The Instigator
Capt.Herp
Pro (for)
Winning
30 Points
The Contender
Scyrone
Con (against)
Losing
15 Points

There is no freedom of speech on privately-owned fora, regardless of how many times it's asserted.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/30/2007 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,087 times Debate No: 1158
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (15)

 

Capt.Herp

Pro

As a current administrator of a forum (and a past administrator of many others) I have constantly been barraged, normally by forum troublemakers, with the assertion that deleting objectionable posts or banning forum abusers violates the first amendment to the US Constitution.

As a privately-owned space, forum administrators are free to include or exclude any comments or users they see fit to include or exclude, and the First Amendment was never intended to allow abusive users to say anything they want to say on the internet. I believe that those who constantly yell "First Amendment!" on internet message boards are typically the worst abusers and use this as a way to stop any discussion and to get their way. I believe that people who pull this "rabbit out of the hat" in order to shame administrators to let them do anything they want to do need to go back and actually read the text of the First Amendment.
Scyrone

Con

I, being an Administrator of two forums, one of them being for two years, have also seen this type of thing happen on forums a lot. Also, having been part of many different types of forums, I have seen the goods, the bads, and the uglys on what members can do and what they can accomplish (and spammers too).

"with the assertion that deleting objectionable posts or banning forum abusers violates the first amendment to the US Constitution"

Of course they do this. They can say whatever they want to. They can post pornography and post naked pictures of gay men in cock cages making out in a bath-tub. Now don't interpret this in the wrong way. I am going to make a few points to support this.

1) The Consitution is correct. It allows "Freedom of Speech". They may say what they want to when they want to.

2) This does not mean, though, that you cannot delete it. They have said there part. They have spoken there freedom of speech. Does that mean that they cannot be deleted? No. If I wanted to say a bad word, then I will:

(say f-word here)

This doesn't mean that the Admins to the site cannot censor or delete or replace that word. I have said what I want to say. If I wanted to post a picture of a massive orgy of vampires drawing blood from each other, I can. I won't. But I can. That does not mean that they cannot censor or take away the photo. So, yes, in a way they have freedom of speech, and they have the freedom to say it, but they can be censored eventually.

3) They are not being silenced once they say it. To be silenced is for someone to want to say something, but not be able to say it. Let's say they had a expletive word blocker on debate.org and if I typed in the word ‘crap', the word ‘doggy' would come up. Just wanted to mention that.

4) I actually found this in quite a few PHP run sites and other forums too:

You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-orientated or any other material that may violate any laws be it of your country, the country where "The Sith Council" is hosted or International Law.

Btw, The Sith Council is hosted in the United States of America. This is in direct confliction with the Constitution. The Constitution says "Freedom of Speech"; not "almost Freedom of Speech". To think that they do not have the right to free speech is basically desecrating the Constitution by interpreting it into what it does not say.
Debate Round No. 1
Capt.Herp

Pro

In my experience with largely political message boards all over the internet, in my experience the posters who intend to cause the most trouble are the ones who assert that their "Freedom of Speech" is being violated if posts are deleted, or if they are called on the carpet for violating clearly posted rules.

This goes on in almost every forum on the net. For some reason people have come to believe that, because they are anonymous, they can post any spiteful, obscene, or ridiculous statement that they feel like posting. They post attacks upon perfect strangers right from the start, perhaps just by finding something about the user's internet handle to ridicule (mine refers to Herpetology, by the way, and has nothing to do with STDs, but calling me some form of Herpes seems to be most posters' height of cleverness).

You seem to be hedging your bets here. You're telling us that "they can say whatever they want to." True, but if you have good moderation, that "whatever it is" that they want to say, if it violates forum policy, will be removed. If it's bad enough, the rules typically inform the poster that their account will be banned. My point, therefore, is not whether or not people can be jerks on a message board due to the bravery born of internet anonymity, but rather whether or not they have Constitutional RIGHTS to do so. You're arguing apples and oranges here.

The First Amendment to the Constitution refers to one thing, and one thing only: censorship of private speech BY THE GOVERNMENT. It has nothing to do with the right to go onto someone's private site and scream obscenities at them; neither does it give people the "right" to run into someone elses' home and start verbally abusing them in their own living room. So, the First Amendment says NOTHING AT ALL about limiting of objectionable speech ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.

Any private site owner or administrator has the right to bar ANYONE from participating on their site, for whatever reason they choose, like it or not. As I noted, perhaps it would be wise to read the text of the Constitution to determine what the First Amendment actually says and does not say.

Unfortunately these days, because most people have heard the term "freedom of speech" but their best knowledge of the US Constitution is hearing those three words (which has no relationship to actually reading it), their first knee-jerk reaction on message boards they don't personally own is to invoke their "First Amendment rights." Bunk.

So, in closing, you're trying unsuccessfully to split hairs here. Saying that "they can say anything they want to say" due to the First Amendment, and then telling moderators that they can delete it, is frivolous. If they can say anything they want to say, it would stand to reason that all sorts of web administrators would be sued, constantly, for deleting objectionable posts or banning abusive users. It doesn't happen. In my experience, people who scream the loudest about rights violations on message boards are the people who intend to cause the most problems for the site -- trolls, if you will.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution has no bearing on privately-owned sites, any more than it protects the right of someone to come into your house and demand that you stop smoking that cigarette while they are there, because they don't like smoking. If it would be desecrating the Constitution to pick that person up and deposit them outside on the sidewalk, so be it. It doesn't violate their rights, but it DOES violate private property rights of the smoker, as does abuse of stated rules on private websites.
Scyrone

Con

The Constitution permits freedom of speech. I do not see where it says anything about Censorship. Please point me to this spot.

I can't go into someone's personal property because it is the right to privacy

"http://www.law.cornell.edu...;

This is the Griswold vs. Conneticut case that permits the right to privacy. But, a forum is not a private place because anyone can join. And even if it is Admin controlled, once you let them in, they can do what they please like freedom of speech.

"Any private site owner or administrator has the right to bar ANYONE from participating on their site"

Exactly, but the minute you allow them to get onto your site, they still have the freedom of speech. They could have freedom of speech, but you could not let them join your forum.

"If they can say anything they want to say, it would stand to reason that all sorts of web administrators would be sued, constantly, for deleting objectionable posts or banning abusive users"

Because you might have a user from Mali. No offense to Mali, but the government doesn't care about Mali. They won't pay attention to lawsuits permitted by a Malian. It's too much work to sue you. Plus they would need sufficient evidence, which you could delete.

Honestly, this topic is a hard one, I just argued it because I used to be an Admin of a site.
Debate Round No. 2
Capt.Herp

Pro

>The Constitution permits freedom of speech. I do not see where it says anything about Censorship. Please point me to this spot.

I'll do better than that. I'll point you to this exchange between a complaining "censored" poster asking advice from a legal expert at About.com and the lawyer who responds by laying out the First Amendment to her:

http://en.allexperts.com...

The lawyer's comments, in part:

"Hi Carol,

It may be censorship, but it is not a violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment only guarantees that the *government* will not suppress speech. Private individuals can usually engage in censorship. For example, if someone came to your house and wanted to tell you why you should vote Democrat, or Republican, you could make them leave. By contrast, they could not be forced off of public property for speaking in favor of a political party. About.com is the same way. They can kick out anyone they like, or put in place any rules they like without violating the First Amendment."

>I can't go into someone's personal property because it is the right to privacy.

Actually, the words "right to privacy" appear nowhere in the Constitution. Neither is there a Constitutional "right to vote", but I'll take that up some other time. In any case it IS someone's personal property if they buy server space in order to put up a website.

Additionally, while it's a pretty convenient cop-out to say that "it's too much trouble to sue," the fact is that this society is so lawsuit-happy that some malcontent out there who has been banned or had their post deleted would have sued some webmaster for "violating his rights to 'Freedom of Speech' by denying him his "right" to post any damned thing he wanted to post anywhere he posted it. People sue for ANYTHING these days, as a chance to win their own personal lottery. As noted, unless a lawsuit against a PRIVATELY-OWNED website owner or admin has slipped by me somewhere in the last ten years or so, this has NEVER HAPPENED, because a lawyer would laugh the guy out of his office, not because it would cost too much, or because it was too much trouble.

The problem is this: people have gotten used to saying anything they want to say on the internet, and getting away with it, because they get to use anonymous internet handles. Dennis Prager, columnist and commentator, touched on this in a recent column when he noted that "Internet Anonymity Is as Destructive as Internet Porn.". Prager notes: "That is why people -- even generally decent people -- tend to act so much less morally when in a crowd (the crowd renders them anonymous). That is why people tend to act more decently when they walk around with their names printed on a nametag. That is why people act more rudely when in their cars -- they cannot be identified as they could outside of their car. There is no question but that most people would write very different entries on the Internet if their names were printed alongside their submission."

In short, most of the problems of today's fora are as a result of being able to use fake names to abuse other posters on the same sites. They can LEGALLY use fake names -- that's not at issue. What IS at issue is that people who have no knowledge whatsoever of the First Amendment, where it applies to, AGAIN, PRIVATELY-PAID-FOR sites, are trying to hide behind an amendment to the US Constitution that they don't understand and that they hope the webmaster doesn't have a clue about, either.

While people can stand on a soapbox in a PUBLIC SQUARE and yell anything they want to yell (subject to laws about public obscenity or disturbing the peace), if they think they can do it on my website (or in my front yard, which I ALSO pay for) and be supported by the First Amendment, they're not only deluded, they're flat wrong.
Scyrone

Con

"I'll do better than that"

Well, it wasn't that better. Lawyers are some of the best manipulators too. I want to see a document that has the freedom of speech and the censorship part, on the Constitution included.

Also, the Supreme Court (the Judicial part of US law) has declared that everyone has a right to privacy, as provided by the case. And with my points that follow you still have not followed through with it.

You might have a right to privacy, they might have a right to freedom of speech, but if you let them invade your privacy, they will say what they want.

And even if the Consitution says "the government cannot suppress speech," the government being the highest power, unless noted by the government otherwise, the government was used as a means to saying "even the government, being the highest power, cannot suppress speech". Not, "the government cannot suppress speech, but you can".

"if they think they can do it on my website (or in my front yard, which I ALSO pay for"

But if you let them into your front yard, if you let them onto your property, then they have every right to say what they want to say.

So yes, it is unconstitutional.
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by C-Mach 9 years ago
C-Mach
Scyrone is right. But you can delete any comments/forum psots that you want (depending on the site), and not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Posted by killa_connor 9 years ago
killa_connor
It is pretty clear what the legal precedent is regarding censorship over privately owned mediums. This debate was won by the Pro in the topic's phrasing. I wish it could have been more subjective like, Privately owned forums should choose whether they want to permit freedom of speech. Then we would have probably had a more lively exchange.

-connor
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
I liked it just fine. May I have another, sir?
Posted by Capt.Herp 9 years ago
Capt.Herp
While I probably could have worded it in a different way, I believe it illustrates how some people believe a "debate" is handled on the net.

This debate was, I thought, between you and me, and not between you, me, and the peanut gallery intent on insulting me because of my feelings about Lincoln. Didn't like taking his own medicine, did he?
Posted by Scyrone 9 years ago
Scyrone
I think you've just become what you've tried to fight Herp.
Posted by Capt.Herp 9 years ago
Capt.Herp
"More happy," as in -- happier?

How nice.

LOL you win! However, your repeated insults to me (and apparently everyone you "debate" with, if your debate history is an indication) justify my statements in this debate about how internet anonymity breeds bravery. Do you talk like this to people when you're looking them in the eye? Somehow I doubt it.

In any case, forget I'm here. Until you grow up, anyway.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
Well, I think you belong in Soviet Russia, but I would never deport you there by force. I'm sure if you could get in a time machine and go there, you'd be more happy.
Posted by Capt.Herp 9 years ago
Capt.Herp
That's OK, Ron Paul's a flippin' lunatic and anyone who supports him belongs in a straitjacket. We both have our opinions.

http://hotair.com...
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
No chasing. I saw the debate, I'm interested in the topic, so I commented. You are right in this case (I haven't read the debate, but your premise is correct), but your political philosophy is bankrupt if you hold the Constitution in any esteem, and yet idolize the tyrant Lincoln.
Posted by brotherpatriot 9 years ago
brotherpatriot
Both have valid points. But I give this one to Herp. If it is private owned then the FOS, Constitution is not in play. What is allowed is what ever the owner allows. The argument of if your on my yard yelling at me opens up my right to persue happiness which would be removing you off my property. Which turns that into a forum with no right to free speech. And a bruise or two.

Then theres the it may be a private own but it is open to public posting thus allowing FOS unattended. Thats why rules go in place, you have FOS, just follow the rules applying to them. Like we have FOS but rest assured we have responsibility's to it as well.
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