Moderation v. Discretion v. Censorship: They're Not The Same

from the some-'splaining dept

Moderation is a platform operator saying "we don't do that here". Discretion is you saying "I won't do that there". Censorship is someone saying "you can't do that anywhere" before or after threats of either violence or government intervention.

Regular Techdirt commenters have seen that paragraph show up often in recent months. But what does it really mean? Well, as the person who crafted that bit (and who uses it on a regular basis), I'mma do you an explain.

Moderation

Moderation is a platform operator saying "we don't do that here". When I use that phrase, I may cite a column from a blog called Thagomizer. (That column helped me start crafting my bit in the first place.) In the column, writer Aja Hammerly refers to it as a "magic" phrase:

["We don't do that here"] is a conversation ender. If you are the newcomer and someone who has been around a long time says "we don't do that here", it is hard to argue. This sentence doesn't push my morality on anyone. If they want to do whatever it is elsewhere, I'm not telling them not to. I'm just cluing them into the local culture and values. If I deliver this sentence well it carries no more emotional weight than saying, "in Japan, people drive on the left." "We don't do that here" should be a statement of fact and nothing more. It clearly and concisely sets a boundary, and also makes it easy to disengage with any possible rebuttals.

All moderation decisions on an interactive Web service boil down to "we don't do that here". When Twitter punishes a user over a tweet that breaks the rules, the admins have all but said that phrase. Twitter doesn't care if you do "that" elsewhere. But it doesn't want you doing "that" on Twitter.

What makes this different from censorship? Moderation lacks the force of law. Twitter can ban a user for breaking the rules, of course. But it can't stop that user from posting their speech elsewhere. Someone banned from Twitter for saying racial slurs can go to 4chan and still post those slurs. Moderation is a social consequence: A moderator thought someone was acting like an ignorant jerk, and they showed that jerk the door.

Discretion

Discretion is you saying "I won't do that there". Some people might think of discretion as self-censorship. But that phrasing focuses on the negative idea of chilled speech. I prefer to think of discretion as an act of personal restraint.

As an example, consider the hypothetical case of Joe Straightdude. Joe doesn't believe he hates gay people (though he doesn't "agree with" homosexuality). One night, he sees a pro-LGBT post on a Facebook group that rubs him the wrong way. He writes an angry reply to the post that includes a well-known anti-LGBT slur. But before Joe posts it, he stops himself. He thinks about whether his reply needs that slur. Then he thinks through the possible fallout of posting the whole reply. After a few minutes of thinking, he deletes what he typed without posting it.

What makes discretion different from censorship? In the example above, Joe wouldn't have faced any legal fallout for his reply if he had posted it. And no one forced him to not post the reply. He made his choice based on whether he wanted to face negative social consequences. Joe took responsibility for his actions and showed restraint all on his own.

Censorship

Censorship is someone saying "you can't do that anywhere" before or after threats of either violence or government intervention. Lawsuits. Arrests. Fines. Jail time. Threats involving any of those four. Any one of those things suck more than an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner. When they're attached to speech, they become the tools of censors.

I could come up with hypothetical examples of censorship, sure. But why do that when so many real examples exist?

What sets censorship apart from moderation and discretion? Simply put, censorship has the rule of law behind it. Twitter can't stop banned users from using the speech that got them banned on another service. But a court that rules to suppress speech puts the weight of the law behind that ruling. It says, "Publish that speech anywhere and we'll fine you or toss you in jail." The same goes for police officers who punish people for legal speech that offends others. And people who threaten lawsuits and arrests qualify as wannabe censors at "best". Such actions can, and often do, result in chilled speech.

And chilled speech, unlike discretion, carries an air of legal consequences. The lawsuits filed by Devin Nunes to identify Twitter user @DevinCow have one real purpose ("unmask that user"). That user feels emboldened to mock Nunes because they remain anonymous. But if Nunes succeeds in his goal, that user would have less reason to keep posting. Nunes would take the choice of discretion out of that user's hands. ("I don't want him to sue me again, so why risk it?") To put it another way: Discretion is when you show restraint; censorship is when the government restrains you.

Censorship can also happen without any actual legal threats. American movie studios will often censor their own films to appease foreign governments, even if those governments don't threaten legal action. But countries like China can make or break the profitability of a film. The threat is thus implicit: "Censor your movies or they won't play here." Studios have a financial incentive, then, to censor their films and "play nice".

Moderation As "Censorship"

Some people refer to moderation decisions that affect them as "censorship" because they feel they've been censored. Maybe they think a platform punished them for holding certain political views. Maybe they think a platform punished them for bigoted reasons. Whatever the reason, those people feel that losing their spot on the platform is censorship. But they're not angry about losing their right to speak. (Twitter, Facebook, etc. can't take that away from them, anyway.)

A platform the size of Twitter or Facebook comes with a built-in potential audience of millions. Anyone banned from Twitter loses the ability to reach that audience. For some people, such a loss can feel like censorship — even though it isn't. No one has the right to an audience. No one has the right to make someone listen. But entitled people think they do have those rights, and any "violation" of those "rights" is "censorship".

On the other hand, marginalized creators who lose that platform may be dealt a huge blow to the reach of their content. And if they feel like they were punished in some way for bullshit reasons, their feeling "censored" holds far more validity. Just ask LGBTQ YouTubers whose videos were demonetized because the videos contained pro-LGBTQ content.

In the strictest of legal senses, what Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. do when they moderate speech on their platforms isn't censorship. But when it comes to morals and ethics…well, everyone has an opinion.

The Last Word...That Isn't

And in fairness, most of what you read above is an opinion — my own, and nobody else's. I don't consider what I've said to be the "last word" on the matter. If anything, those three sentences only summarize my opinions on these issues. They don't get into the morality or ethics of moderation, such as Blizzard's decision to punish Blitzchung for his support for Hong Kong. They don't say "people can't use 'censorship' in a colloquial sense" (although I do think that cheapens the concept). And besides all that, opinions should be discussed, debated, and even changed.

Think of this, then, as an opening for that debate. Use this as a springboard to form your own opinions, and share them in the comments. Agree with me? Great. Disagree with me? Even better — because through disagreement and reasoned discussion, we can improve and refine our opinions.

But don't get mad if one of your comments gets flagged. That isn't censorship — it's moderation, working as intended.

[To the extent possible under law, I waive all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this article.]

Filed Under: censorship, content moderation, discretion, free speech, moderation, platform moderation


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 2:00pm

    Oh shit…

    …did I do that?

    😁

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Thad (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 2:08pm

    Well put, Stephen. Thanks for your contribution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 2:32pm

    Twitter and facebook are still things that have in fact negatively impacted people's right to speak but I don't know if that is something within their power to correct or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 2:35pm

    Mr. Stone:

    One thing I think should be pointed out about your opinion: As far as I can tell it's logically consistent (it feels sad that I feel tempted to congratulate anyone on that).

    Also thanks for the write up (I will at least think about using it as a 'source' in conversations :p)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 2:36pm

    Re:

    [citation needed]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 2:41pm

    Re:

    How have twitter and facebook impeded any means to make their opinions known that existed before twitter and facebook? Have they made it more difficulty to stand on a soap box with a megaphone? Have the made it more difficult to knock on doors and seek a conversation with the resident? Have they made it more difficult to print and post physical flyers? Have they made mailing campaigns more difficult? Have they made it harder to write letters to the editor (who, it is worth noting, is under no obligation to publish said missive)? Can you name any way? If not, I put it to you that they have not made speaking out any harder than it was before. They may have refused to make it easier for some, just as landlords make it more difficult by refusing protesters entry to tenants' offices. So what? There's is no legal or constitutional right to make someone else make it easier for you to speak your mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:04pm

    Censorship is someone saying "you can't do that anywhere" before or after threats of either violence or government intervention.

    That's just, like, your opinion, man.

    "anywhere" is certainly an idiosyncratic requirement. There are countries with official "film censorship" offices by that name. They don't prevent films from being shown in other countries, and in most cases the makers of censored films are not breaking the law—e.g., they can travel freely to the censoring country without fear of arrest.

    "violence" is a requirement I've never heard of.

    "government" is disputed. Wikitionary shows no such requirement, and gives a specific example of a headmaster as a censor (noun). (If you want to be stubborn, it's true that some headmasters are government employees. Nevertheless, the term "government" appears zero times on that page.)

    You provide no sources for any of these requirements. I have no problem with you holding or expressing this opinion, but you have to expect some friction when you invent a definition for a word and then complain when people don't conform to your definition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    TheDumberHalf, 28 May 2020 @ 3:16pm

    A moment of clarity

    After reading this, you have triggered one of those woke moments that are rare in life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:22pm

    Twitter and facebook are still things that have in fact negatively impacted people's right to speak.

    No they aren't. No they can't. Nobody on earth has less RIGHT to speak now--with Facebook or twitter in existance, than they would have before facebook or twitter.

    And, which is an entirely different issue, nobody on earth has less ABILITY to speak TO A LARGE AUDIENCE (which is a different thing), than they did BEFORE F&T. Everyone has all the speaking and audience-gathering tools that were available before F&T. It is certainly true that some people have gained more audience than others.

    BUT--that's true for everything humans do. A new local water purification plant does nothing for the water purity of the neighboring towns. Cheaper Braille books don't help people who aren't blind. Chitimacha schools don't teach the Navajo language. Some valuable drugs cause allergic reactions in some patients. Some people can't, or won't, learn to use computers. But all these things are still good things!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Koby (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 3:35pm

    Moderation vs Censorship

    One of the differences with some social media systems is that people deliberately choose who to follow. So when someone gets "moderated", it turns out that then noone can hear them on the platform, including those who wanted to hear it. It much more closely resembles the definition of "censorship".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:40pm

    Re:

    That's just, like, your opinion, man.

    Yes, it is. He even said that. "And in fairness, most of what you read above is an opinion — my own, and nobody else's."

    As for the rest, I think you're being too literal in your interpretation. Instead of getting hung up on the specific wording, I took it to refer more to spheres of authority. Discretion refers to the exercise of censorial authority over yourself. Moderation refers to the exercise of censorial authority over private property by the owners of that property. Censorship (in this context) refers to the exercise of censorial authority over the citizens of a country by that country's government. Of those three spheres of authority, only one has life-, liberty-, or property-removing enforcement apparatuses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:40pm

    Re:

    " in fact negatively impacted people's right to speak "

    There is a claim of fact but no evidence, rinse & repeat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    What is even more like censorship is allowing the bigots to drive their chosen targets off the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 3:58pm

    So when someone gets "moderated", it turns out that then noone can hear them on the platform, including those who wanted to hear it. It much more closely resembles the definition of "censorship".

    Alex Jones has been "moderated" from Twitter, but that doesn't mean his followers can't follow him on his own platform. So no, that does not more closely resemble the definition of "censorship".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    icon
    tz1 (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 4:11pm

    We don't do what exactly?

    So when someone posts something which is offensive, and a mob then doxxes them, gets them fired, has their bank and/or payment processor, their ISP, their hosting service drop them, how is that not "censorship"? Then there's the problem that "We DO do that around here, except to X", take the tweets that get banned when you simply s/white/black/g. In the above post, note how it is someone who is uncomfortable with LGBTQ, not someone like Dan Savage who said worse in public at a conference showing what by the reciprocal standards would be anti-Christian bigoted hate speech. The upside is the war is now open instead of a slow attrition where Alex Jones gets banned but not Rachel Maddow. Milo but not Savage. The second great thing to come from this is the nonsense like the post above trying to use reason and proper argument when everything is about hurting someone's feelings, and the accuracy of the post isn't relevant, or isn't even contested but belittled or condemned. Take the current cause. There ARE lots of opportunities for fraud in "Mail In Ballots". They can be mitigated with strong voter-ID laws (including a signature sample that must match the ballot), bans on ballot harvesting, and have the postal inspectors and USPS secure the mail in path. The problem is we can't have that discussion. If we could the above points would be the response to Trump, not "Fact Check: False - see these CNN and NBC #FakeNews articles". Also note the controversy over Mail In Ballots doesn't even come close to talking about hate speech, yet that, something which should not be about feelings, is the cause. Is Trump calling for the slaughter of Gay people like Ric Grenell or Milo? Well, maybe you don't see any difference. Me: Come, let us reason together and discuss and debate, using reason and evidence without getting personal or profane. You: We don't do that around here.

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    tz1 (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 4:21pm

    Then there's DCMA notices

    Ask Michael Moore if his 4 seconds of use of some film the original author used to file a takedown notice causing his movie to be taken down is censorship. It happens much more commonly and there are people who simply troll the DCMA report box to take things down for a day or two and just force the people to respond. This is also a serious problem but also "content moderation". Because someone with a gmail account which has only existed for 20 minutes says it violates their copyright, we must remove your content.

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  17. identicon
    TFG, 28 May 2020 @ 4:25pm

    "Hold that thought"

    Well, Stephen, now I know why you kept saying "You're going to want to hold onto that thought" in that other article.

    Well reasoned and well put.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 4:28pm

    Re:

    Twitter and Facebook are private platforms and the audience for the content on those platforms is voluntary. So when you violate their TOS and they decide to kill your account, you're only losing the audience that decided to use that platform. It's not stopping you from posting on a different social media platform. It's not stopping you from homegrowing your own blog on your own server. You're just losing access to an audience that has no obligation to listen to you in the first place.

    That doesn't violate your right to speak at all. And you don't have a right to force others to hear/see/read your speech.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Killercool (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    If a mall refuses to let you have a demonstration in their food court, people who go to the mall will, in fact, not be able to hear you speak at that mall.

    It does nothing to keep you from saying your piece at a different mall, outside of the mall, on your website, in a letter to a newspaper, in a phone-calling campaign, or any of many ways of expressing yourself.

    The mall has not censored you. They have exercised their right of association (recognized as part of the first amendment by the Supreme Court) and told you to get off their property. Because it's NOT A PUBLIC FORUM. It's PRIVATE PROPERTY.

    Even if these platforms get treated as publishers, they still don't have to let you say ANYTHING. Because they are PRIVATE PROPERTY.

    If you want to get nit-picky and claim that "corporations aren't people, they shouldn't have rights!", then fine. The editors and/or owners of the platform have Constitutional rights that include refusing you service for any reason that isn't one of the categories protected by the Civil Rights Act.

    Stop equating Constitutionally protected activities performed by private companies, owned by private individuals (whether singly or in a collective, aka "corporations"), with actions performed by a government official or body.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 4:40pm

    So when someone posts something which is offensive, and a mob then doxxes them, gets them fired, has their bank and/or payment processor, their ISP, their hosting service drop them, how is that not "censorship"?

    Nothing of this is under discussion. Nobody has been discussing who is working (or no longer working) for facebook or twitter. Nobody has been suggesting that facebook or twitter has been interfering with anyone's relationship with any other business.

    All that is happening is that a private company has declined to distribute what some other person has been creating. That happens all the time. Walmart has dropped spices that I was accustomed to buy from them, although they still sell food I don't like. Amazon doesn't sell all the books I want to buy, although they sell some books I don't approve of. Autozone doesn't sell headlights for my car, although they do sell headlights for cars that would not suit me.

    Autozone is the largest auto parts distributor in my community; walmart is by far the largest grocery retailer. And so those are real inconveniences. Amazon is not a problem: U.P.S. delivers books from many resellers. How about this: TWITTER DOESN'T CARRY MIKE MASNICK ARTICLES!

    And who would care? Who would be so unimaginably STUPID as to complain about that? People who want to read MM, simply go to Techdirt. What Twitter does, or doesn't do, can never matter to people who don't like what Twitter does. They just go elsewhere. To any of many elsewheres. At no convenience at all. It's not like you have to drive to the nearest city to buy headlights. Techdirt is just as easy to visit as Twitter. (easier for me: I bookmark TD but not TW.)

    The only thing stupider than complaining about what Twitter does, is to complain ON SOME OTHER SITE that something can't be found on Twitter. Look, you found Techdirt easily enough--just like anyone could find the site containing whatever dreck Twitter doesn't have.

    I grant you, Twitter's dreck is deeper and more concentrated than most people's. But even Twitter cannot encompass the volume of dreck that the human race can produce.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Re:

    You don't have the right to exist you troll.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    TaboToka (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 4:51pm

    Re: We don't do what exactly?

    There ARE lots of opportunities for fraud in "Mail In Ballots"....

    Don’t give us hypotheticals. Cite any government election where the outcome was changed by documented voter fraud. (Hint: there are exactly zero)

    I’d be interested in hearing how Trump was “censored”, as none of the content in his tweet was removed or modified. The only thing that happened was a link was added to the bottom.

    This is yet another example of a tempest in a teapot. If Trump’s executive order results in serious damage to 230, then I hope Twitter promptly and permanently enforces their TOS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    TFG, 28 May 2020 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    One thing that humbles me deeply is to see that human genius has its limits while human stupidity does not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    TaboToka (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    So when someone gets "moderated", it turns out that then noone can hear them ... including those who wanted to ....

    FTFY

    See how ridiculous it sounds when we boil down your argument to its essence?

    It doesn’t matter the platform; if it is owned by someone else, Trump, or you or I or anyone doesn’t have the right to use that platform without the owners’ permission. Any individual for (almost) any or no reason can have their words removed.

    The only real limitation is an owner cannot discriminate against a group--a class—of people based upon specific status. Race, sex, being a veteran, etc.

    Too bad Republicans have fought so hard to water down and eliminate class protections. Being LGBTQ+ for example, or atheist, or...conservative(!) are not protected and thus can be discriminated against all the live-long day. Sucks when it is you, huh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 5:21pm

    Yeah... no

    Censor
    verb
    To review in order to remove objectionable content from correspondence or public media, either by legal criteria or with discretionary powers. (Wiktionary, emphasis added)

    Blitzchung getting banned from competitive Hearthstone was absolutely censorship, carried out by a private company to protect their market share by not angering business partners in mainland China. Even the most conspiratory line of thinking doesn't lead one to thinking that the Chinese government threatened Blizzard with legal action, but the result is that professionals that play for Blizzard now will bite their tongue on anything remotely controversial or they'll have their careers ruined and rightfully won prize money stripped away.

    In the U.S. the 14th Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating against people on any basis. This doesn't extend to private entities. While it generally shouldn't apply to private entities, this also means that unless there's an additional law, people can be denied food, housing, employment, and basic utilities based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

    We currently lack these laws protecting sexual orientation, and so people have to self-censor about their orientation, lest they wind up homeless and jobless. This is a case where the government cannot lift a finger against someone, but someone speaking up about their experiences can face such brutal retaliation that they stay quiet or risk being ruined.

    The delusion that only the government can censor allows censorship to be outsourced to private companies with no recourse. Mastercard and Visa preventing something from being said is indistinguishable from the government preventing it. Anti-sex crusaders want payment providers to stop doing business with services that allow NSFW content? Hollywood wants video hosts to pre-screen all uploads for piracy as a requirement to receive money? Platforms will start banning user content and/or throw away any semblance of privacy to enforce it. And people can't go to another platform because these moral busybodies won't allow them to exist. 0 government involvement, mass censorship and the end of privacy on platforms that want to accept money to offset the costs to exist.

    "Discretion" is censorship once it crosses into the territory of disproportionate retaliation for someone enjoying their basic human rights.

    As for moderation, even places that are "unmoderated" are moderated for spam. Everyone acknowledges that some things have to be removed to preserve usability. But if Google moderated their search results to remove Techdirt at the behest, or under threat from, Hollywood it'd be censorship and it'd be just as wrong as the government doing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 5:31pm

    Re: Re:

    It's almost as if not listening to them is a violation of their free speech rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:36pm

    Except, y’know, it’s not. The constitution protects one’s right to speak their mind; it doesn’t give anyone the right to make others listen.

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    icon
    tz1 (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:45pm

    one stone, two birds

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  29. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:50pm

    While the shortened version has been workable to date it's nice to see it expanded upon like this, with the various points and distinctions between them made all the clearer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Oh shit…

    You sure did, Urkel.

    Steve, go home. 😜

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 5:59pm

    Please keep in mind that, as I said at the end, none of what I’ve said is “word of God”–type stuff. Agree, disagree, no skin off my back either way. That said, you’re gonna get a few clarifications because my column was purposefully short. The key clarification: I speak from the viewpoint of a United States citizen, so what I say is biased in that direction. YMMY, IANAL, DNTHFB.

    "anywhere" is certainly an idiosyncratic requirement

    By “anywhere”, I refer to “any place within the borders of a given country” — in this case, the U.S. — “and the Internet in general”. The whole point of censorship is to ensure that someone’s speech is suppressed where it matters the most (e.g., the U.S.) by the people to whom it matters the most (e.g., someone in the U.S. federal government).

    There are countries with official "film censorship" offices by that name.

    See what I said about about suppressing speech where it matters the most.

    "violence" is a requirement I've never heard of

    Two things.

    1. Thanks for reminding me that I didn’t cover this in my article. (I always forget something whenever I think I’m finished, but don’t notice it until afterward.)

    2. That said: I really hope I don’t have to explain why someone trying to chill someone else’s speech by saying “publish this and I’ll break your goddamned knees” is censorship.

    "government" is disputed

    “Government”, in my bit, refers to any branch of any level of government within a given country. Mayors, state Senates, the Supreme Court of the United States — so long as they wield the power of government, they count. And since the courts count as an arm of the government (judicial branch), anyone who uses them in an attempt to suppress speech becomes a censor as well. (To wit: Devin Nunes trying to silence that one silly Twitter account by suing Twitter to uncover the user’s identity.)

    Wikitionary shows no such requirement, and gives a specific example of a headmaster as a censor

    If the headmaster is a government employee, they’re a censor. If they’re the head of a private institution, they’re a “censor” in a merely colloquial sense. The privately owned and operated Liberty University, for example, has engaged in what I’d normally call “moderation” vis-á-vis its campus newspaper¹ — which, despite it being a frankly immoral and unethical decision, Liberty U has every right to do as a private institution. (Frankly, I’d be tempted to call such people censors outright, but that would kinda go against my whole bit.)

    You provide no sources for any of these requirements.

    And yet you wonder why I called what I said an “opinion”.

    I have no problem with you holding or expressing this opinion, but you have to expect some friction when you invent a definition for a word and then complain when people don't conform to your definition.

    Agree, disagree, s’all good — but if you want to discuss the points I’ve raised, well, that’s what I’m here for.


    ¹ — For example.

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  32. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:04pm

    when someone gets "moderated", it turns out that then noone can hear them on the platform, including those who wanted to hear it. It much more closely resembles the definition of "censorship".

    When someone gets kicked out of a bar for ranting about the New World Order (and how it was better than the Four Horsemen), if someone else wanted to hear that person’s drunken rambling, that someone else can follow the drunken dumbass to whatever place they go next. The drunken dumbass didn’t have their speech suppressed; they were simply told “we don’t do that here” in a…more forceful way. The listener wasn’t stopped from following the dumbass; they could voluntarily choose to stay in the bar or follow the dumbass, and they chose…poorly.

    You’re not owed a spot on someone else’s platform. If people want to hear what you have to say, you’ll find a way to get your word out to them with or without the potential reach of a Twitter or a Facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:06pm

    Just an FYI:

    Atheism is considered a protected religious creed under United States law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:10pm

    Was I too subtle, or not subtle enough? 😆

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:28pm

    So when someone posts something which is offensive, and a mob then doxxes them, gets them fired, has their bank and/or payment processor, their ISP, their hosting service drop them, how is that not "censorship"?

    The fool who posted the offensive speech in the first place still has every right to post that same speech anywhere they want. All they’ve faced are social consequences for saying something so offensive that they apparently fell into a hellmouth.

    The second great thing to come from this is the nonsense like the post above trying to use reason and proper argument when everything is about hurting someone's feelings, and the accuracy of the post isn't relevant, or isn't even contested but belittled or condemned.

    Private entities have every right to moderate legally protected speech on their platforms. That the speech may be the 100% gospel truth doesn’t matter.

    There ARE lots of opportunities for fraud in "Mail In Ballots".

    And yet, no one can find all this alleged widescale voter fraud — not even a group of people handpicked by the president himself.

    They can be mitigated with strong voter-ID laws (including a signature sample that must match the ballot)

    Voter ID laws pose a significant threat of disenfranchisement, particularly for people of color.

    bans on ballot harvesting

    Numerous states already have such bans. One of them is my home state, which had to hold a special election for a congressional district last year because of ballot harvesting by Republican operatives in the 2018 election.

    and have the postal inspectors and USPS secure the mail in path

    Yeah, about that…

    The problem is we can't have that discussion. If we could the above points would be the response to Trump

    We are having that discussion. Twitter made it easier to have the discussion by pointing people to factual information about vote-by-mail elections when they were faced with misinformation posed by one particular Twitter user.

    Me: Come, let us reason together and discuss and debate, using reason and evidence without getting personal or profane.

    Start acting in good faith and we can. Until then? Nah, fam, I’m good with what I’m doing now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:28pm

    'Don't trust that system, I used it after all.'

    Other elected officials, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns that expanding the practice would increase the likelihood of election fraud. Examples of mail-in ballot fraud have been minimal, and Trump himself has voted absentee in recent elections.

    Well, that's awkward...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:30pm

    Ask Michael Moore if his 4 seconds of use of some film the original author used to file a takedown notice causing his movie to be taken down is censorship.

    It is. Copyright is a government-granted right; any attempt to enforce copyright will always involve the government in some way (typically the judiciary branch). That includes the DMCA takedown system. Therefore, copyright takedowns can be — but aren’t always — censorship.

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  38. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, it was just Stone's opinion. That almost nobody in the real world agrees with.

    However, Techdirt just made it Techdirt's opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:39pm

    Re:

    "no skin off my back either way"

    Now, c'mon Stone … that's not true. The ink you've spilled on it in Techdirt comment sections make that pretty clear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:40pm

    Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    Is it also like censorship when anti-bigots drive *their** chosen targets off the Internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:46pm

    Mastercard and Visa preventing something from being said is indistinguishable from the government preventing it.

    Mastercard? Visa? Where did THEY get into the conversation?

    I can see it now: a world in which crack cocaine becomes impossible to find because, drug pushers can't get a merchant account with Visa. Mastercard goons cruising the streets, gunning down anyone who speaks without permission. Dude, what ARE you SMOKING?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:52pm

    That almost nobody in the real world agrees with.

    Almost being the key word there. 😁

    Techdirt just made it Techdirt's opinion.

    I don’t speak for Techdirt as an organization or anyone who works/writes for Techdirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Which real world are you from, then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:59pm

    Re: Re:

    The skin, it appears, comes from the back of another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 7:11pm

    Blitzchung getting banned from competitive Hearthstone was absolutely censorship

    He didn’t face legal consequences for his speech. Blizzard punishing him was technically moderation, since Blitzchung is more than free to express his support for Hong Kong outside of Blizzard’s corporate-controlled environs. But if you want to call it “censorship” in a colloquial sense, go right ahead. (Don’t expect me to agree, but still.)

    the result is that professionals that play for Blizzard now will bite their tongue on anything remotely controversial or they'll have their careers ruined and rightfully won prize money stripped away

    Only if they do it on Blizzard’s time, which is why Blitzchung was punished in the first place. (I’m not saying it’s right [it’s not], I’m saying it’s what happened.)

    We currently lack these laws protecting sexual orientation, and so people have to self-censor about their orientation, lest they wind up homeless and jobless. This is a case where the government cannot lift a finger against someone, but someone speaking up about their experiences can face such brutal retaliation that they stay quiet or risk being ruined.

    I’d consider this censorship because such implicit threats are a form of violence, albeit of a psychological kind. (Anyone who says otherwise has either never been in that position or doesn’t know/know about someone who has.)

    Mastercard and Visa preventing something from being said is indistinguishable from the government preventing it.

    Show me where Mastercard and Visa have fully prevented legal speech from being published anywhere on- or offline, and I’ll concede the point.

    Anti-sex crusaders want payment providers to stop doing business with services that allow NSFW content?

    Those payment providers are free to do so if they wish. The law can’t force PayPal to work with porn studios.

    Hollywood wants video hosts to pre-screen all uploads for piracy as a requirement to receive money?

    I hope those video sites are asking for a shitload of money to cover the massive expenses for all that prescreening.

    people can't go to another platform because these moral busybodies won't allow them to exist

    Other platforms can exist…but probably not with servers sitting on American soil. (Thank you, Eugen, for running mastodon.social out of Germany.)

    "Discretion" is censorship once it crosses into the territory of disproportionate retaliation for someone enjoying their basic human rights.

    You can face social consequences for your speech without having your life destroyed. Say something that gets you tossed out of a bar and all you’ve done is get tossed out of a bar.

    if Google moderated their search results to remove Techdirt at the behest, or under threat from, Hollywood it'd be censorship

    Depends. Did Hollywood threaten a lawsuit first?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 7:19pm

    One more thing to add here. While I might(!) come off as snarky towards you, AC, you did give me a fair bit to think about with the Blizzard and Mastercard/Visa points. I sincerely mean that.

    And that’s how it should be: We trade ideas, we have reasoned discussions when we disagree (with maybe a bit of snark tossed in for fun), and we maybe rethink our opinions going forward. No need for namecalling or treating one another as if the other “side” is a blithering idiot — only a fair discussion held in good faith.

    Thank you, AC, for giving me something to think about. 👍

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 7:31pm

    Re:

    That said: I really hope I don’t have to explain why someone trying to chill someone else’s speech by saying “publish this and I’ll break your goddamned knees” is censorship.

    You kind of do, because you're using "censorship" with a definition you've made up and we don't know any more than you tell us. Certainly the idea that "it's only censorship if the government does it" has been raised in Techdirt comments, and most governments aren't threatening to break knees. Why should it be "censorship" to threaten someone with a small financial loss (enforced by a court), but not to kick them off the platform they use to make the bulk of their income (independent of the government)? Is "you can speak on some other platform" fundamentally less offensive than "you can speak from another country", or is that merely a side-effect of the difficulty of physical movement?

    Honestly, I don't see debate over the definition of "censorship" getting us anywhere useful. If you convince the Techdirt readers, we'll still have to convince the general population to use the term only in that way. What's the goal we're working toward here? Could that goal be better served by using a term (perhaps "censorship" with some qualifier) that people are less likely to misinterpret, where you won't have to refer to this explanation every time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Mr. President, is that you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 8:55pm

    Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    The editors and/or owners of the platform have Constitutional rights that include refusing you service for any reason that isn't one of the categories protected by the Civil Rights Act.

    Wait, why does this one law supersede what's written in the Constitution?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 9:03pm

    Re:

    they were simply told “we don’t do that here” in a…more forceful way.

    The use of force, or the threat thereof, would seem to meet your definition of censorship. Doubly so if the property owner called the cops (i.e. the government) to do that.

    You’re not owed a spot on someone else’s platform.

    What's that got to do with anything? Saying something is censorship doesn't imply it shouldn't be allowed, or that a person is "owed" anything; it can be read as a neutral statement of fact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:09pm

    What's the goal we're working toward here?

    Personally, I’m working toward a better understanding of my own thoughts on the subject of this article. Writing them out the way I did helped me gather my thoughts and work through them in a logical way.

    As for the rest of your post: I already mentioned below to another dissenting commenter that their post gave me a fair bit to think about. Yours has done the same. I may end up writing an update to my article in the near future after I’ve worked out my thoughts further. (Which, again, is exactly what I was hoping for — a good faith discussion that raises valid ideas which I can absorb and ponder, then adapt into my existing thought structures if necessary.) While I may show some snark, rest assured that I’m taking seriously the opposing/dissenting points which touch on things I didn’t mention in the article.

    And so you know, the paragraph that opens the article wasn’t my first version of that bit. It’s merely the current evolution of it, partially because it hasn’t received a solid challenge like it has in this comments section. By all means, dissent away — I sincerely appreciate the chance to test, consider, and possibly change my ideas based on new input.

    (tl;dr — Fair points, will consider them in the future. 👍)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 9:09pm

    Re:

    Alex Jones has been "moderated" from Twitter, but that doesn't mean his followers can't follow him on his own platform.

    If we follow this to its logical conclusion, nothing prevents every domain registrar from denying him service, but at least those who remember his IP address could reach him. Except that there's no right to have IP addresses, internet service, printing presses, megaphones, the ability to accept money via credit/debit cards... Well, maybe he could use Tor, or stand around in a public park with a few dozen people.

    Where does the extreme reluctance to use the term "censorship", until the government literally throws him in prison or sews his mouth shut, actually get us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 9:12pm

    Re: 'Don't trust that system, I used it after all.'

    Well, that's awkward...

    Don't be obtuse. You know damn well that Trump has no concept of awkwardness or irony. Sometimes he's believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 9:18pm

    Re:

    any attempt to enforce copyright will always involve the government in some way

    By that logic, if Twitter banned someone for their speech, then used the CFAA or another law against them when they worked around the ban, that would be censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:18pm

    The use of force, or the threat thereof, would seem to meet your definition of censorship.

    Except censorship, under my definition (which is obviously not the One True Word of God definition), would require the bar owner/the cops to threaten or commit violence against the drunken dumbass if they said what got them booted from that bar in another bar. As it stands, getting booted from that one bar is a “we don’t do that here” situation — cops or no cops.

    What's that got to do with anything?

    Some people who conflate moderation with censorship believe they’re owed a spot on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. They think they’re entitled to speak their mind on someone else’s soapbox because of the First Amendment. But they’re not owed that spot, and losing that spot doesn’t mean they’ve been censored.

    If I’m banned from Twitter tomorrow, I can still go to Facebook, Mastodon, LiveJournal, Neocities, or any other website that hosts third-party speech and spread my good(-ish) word. Censorship requires that my speech be suppressed; Twitter banning me wouldn’t do that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:20pm

    Re: Re: 'Don't trust that system, I used it after all.'

    A fair point, awkwardness would require someone capable of feeling that emotion, an ability he almost certainly lacks, not to mention it would require an admission that two positions could conflict and/or one of them might not be correct, which again are likely abilities he lacks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:26pm

    nothing prevents every domain registrar from denying him service

    Except maybe their own consciences. Recall that Cloudflare’s CEO said that he had misgivings about giving the boot to the Daily Stormer (y’know, actual goddamn Nazis).

    Where does the extreme reluctance to use the term "censorship", until the government literally throws him in prison or sews his mouth shut, actually get us?

    I’m not reluctant to use “censorship” without any mention of the government. I’m reluctant to use it in situations that aren’t suited for the word — like, say, Twitter deciding to boot Alex Jones for violating the TOS. That reluctance may have reduced what I consider “censorship” a little too much, I admit. But my thinking on the matter is always evolving, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:27pm

    Donald Trump is incapable of feeling cognitive dissonance. It would require him to have actual cognitive capabilites beyond that of a child.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 9:30pm

    Only if Twitter’s attempt to use the law resulted in the target having their speech suppressed on all platforms outside of Twitter. Copyright, by its very nature, conflicts with the First Amendment. The CFAA doesn’t.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60. icon
    Killercool (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 10:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    I'm pretty sure you're just a colossal asshole, but I'll answer just in case you are simply horrendously and shamefully uneducated:

    It doesn't. It simply outlines that one person's constitutional rights stop where another person's rights begin. According to law, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a person has a right to not be discriminated against for their race, age, color, religion, gender, veteran status, disability, being pregnant, or national origin. That right is where a business's right to refuse service stops.

    Business owners can still tell people to fuck off for being in a different political party, having bad breath, not wearing a protective mask, passing bad checks, or driving the wrong brand of car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 10:27pm

    Re:

    If I’m banned from Twitter tomorrow, I can still go to Facebook, Mastodon, LiveJournal, Neocities, or any other website that hosts third-party speech and spread my good(-ish) word. Censorship requires that my speech be suppressed; Twitter banning me wouldn’t do that.

    This combined with the bar example above has me thinking that having the 'force, or threat thereof' part in the definition of censorship might be a mistake by narrowing it too much, and it might be better defined as 'You aren't allowed to say X anywhere', something that may or may not involve threats.

    So for example if Twitter kicks you off their platform that would be moderation, 'We don't do that here'. If Twitter followed that up by going around and telling every other platform 'Hey, don't let this person post on your platform' that could veer into censorship territory as they would be impacting your ability to post well beyond just on their platform, even if they never issued any threat to you in the process.

    With that said I'd say it would be important under that definition to differentiate between moderation and censorship by making clear that multiple instances of moderation would not necessarily add up to censorship, so running with the same example if the other platforms independently decided 'we don't want them on our platform' without Twitter's involvement(beyond perhaps 'here's why they got the boot') then despite the fact that the outcome may be functionally the same(not being able to use any of the platforms) the label would be different.

    So, summing up the 'modified' version that came to mind:

    Moderation would be 'We don't say that here'.
    Discretion would be 'I won't say that here'.
    Censorship would be 'You won't say that anywhere.'

    Could probably use some polish but it's something that came to mind from reading the article and comments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62. identicon
    ryuugami, 28 May 2020 @ 10:41pm

    Hey Stephen, nicely done. I enjoyed the article (and most of the discussion in the comments).

    I do have a minor correction:

    Shiva Ayyadurai's attempt to sue Techdirt over the assertion that he didn't invent modern email

    It's not an "attempt", as he did sue Techdirt.

    Perhaps "Shiva Ayyadurai suing Techdirt ..." would be a better phrasing?

    I'd also suggest linking this article (the first on TD about the lawsuit):
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170111/11440836465/techdirts-first-amendment-fight-lif e.shtml

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63. icon
    Peter (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 12:48am

    Moderation v. Discretion v. Censorship

    The lines begin to blur when governments issue "guidelines" as to how they'd like to see content "moderated".

    And the lines disappear entirely when governments put an exclamation mark behind their 'guidance' with 'encouragements' of fines to the tune 4 % of the global annual revenue should a platform choose to not adhere to the "guidelines".

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  64. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 1:46am

    Re: Oh shit…

    Well done that man!

    Now we just wait for the outraged horde of sock puppets...err, commenters...eager to dispute your assertion that no one is owed an audience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:04am

    Re:

    "There are countries with official "film censorship" offices by that name."

    The point being that censorship assumes force of law. It extends as far as the jurisdiction does. A "film censorship" office can legally ban the showing of a film anywhere that their writ holds.

    Netflix or HBO, can at most choose not to themselves carry the film in question. It's a pretty major distinction.

    ""violence" is a requirement I've never heard of."

    Force of law is maintained and upheld by the violence monopoly, according to politics 101. So called because only the government summarily has the right to deprive people of liberty and life, or use force not prompted by apparent defense of self or others. You meekly go to jail or accept the handcuffs because the officer may shoot you or work you over if you don't.

    Let me know when Twitter can shut you up using threats of incarceration or police intervention.

    ""government" is disputed. Wikitionary shows no such requirement..."

    Censorship can only be exercised by someone who holds authority to shut you down, not only in their own domain. Twitter can't censor you because they can't shut you up. They can throw you off their own property.
    The concept of censorship otoh requires that you have been forbidden from speaking. Only government can do that.
    A principal can censor what you are allowed to say or not say in school but their power ends at the school gates and is similarly restricted to sending you home - or expelling you.

    The dictionary definition of censorship may be argued within a certain range but it's impossible to apply to private property owners deciding to extend or withhold hospitality to guests".

    "...but you have to expect some friction when you invent a definition for a word and then complain when people don't conform to your definition."

    Except that his definition remains correct according to all sources, unless someone decides to twist the criteria introduced for the definition.

    So I think I would have to ask why you set out to deliberately blur the boundaries between Authority enforced by the violence monopoly of state and property ownership by calling the fairly important distinction a matter of "opinion"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:06am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "That almost nobody in the real world agrees with."

    Except for anyone who knows the difference between a bar owner showing an unruly patron the door and the government telling you to shut the fsck up or go to jail.

    But thanks for playing, Bobmail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:24am

    Re: Re:

    "Certainly the idea that "it's only censorship if the government does it" has been raised in Techdirt comments, and most governments aren't threatening to break knees."

    That's actually covered in basic political science.

    Censorship is when the government can tell you to shut up about a given subject - and can enforce that decree with violence anywhere within their jurisdiction. In many jurisdictions it's just that law enforcement officers will first politely ask you to get into the back of the police car. Should you refuse to do so they will ensure you do so anyway, possibly with broken knees.

    Twitter, otoh, can ban your account - show you the door - for any reason. It's their property you're posting on. They can't have you hauled off to jail by thugs in uniform should you go post the same on Gab, or tell it to some guy in a pub.

    "Why should it be "censorship" to threaten someone with a small financial loss (enforced by a court), but not to kick them off the platform they use to make the bulk of their income (independent of the government)?"

    Because censorship isn't defined by the effect but by the principle of enforcement. If you make the bulk of your income on someone elses property then you've already accepted that there is an inherent risk that you'll get booted unless you comply with the hosts rules.
    And you are quite free to continue your business on any other platform, or start your own.

    Actual Censorship means that you are forbidden to communicate what you were communicating, no matter which platform you are on. Basically your business would be, in this analogy, forbidden from operating within US borders at all. Any platform hosting you might get shut down as an accomplice.

    This isn't rocket science. It's the same basic principle which allows a bar owner to evict people from their premises. Censorship would mean, in the analogy, that you'd henceforth be barred from ANY bar - or from speaking in public at all.

    If people have a problem realizing that twitter banning accounts isn't censorship then that's a far deeper problem than the mere fact they don't understand english.
    It means they can't see the difference between China giving a dissident five years in jail for speaking and twitter tossing out an obnoxious troll.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:34am

    Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    "So when someone gets "moderated", it turns out that then noone can hear them on the platform, including those who wanted to hear it. It much more closely resembles the definition of "censorship"."

    No it doesn't, Koby, and it's a fundamentally dishonest twist of facts to say it does.

    There's a similarity in real life - the host of a party throws out one of the guests. He does this in his full rights because he's the damn home owner.
    According to your argument the home owner should be held powerless if sufficiently many other guests want to hear what the guy getting thrown out has to say.

    The home owner may be the one who is being a douche. The guy getting thrown out may have something important to say. That doesn't suddenly override the fact that if the house owner wants him gone, he should go.

    That doesn't make it censorship.

    If the guy getting tossed out is getting hauled off by a police car and informed that he'll do jail time for speaking ever again about whatever he was saying, anywhere within the US? Now THAT is censorship.

    You somehow keep running the argument that if sufficiently many people attend a certain place then the actual property owner shouldn't own that property any longer, it suddenly becoming held to the same standards and obligations as public property.

    You are, in other words, directly arguing for the nationalization of private property based on how popular it is. If that is really your opinion then fine. Carry the debate accordingly. But if that's the case, "comrade", then at least be honest about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:41am

    Re: Re:

    "The use of force, or the threat thereof, would seem to meet your definition of censorship. Doubly so if the property owner called the cops (i.e. the government) to do that."

    If the platform owner then followed the guy he'd just thrown out around, preventing him from speaking anywhere then yes, THAT'd be the definition of censorship.

    Otherwise it's nothing more than someone throwing someone else off their property.

    Atre you truly too dense to believe there's no difference between throwing someone out of your property...and throwing them out of everyone elses property?

    That's kind of frightening because it means you don't see a fundamental difference between a pub owner evicting a patron (who then goes on to another pub) and China putting a dissident in jail for daring to speak anywhere within the borders of China.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:48am

    Re: Re:

    "If we follow this to its logical conclusion, nothing prevents every domain registrar from denying him service, but at least those who remember his IP address could reach him."

    Or he could set himself up as a domain registrar or use any of the ones specifically set up as services for fringe views. Done.

    There is in fact only one way Jones could be completely blocked from carrying his message; If government censors him, rendering anyone who extends him a platform or infrastructure access an accomplice.

    THAT is how censorship works.

    "Where does the extreme reluctance to use the term "censorship", until the government literally throws him in prison or sews his mouth shut, actually get us?"

    To the proper definition of "censorship".

    Now, comrade, is there a reason as to WHY you keep arguing that private property rights should be conflated with the government violence monopoly? Only the latter can apply censorship which is why only the latter is under strict rules of how and where it can apply such censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:02am

    Re: Re:

    Arguing about the meaning of words?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:19am

    If moderation is limited By trump some sites will become unusable because they will be overwhelmed by spam. every second post on Twitter will be buy product X read my newsletter connect with me on LinkedIn. Twitter is a beacon of information and free speech. Doctors use it to exchange data on methods to tackle covid 19 its used by charity's to get donations or advice in emergencys Eg storms floods it's literally a live saving resource
    Many poor people can't afford a laptop or a broadband connection but they can read twitter on a
    mobile phone.
    In the land of the free its strange to see a conservative government seeking more control and
    oversight over a private company that's used as
    a source of speech by people on both ends of the political spectrum
    Trump could just Facebook to post random comments or proposals.
    Whatever he says will be reported on fox news and 100s of media outlets

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 3:22am

    Re: Then there's DCMA notices

    "Ask Michael Moore if his 4 seconds of use of some film the original author used to file a takedown notice causing his movie to be taken down is censorship."

    Glad you asked. "Copyright" is a segment of law where government in practice allows private entities censorship privileges and thus a single individual can force everyone to not allow that message on their platform.

    I'm fairly sure youtube in itself could only take a given file down from their own platform. The rightsholders, however, can abuse the DMCA and use any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to have Moore's movie removed from anywhere.

    It's a telling argument against copyright.

    But has little to do with censorship being practiced by youtube or google who can not do the same as a copyrightsholder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    Has Alex Jones for instance been driven of the Internet, or only banned from some social media platforms?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:48am

    Re: Re:

    While the modern reading tends to be freedom of the press as referring to newspapers, it actually refers to owning and hiring printing presses. That is it guarantees that you can publish, so long as you can find a publisher, or afford to publish yourself, with or without the aid of sponsors and collaborators.

    As ever, free speech and freedom of the press does not guarantee an audience, or that someone else will bear the costs of distributing your speech, it just means the government will not stop you trying to get the word out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  76. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 4:20am

    Re:

    I'm somehow not used to a few of the people who usually defend copyright at all costs now coming out swinging a major argument in favor of abolishing it.

    Copyright is indeed censorship privilege extended to private interests which makes it one of very few laws which extend that type of privilege to private interests.

    Ironically, the example which was used points to the large platform being the victim rather than the perpetrator which is something I'm sure wasn't the intent of the commenter to convey...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  77. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 4:29am

    Re:

    "And who would care? Who would be so unimaginably STUPID as to complain about that?"

    The people who are outraged that not only does the bookstore carry a lot of bleeding-heart liberal garbage and leftie propaganda, it also doesn't carry "Mein Kampf"...in the front aisle, next to the other blockbusters?

    We've seen this kind of crowd before. The ones who feel the fact that most people deem them too deranged to be afforded much room to speak as a conspiracy by <insert scapegoat here>.

    Rather than, as everyone else sees it, them simply being a deranged minority fringe too loud and obnoxious for most people to willingly suffer their presence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  78. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 4:40am

    Re: Yeah... no

    "To review in order to remove objectionable content from correspondence or public media, either by legal criteria or with discretionary powers. (Wiktionary, emphasis added)"

    Yeah, Merriam-Webster has it different. I'm more inclined to believe the accredited dictionary when it is in conflict with the wiki entry.

    Blitzchung is quite free to portray his views on his own blog and that of others, no problem. The various corporate networks with moral agendas of their own can and are circumvented by many. In no few cases the circumvention of a purely moral barrier itself gives a market niche to a competitor to flourish.

    Censorship would mean none of those alternative venues could exist, under law. That's the difference.

    Then you mentioned Hollywood...and here we have to note that the one area of law which extends government privilege of censorship to private entities is, in fact, copyright law. That's why the debate around copyright has made such persistent waves. Because the DMCA and by now a few other provisions, have handed rightsholders the right to censor.

    We're still at the point where censorship can not be exercised by private entities. For that to happen you need a court case (or a DMCA notice) at which point it's government censoring you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  79. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 4:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    Some people take it way too far when they drive people off the streets in real life using a motor vehicle as a lethal weapon.

    Not sure wtf these lunatics are thinking whilst attempting to run over pedestrians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  80. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 4:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    Did you just ask why the contents of the constitution supersede what is written in the constitution?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  81. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 5:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The cyberattacks launched from the platform facebook/twitter coexist on have made people a lot of enemies for those specific reasons and targets

    That thing managed to piss off its religious right wing, I would have thought it would have been hard to make people actually go to hell upon their death from Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism according to the religious texts of those religions at the same time.

    Prez/PMs of all those countries along with the less than legitimate political party that was known for the opium trafficking through afghanistan/india/china/russia/US almost never agree on anything and yet... They all really dislike the people that run that platform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  82. icon
    xyzzy (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 10:18am

    I didn't know that

    Does that mean I don't have to pay taxes?

    Seriously though, thanks for pointing that out, I was not aware, and the discussions around the decision make for a good read. I really have no idea how I missed this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  83. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 10:39am

    Nintendo's Censorship (or Moderation)

    Hi Stephen. Remember when Nintendo of America removed, or otherwise didn't allow objectionable material in their video games until Mortal Kombat came about and there were Congressional hearings and then the ESRB was formed?

    Would you call what Nintendo did censorship or moderation? There's an argument for moderation in that it was only within their purview and only on their video game systems, but there's also an argument for censorship in that once the video games went outside of the bounds set by Nintendo of America, they were subpoenaed by the Government with threats of punishment. The ESRB made their censorship/moderations policies moot, but it's an interesting question. What do you think, Stephen?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  84. icon
    Thad (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Nintendo's Censorship (or Moderation)

    A related question might be the Comics Code Authority introduced in the 1950s.

    There were congressional investigations into comic books, with a clear threat of censorship. However, government censorship never came; instead, publishers within the industry chose to regulate themselves with a "voluntary" code.

    The Code was, hypothetically, not required. However, it was introduced under threat of government censorship, and it led to de facto censorship in that if your comic didn't have the Comics Code Seal on it, newsstands wouldn't carry it. This wound up driving most comics publishers out of business, including EC, which was then best known for publishing horror comics (including Tales from the Crypt), and Lev Gleason Publications, best known for crime comics (including Crime Does Not Pay). If this wasn't censorship, it certainly had an effect that was very much like censorship; it severely restricted the kinds of stories that were told in American comics, and dealt the industry a blow from which it never really recovered either creatively or commercially.

    All that said? It didn't have the force of law behind it. And a decade later, we got the underground comix movement. They weren't printed by large publishers, they didn't have the Comics Code Seal, they weren't sold on newsstands, and they didn't have the kind of broad distribution that the big publishers did -- but they had content that was a lot more graphic than anything EC, Gleason, or any of the other publishers of the '50s ever put out. The Comics Code didn't stop them from being published -- but many of them were subjected to government censorship efforts (see Zap: Censorship and Suppression (NSFW)).

    TV is a whole other subject. Broadcast TV is regulated by the FCC and certainly subject to some amount of government censorship (including fines for saying certain words at certain times of day). Cable TV is not -- but, for the most part, cable TV stations choose to comply with broadcast TV standards. There's no legal reason why Comedy Central has to bleep the swears in South Park or The Daily Show, but it chooses to do so anyway. And while that's not mandated by the government, it's clearly influenced by the government's standards for broadcast TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  85. icon
    abiogenesis (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Government

    I think invoking "government" is just causing confusion. It's really about coercion. A platform owner using moderation in what they choose to allow on their platform is just an expression of their property right in the platform. A speaker using discretion in what they choose to speak is an expression of their property right in their person (acknowledged, but not granted by the First Amendment). When a 3rd party coerces (with threats or violence) a platform owner into moderation against their will, or a speaker into discretion against their will, that's censorship.

    For some reason, lots of people have a problem equating government and coercion, but that's really the only tool in government's box...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  86. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    Reasonable people can disagree on a lot of points, and we're often close than it seems.

    Show me where Mastercard and Visa have fully prevented legal speech from being published anywhere on- or offline, and I’ll concede the point.

    The EFF has some articles over the years on the issue:
    Legal Censorship: PayPal Makes a Habit of Deciding What Users Can Read
    Payment Processors are Still Policing Your Sex Life, and the Latest Victim is FetLife
    Following Copyright Law Should Be Enough—Even When Payment Processors Say it Isn’t
    See also: Wikileaks

    I cited Visa and Mastercard specifically because they are at the top of the chain and it's effectively impossible to create a competitor. If they say something's not allowed it isn't unless you want to lose funding. Paypal has been notoriously bad about banning people for innocuous speech over the years, but there are other downstream providers that aren't Paypal (although if all of them throw someone off, it still erases the speech). I am of the opinion that high-level banks should be held to neutrality standards like ISPs should due to their position of power. Competitors would be preferable, but the lack of either is frightening.

    Blizzard punishing him was technically moderation, since Blitzchung is more than free to express his support for Hong Kong outside of Blizzard’s corporate-controlled environs.

    Honestly, Daryl Morey from the Houston Rockets would've been a better example on my part. He stated his support for Hong Kong on his own personal Twitter, and it caused a firestorm of backlash against the team and the league in China. The NBA ended up backing him after public support, but now every member of the NBA is going to bite their tongues even in their own space. This is assuming there wasn't a back-room meeting explicitly telling people to keep their mouths shut on social issues.

    Depends. Did Hollywood threaten a lawsuit first?

    In this theoretical, Hollywood just threatens to pull all media from Google services. It's still censorship imo, but it's Hollywood doing the censoring since it's Hollywood who are taking action. For me this also applies to DMCA or lawsuit abuse, where it falls on the shoulders of the entity acting and not the law. Laws can and are open for abuse, but it's still someone abusing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  87. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 1:25pm

    …damn, y’all keep coming up with situations I didn’t think of when I wrote this thing! I will absolutely need to write a follow-up article. And I promise than when I do, I’ll address your comment.

    (Yes, this is a ploy to buy me some time for thinking about your comment. No, I’m not kidding about the follow-up article.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  88. icon
    Thad (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:53pm

    Re:

    But that's good! The best articles are the ones that encourage thoughtful discussion and exploration and give the author new ideas to mull over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  89. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:13pm

    Re:

    Personally, I’m working toward a better understanding of my own thoughts on the subject of this article. Writing them out the way I did helped me gather my thoughts and work through them in a logical way.

    If I might make a humble suggestion, I'd focus on the subject of public policy rather than English semantics. Sure, you can say "technically, that's not censorship" [by my definition that's not widely agreed on], but isn't that merely tangential to what we actually want to know? How does free speech work on the internet, and how should it work? Do we need government protections for the public? For the platforms? How much of this is covered by the First Amendment, and similar laws elsewhere?

    Should we be worried about overmoderation causing some kind of harmful "filter bubble" effect? Alex Jones has been sent to the Internet Ghetto. Does this divide us into people who only see Alex Jones et al., and people who have no idea what harmful ideas might be brewing over there without being challenged? How does that relate to increasingly partisan and combative politics?

    Mike often speaks of "protocols, not platforms" as a direction for the future internet. With no central authority to moderate, censor, or whatever we call it, would such a thing be practical? What might it look like? Would similar ideas allow better moderation of the centralized systems?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  90. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Moderation vs Censorship

    Did you just ask why the contents of the constitution supersede what is written in the constitution?

    I don't think so. What part of the constitution bans discrimination by private parties, on these criteria? It's obvious that the Equal Protection clause supports the Civil Rights Act in relation to government action—i.e., the government must not discriminate by religion, disability, etc. (Note that the Equal Rights Act was [probably] never ratified, and they can still discriminate by sex/gender. Sometimes, anyway.)

    But, if the choice of what a property owner should allow on their private property is indeed a First Amendment-protected right, the Civil Rights Act couldn't overrule it without an additional Constitutional Amendment. In which case the government couldn't stop Twitter from banning gay people, for example.

    It's entirely possible I'm a giant asshole, but note that I'm only talking/asking about what the laws are, not what they should be. People should be protected on all those grounds, plus sex, and minus religion which is a choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  91. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 6:34pm

    Private entities that don’t “face the public” (e.g., private clubs) can discriminate against whoever they want. Augusta National Golf Club came under fire in 2002 for refusing to admit women as members, but as a private club, it could legally make that refusal.

    But public-facing businesses — i.e., businesses that purport to serve the general public — must follow all relevant non-discrimination laws to stay open. Twitter is owned by a private entity but opens its service to the general public. It can’t refuse to let someone use Twitter because of their race, age, etc.

    Non-discrimination ordinances/laws (NDOs) and the First Amendment’s right of association obviously clash. But we recognize the validity of NDOs anyway. When the right of association clashes with one’s right to enter and participate in the public sphere, the first one must generally give way. Only through such a compromise can we have a functioning society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  92. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2020 @ 1:26am

    Re: Re:

    A question for you, do you want Alex Jones on platforms that are dominantly used for keeping in touch with family and friends? Don't let the news cycles give you a distorted view of the social media platforms and what they are used for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  93. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 1:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Arguing about the meaning of words?"

    ...using a wiktionary definition which doesn't really agree with the merriam-webster dictionary definition or the term as used in actual political science?

    Censorship by it's very meaning indicates an enforceable dictum. The bar owner, the home owner, or twitter can't "censor" you. They can show you the door from their own property.

    Government CAN censor you, using force of law, enforced by lawfully applied violence and/or incarceration anywhere within the public space of their jurisdiction.

    Some forms of censorship have been deemed acceptable - if you post a naughty picture of a juvenile, for instance, the government sends you to jail. That's censorship - deemed acceptable by the majority.
    Try as they might though all Facebook can do is tell you you are no longer welcome on their premises.

    When it comes to hate speech Twitter can still ban your ass from their platform - because it's their private property - but the government obviously can not haul your ass to jail - because a stated opinion is protected speech.

    Censorship and moderation are obviously not the same. And anyone trying to wordwall a debate around making them appear the same isn't likely to be doing so merely out of academic interest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  94. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 1:54am

    Re: I didn't know that

    "Does that mean I don't have to pay taxes?"

    If you are a registered church you'll fall under the same taxation exemptions.

    That's more or less how The First Church of the Jedi got started.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  95. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2020 @ 11:39am

    Re:

    How have twitter and facebook impeded any means to make their opinions known that existed before twitter and facebook? Have they made it more difficulty to stand on a soap box with a megaphone? Have the made it more difficult to knock on doors and seek a conversation with the resident? Have they made it more difficult to print and post physical flyers? Have they made mailing campaigns more difficult? Have they made it harder to write letters to the editor (who, it is worth noting, is under no obligation to publish said missive)? Can you name any way? If not, I put it to you that they have not made speaking out any harder than it was before. They may have refused to make it easier for some, just as landlords make it more difficult by refusing protesters entry to tenants' offices. So what? There's is no legal or constitutional right to make someone else make it easier for you to speak your mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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