The Power Of Intermediaries To Silence Speech Online

from the forget-big-brother,-look-out-for-the-corporations dept

While plenty of people worry about the possibility of government censorship online, some are noticing that the real issue isn't with government censorship but the fact that various intermediaries, in the form of service and application providers have the power to make content disappear online -- and they are often being pressured to do so, even if it's perfectly legal. This means that various hosting companies or other services, such as MySpace and Facebook often have tremendous power to hide content that it dislikes (or that someone else convinces them they should take down).

While the really egregious examples of taking down content are often brought to light by people complaining, it is a reminder that you might not really control all the content you think you control. This can be true even if you think you "control" your own domain. If the content is hosted by a service provider, often it can be convinced to pull down your content. While this should lead to more companies who promise not to get involved, there really are only a few who promote themselves that way (and it often gets even more difficult with laws that require "notice and takedown" such as the DMCA in the US). While this might not be a huge problem for most people, it is worth remembering how much power these various intermediaries may have over what you consider to be "your" content.

Filed Under: free speech, intermediaries


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  1. identicon
    Jennifer, 8 Jul 2008 @ 8:10am

    blurry lines

    Basically this article is talking about freedom of speech issues and those questions have always seemed to be one big blurry line. I say that because other than national security and maybe threats to people in general shouldn't everything be allowed? But then what if you get into something like pornographic language, obscenities, or extremist political views? Should those be monitored on sites such as facebook or Xanga? What about if the site or service provider addresses their rules and regulations in a terms of agreement that the user unsuspectingly accepted? Even though there are all these issues of what is acceptable content for the internet and how to monitor such situations there are always the people's rights. First amendment to the constitution guarantees freedom to assemble, freedom of religion, freedom of press, right to petition and most importantly - in this case - freedom of speech (and it is not exclusive to verbal speech). I'm just glad I don't call the shots...

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