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Censorship Your Rights Online

Two Ways Not To Handle Free Speech 686

Posted by kdawson
from the hang-up-or-takedown dept.
Two stories in the news offer contrasting approaches by Web companies to questions of free speech. First YouTube: reader skraps notes that the Google property has recently banned the popular atheist commentator Nick Gisburne. Gisburne had been posting videos with logical arguments against Christian beliefs; but when he turned his attention to Islam (mirror of Gisburne's video by another user), YouTube pulled the plug, saying: 'After being flagged by members of the YouTube community, and reviewed by YouTube staff, the video below has been removed due to its inappropriate nature. Due to your repeated attempts to upload inappropriate videos, your account now been permanently disabled, and your videos have been taken down.' Amazon.com provides a second example of how to react to questions of free speech. Reader theodp sends along a story in TheStreet.com about how Amazon hung up on customers wanting to comment on its continuing practice of selling animal-fighting magazines. The article notes that issues of free speech are rarely cut-and-dried, and that Amazon is doing itself no favors by going up against the Humane Society.
Update: 02/11 04:25 GMT by KD : updated Nick Gisburne link to new account.
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Two Ways Not To Handle Free Speech

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  • Yeah, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WebHostingGuy (825421) * on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:40PM (#17967800) Homepage Journal
    You have to remember this -- there is no guarantee of free speech from any corporation. The US Constitution guarantees that "government" shall not infringe the right to a citizen's free speech. Any time you have a non-governmental agency "it doesn't apply".

    Amazon can cut off anyone they wish, so can Google. Google is not obligated to do a damn thing concerning free speech. They can censor anyone they want because they are a corporation, not the government. The law/Constitution isn't going to protect someone from posting in a forum/newsgroup ran by Google. Too bad, that's what you accept when you post in Google's forum/newsgroup; a place owned by essentially a private party.

    The only repercussions from something like this (private censorship) is the free market system. Boycott, attention getting, etc. But you can't force them to make them accept your free speech.
  • animal fighting mags (Score:2, Interesting)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:43PM (#17967818)
    "Amazon hung up on customers wanting to comment on its continuing practice of selling animal-fighting magazines"

    i've dealt with animal protection fanatics before, and i know this statement is misleading bullshit. a more accurate picture of the situation would that be one of them would have rung up and abused the service rep over the phone and they had no choice but to hang up on them. manners and due process don't ever occur to people like this who try take the moral high ground. while i am against animal cruelty, i hate groups like PETA in the people who side with them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:54PM (#17967910)
    Private parties can do as they please.

    Welcome to government by contract. The police can't search and seize without a warrant, but they can hire "independent" contractors with guns to come and kick down your door as you please. The government can't listen to your phonecalls, but they can pay AT&T millions to find out what they hear when they listen. The president can't declare war on his own, but he can hire mercenaries to fight wars for him.

    In the 80's Capitalism crushed Communism. Now, it has turned it's cannons on Democracy.
  • Terrorist goals (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Haxx (314221) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:57PM (#17967944) Homepage

      You relize that this means that the goals of the militant islmists are being met, therfore proving that terrorism works.
  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:24PM (#17968090) Homepage
    Unless the service is gov't regulated, like telephone lines. Common carrier status and all that. The telephone companies (at least the landlines) are not allowed to censor anything that goes over their lines. OTOH, without net neutrality, the telcos could very well examine packets and try to censor packets that are part of hate speech (or really anything they want to censor, like fluffy blue bunnies) with no legal repercussions. IANAL.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:49PM (#17968268) Homepage
    In the US human societies are local organizations. HSUS is a front for PETA.
  • Censorship (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Surfer51 (552852) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:01PM (#17968344) Homepage
    It is interesting that this dude was allowed to go after a peaceful religion that teaches that God is love: 1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. And prevented from going after a religion that teaches violence: Koran 5:33 The Punishment for those who oppose Allah and his messenger is : Execution or Crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land It is time for the entire world to realise that Islam by its very nature and through its essential principles openly supports, encourages and propogates Terrorism of the worst kind. Therefore the Islamic terrorist is in fact the most devout Muslim, because he is following exactly what Islam teaches through the Divine Koran. Political correctness Youtube?...
  • Re:Religion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by baldass_newbie (136609) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:06PM (#17968386) Homepage Journal
    while fighting against any number of predominantly-Muslim foes in the name of fighting terrorism

    Predominately? Meaning to 'surpass others in appearance'? What others are there?
    What I love is that we still have folks in Bosnia protecting Kosovar Albanians (Muslims) without either a UN mandate or congressional authorization and nobody says a peep.
    So much for gratitude.
  • not so clear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:41PM (#17968692)
    Come on, this should be a no-brainer. Google, Youtube and Amazon are privately owned, privately administered and privately funded organizations.

    First of all, they are publicly traded corporations, which already imposes strong requirements on their conduct, in particular with regards to discriminatory practices.

    Secondly, it's not at all clear that they can do what they want. US phone companies are non-governmental, yet they can't pick and choose what kinds of speech they allow on their wires. So, it's far from clear that YouTube should have the right to pick and choose what kinds of videos they publish.
  • by radtea (464814) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:42PM (#17968700)
    English-language translations of the Quran vary so widely that Islam doesn't accept them as translations, they are all regarded as paraphrases.

    If the Koran has a meaning, it can be translated, and of the millions of English-speaking Muslims in the world there must be a few who are up to the job of translating it correctly.

    The variations between the examples you give are small and in any case doctrinally relatively trivial. I'd be more interested in seeing the various translations of things like 3:118, the gist of which is: "Do not be friends with unbelievers. They all hate you." Or 2:222-224, which has some pretty harsh things to say about women, likening them to fields that a man can go into any any time he chooses.

    The difficulty of translation always gets raised any time anyone mentions any of the terrible things the Koran actually says that Muslims and Muslim sympathizers would like it not to say. It gets tiresome, particularly as it always gets raised as if it were a new and interesting issue instead of an old and tired one. Muslims have been complaining about this for decades. Don't you think its about time that some Muslim leaders got together and produced an authorized edition? Bible translations vary widely too, and there are a few cases where even good translations differ on substantive matters, but the gist of the sentiment is almost always clear: God loves everyone, unbelievers will burn forever in hell, stuff like that. It isn't self-consistent, but there is no major problem with what the text actually says. Whereas no one seems to agree on even the basic sense of the most trivial passages in the Koran.

    Of course, for Muslims to get together and produce an authorized translation would first require Muslims to get together, which is something they appear to have a lot of trouble doing for purposes other than burning embassies because they have been offended by some silly cartoon ~0:-{=
  • by neoshmengi (466784) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:09AM (#17968878) Journal

    That video is about Mormons, not Christians.
    I'm baffled whenever I see this old 'Mormons aren't Christian' chestnut brought up.

    Mormons believe in and worship Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind, as the Son of God and as the only perfect man who ever lived.

    What more does it take to be called Christian? Christians are followers of Christ and Mormons follow Christ.

    Mormonism rejects most other groups as well.
    The claim that Mormonism rejects other groups is false.

    From the Articles of Faith [lds.org] :

    "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

    Many Mormon charity and humanitarian groups work hand in hand with Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and other religious and non religious groups.

    I am a Christian and a Mormon. Some of my closest friends are atheists. I work with and respect people of all faiths.

  • by Matilda the Hun (861460) <flatsymcnoboobs <at> leekspin <dot> com> on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:59AM (#17969196) Homepage
    I love how you turn an argument about the validity of Mormonism as a Christian establishment into a talk about how nice Mormons are.

    As to why people don't take Mormonism seriously...well, two reasons. Everyone who's not a Christian sees the history of your church from Joe Smith on and says "Holy crap, who could fall for that? Gold plates from the ground that no one else was allowed to see? An angel named Moroni? I can't make this stuff up!" And everyone else who believes in the Bible and not the Book of Mormon takes a look at Revelation 22:18 and says "Hey! Saying that we 'misinterpreted' parts of the Bible and adding to it via the Book of Mormon is exactly what John said to look out for!"

    Now I'll follow this up with a statement that I live in SLC, and know some pretty kick-ass Mormons. I'm not trying to harp on them, but really, there's enough of a schism to warrent debate about the status of Christianity. "We agree with the word of God except in the places where we disagree with him" doesn't seem, to me, to be a horridly valid argument.
  • I'm curious... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Talgrath (1061686) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @01:48AM (#17969514)
    Would YouTube have pulled this video before Google owned it? It's worth considering...
  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @02:05AM (#17969596)
    I'd side with Amazon on that one for a couple of reasons at least:

    1- Amazon is selling at least two books that advocate stuff much worse that animals being made to hurt each other : murder, rape, slavery... but since these two books are the Quran and the Bible, there's very little chance that they'll get banned. Why ?

    2- We in France are in the middle of a high-visibility court case, with Islamic organizations suing a newspaper that printed caricatures of their Prophet. I undertsand that lawsuit is a good opportunity to discuss worthwhile issues (dont equate islam with terrorism, backwardness...), but still, I'm uncomfortable with that attempt at censorship, and I don't think that suing is conveying a very positive image.

    If what Amazon is selling is legal, they can sell it. They SHOULD sell it. If you don't like what it describes/advertizes, vote, and get the law changed to make it illegal. That's what democracy is about, I think.
  • by koliebo (850398) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @03:12AM (#17969936)
    Actually, some of them do. [plannedparenthood.org]
  • Persecution of Islam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dobeln (853794) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @05:35AM (#17970790)
    "Can you prove that, assuming that that is true, that it is indeed a facet of the respective religions, and not the persecution of Muslims (don't tell me there isn't any)?"

    Islamic countries have practiced institutionalized religious intolerance against unbelievers long before any decently founded complaint of "oppression" could be launched. (I.e. British and French (semi-)occupation of the non-Saudi ME between roughly 1920-1946 after the Ottoman empire collapsed. Also, the brunt of Islamic intolerance is not directed at westerners, but at any indigenous apostates.

    "because of the actions of a few"

    Well, the Talibs weren't *that* few. The idiots in the White House who thought the Iraq war was a good idea were indeed initially rather few in number though.

    "the Christian world is bombing the shit out of Iraq and Afghanistan"

    For the last couple of years, most of the bombing has been from various indigenous groups that blast the crap out of each other for religous and / or ethnic reasons. Mass bombing is not presently seen as an effective counterinsurgency tactic. (It can work, but it causes too much bad press)
  • by Caetel (1057316) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @08:27AM (#17971392)
    Nor do the vast majority of Muslims, what's your point?
  • by radtea (464814) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:30PM (#17972990)
    No it isn't. There are often radical differences in translations which can lead to serious doctrinal differences. Part of the split between Protestant and Catholic has to do with the interpretation of various passages. You're coming from the perspective of an unbeliever to whom such fine distinctions don't matter. They do to Christians.

    I know of know differences in translation that make any significant differences to doctrine between mainstream Christian sects. And while interpretation was an issue between some Protestants and Catholics, the significant textual differences were due to what are now generally acknowledged to be corruptions in the Vulgate. This was not a matter of translation difficulties because no one who was not a Catholic ever produced anything like the corrupt passages in the Vulgate, but of simple fabrication on the part of Catholic authorities.

    I will go so far as to say that there are no radical differences between modern, scholarly texts of the Bible in English and that there have not been any such since at least 1611. Interpretations differ. The texts do not, even in cases where they probably should, like on the question of Mary's virginity. People familiar with the history of Bible translation know that the variance in translation is a complex doctrinal issue and that none of the minor points compare to the major invariants. Love god. Love each other as you love yourself. Unbelievers will burn in hell forever. Stuff like that. Christians have for the most part come to live with the ambiguities on many other questions--it's called tolerance, and apart from Northern Ireland Christians don't do it too badly.

    Translation was an issue during the Reformation because of the corruption of the Vulgate and the Church's desire to continue to control access to the scriptures. Doctrinally, the Reformer's belief that the line of Apostolic succession had been broken in the Middle Ages, making the Pope's claims to primacy illegitimate, was far more important than issues of translation and meaning.

    With regard to the (nominal) cost of translation, the King James version was produced in a couple of decades with the efforts of fewer than a hundred people, building in part on earlier efforts such as the Geneva Bible. There is no possible way that this equates to "billions of dollars" by any measure, and while scholarship and translations have improved a good deal since that time, these early Protestant and Anglican translations are sufficiently accurate that no one claims the sort of radical meaning variance that everyone claims any time the meaning of any part of the Koran is brought up. Even Wycliffe's New Testament is recognizably similar to modern translations in most respects.

    The only remotely substantive issue I'm aware of regarding translation accuracy in the New Testament is Paul's use of "malakoi" (or "malakee") and "arsenokoitai" in I Cor 6:9-10, which are sometimes translated to mean "homosexual" and "men who lie with men", whereas the first probably means "effeminate" and the second is a bit like "obscenity": I don't know what it means, but I know I don't like it. If Paul had meant homosexual he would have used "paiderasste", a perfectly specific, common Greek word for it. Given Paul's penchant for gender stereotypes he really probably was railing against "unmanly men". What he meant by "arsenokoitai" is an open question: the word rarely appears in Greek literature and while it is a compound consisting of the words for "man" and "bed" and therefore probably has something to do with men and sex, it is not at all clear exactly what. And in any case, the word of Paul is not the word of God, so people who use this ambiguous verse as the basis for casting the first stone have much larger doctrinal fish to fry than issues of translation.

    I can understand Islamic scholars wanting to work with the Arabic text, just as I can understand NT scholars wanting to work with the Greek texts. But that is completely u
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2007 @03:52PM (#17974762)
    It is called "Deism" and is based on a belief in God, and a rejection of human divinity and false prophets. (All humans claiming to be "prophets" are false. Prophecy isn't something you are, but rather, something you do).

    Deism was so powerful once that an entire revolution was inspired by it and its focus on individual liberties, in a country ultimately called the USA. The USA's founders were mostly Deists (don't believe the lying propaganda of the Christians who claim the US was founded by Judeo-Christians). "In God We Trust", the deistic founders said. (Not "In Christ We Trust.")

    Unfortunately the hateful Christians have usurped the Deistic principles and are dragging down the USA, the same way the hateful Moslems drag down a true belief in God -- stupidly favoring instead human princes -- in their countries.

    Read the posting above where the guy who calls himself a "Christian" writes an incomprehensible statement where he keeps inexplicably interchanging the term "God" and "Christ." Who is it again that he follows? God, or Christ? I give up - there is no logic to Christianity. Nor to Islam, with its Mohammed. Nor to Rastafarianism, ith its Haile Selassie. Nor to ... need I go on? any other religion with its chosen human figurehead.

    Mockery of false prophets is a healthy practice and tenet of Deism. Given that all of these fallible humans running around claiming they are somehow holy and more special than other humans are setting themselves up as false Gods -- and yes, I mean EVERY human prophet who has ever been deemed as such -- there are no human prophets, not now, nor ever have there been -- then if one truly believes in God the only rational reaction to these poseurs is to make fun of them.

    Or, I suppose you could just follow a flying spaghetti monster, or whatever suits your fancy. But in the end it derives from the same impulse, which is rejecting all of these false Christian and Moslem and Whatever "ayatollahs" who are ruining the world.

    The deistic of the world need merely become more organized, and chase the religious war-mongers back to the hells they came from.
  • by TheDukePatio (621176) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @07:37PM (#17976582)
    Ever hear of: It's not that Christians don't blow things up or kill folks, it's that they tend to target individuals to send messages, but Islamic Extremists have a greater tendency to cause widespead terror, have a lesser regard for collatoral damage, and because of their devotion are more willing to sacrifice themselves in the process are the attributes that make them considerably more dangerous. Christians want to see the affects of their actions so they can feel even more righteous (IMHO).

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