Freedom of speech is a very important thing and has been in the news for many reasons recently. Many of us have grown used to it and just think it natural. But Freedom of Speech was something that many people lost their life for. We bloggers depend on this Freedom of Speech and should defend it at all costs.
The same is also true for Web 2.0 services. We should not start deleting things we are not in agreement with on our services or accept harassment by authorities at home or abroad.
As blogs and Web 2.0 applications become a greater and greater part of our free speech we will be hit by more and more attacks on our free speech.
A good example is the current attempt of a NJ legislator to ban anonymous forum posting_. If this became law and spread to other states and countries it would affect all of us bloggers and most Web 2.0 apps that have some sort of content creation or information sharing.
It is very tempting as a bootstrapping micro business under press by death threats, legal action and what have you to buck under the pressure and accept every piece of harassment you might get. Don’t get me wrong the reasons are very good. You are small, you cant afford the lawyers, the Denial of Service attacks the lost sleep etc.
But we are the independent presses of our century. As bloggers we are not just the pamphleteers of this century but also the printing presses supporting them.
I believe it vital that we as providers of Web 2.0 communities and software specifically address this issue.
As an example in my usage agreement I spell out exactly what my stance is on this. I will not go to jail for your beliefs, but I will go as far as I possibly can to protect the rights of free speech for my users:
I will follow the laws of wherever I am legally doing business, which currently is Denmark. As I said above this might change if I incorporate or move elsewhere, just so you know. Luckily very little is illegal in Denmark so youâ€™re safe. We also have very strong free speech here in Denmark and there is little I will do to go against that, even if I am in absolute disagreement with you.
However I do not want to go to jail for something you do, so I will follow local rules. Which is exactly what you need to do. If you do something with WideWord, where you could get in trouble at home please don’t. I can not take responsibility for learning all the laws of the world.
I am a man of principles, but stronger men than me have changed principles with 3 hovering black helicopters over them. If you know what I mean.
As an example of this my site WideWord is currently being used by what looks like a Croatian (I think) group to spread their word. I do not understand Croatian and most likely am not in anyway in agreement with what they are saying judging by the few words I can work out. That said they feel they have something very important to say. People can read it and respond or they can chose to ignore it.
I would encourage other sites that enable people to communicate and publish to publish their stand on this. The whole NJ case has also encouraged me to launch a quick new site soon, where New Jersiites, Saudis and other people who have no free speech at home will be encouraged to speek loudly and freely.