it is to make selections based on content. Random House doesn’t publish every proposed book. Netflix doesn’t produce every proposed show.

This play sounds truly stupid, in that “running dog lackeys of the capitalist imperialist bourgeoisie” style of cant. People with editorial judgement should have rejected it out of hand.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14

It’s just my wish that fewer stupid things got made. This play isn’t any different from a host of other stupid things. It would be nice if stupid things didn’t push out better ones. It all goes with the transformation of the definition of good art from skillful depictions of the world to dumb political cant.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15

It’s just my wish that fewer stupid things got made.

What gives you the right to determine what’s “stupid”, such that it doesn’t get made? What makes you the objective arbiter of the quality of a given creative work, such that your opinions are objective fact? What in the actual absolute godfuck makes you think your opinions on what‘s “stupid” deserve greater consideration than anyone else’s?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fun and games with ambiguity

I’m following this Moneybags person!

Um… In what sense do you mean “following”? Does this mean that you’re going to watch for further tweets from Moneybags? Or that you, too will go into hiding?

… er… I guess if you reply to this, you meant the former… Well, guess I’ll see! Or, you know, not see…

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I suspect they may not comment much on this matter because of the old trope ‘anything you say can be used against you’ in particular if there are appeals of case.

Three things.

  1. I suspect they won’t comment because what the hell would be the point.
  2. The article says that the account was apparently abandoned after news of the subpoena broke.
  3. Given how hard Bayside is trying to avoid the spotlight so no one will look deeper into the company, I doubt an appeal will ever happen.

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