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Censorship Your Rights Online

It's Hard To Run a Blog In Sweden 299

Posted by kdawson
from the you-own-their-comments dept.
mpawlo writes "Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt is being investigated by a prosecutor because of his blog. In a blog post, Mr. Bildt states that some 13.000 comments are posted (Swedish link) on his blog and that he and his staff try to erase all inappropriate comments. However, they apparently missed a comment proposing genocide of Palestinians. This prompted a Swedish leftist blogger to report the conservative foreign minister's blog and the comment to the authorities. Now a prosecutor is looking into the matter and the foreign minister will likely be held responsible for the comments due to poor Swedish legislation on freedom of speech relative to the Internet."
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It's Hard To Run a Blog In Sweden

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  • Pay attention everyone; expecially those of you who support hate crime and speech laws. This is what happens when you regulate certain "unacceptable" kinds of speech with the intent of "correcting" unpopular beliefs.

    "Thoughtcrime" won't be relegated to fiction for long.
    • But... but... how else can we spread tolerance if we tolerate the tolerant of the intolerant?!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goaway (82658)
      So you think there should be no limits on speech?

      Does this include death threats? Incitement to kill people? Instructions for how to make nuclear weapons? Fundraising for terrorists? Lying to courts? The president lying to the people? Fraud?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arthur B. (806360)
        There's no limit on baking cakes either, that doesn't mean you can make an arsenic cake for your mother-in-law. There is nothing wrong with "expressing a death stress", what's wrong is the threat to kill, be it in form of speech, explicit, implicit etc. In the cases you mention, speech is just a vehicle for a crime (breach of contract, death threat etc), it doesn't make speech *the* crime.

        There ought to be no limit on free speech means that speech should not be limited *for itself*. Hating someone is not a
        • by Goaway (82658)
          "Death threat" is a crime that can exist independently of speech? I don't think you can untangle the speech and the crime just quite as easily as you think.

          If "death threat" is a crime, then what's wrong with "advocating genocide" being a crime?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Arthur B. (806360)
            When I silently point a gun at you in a dark alley, I am making a death threat without speaking. The point is that speech should not be limited *for itself*, for being speech.

            Advocating genocide is somehow a death threat but it is to vague to constitute a crime, you are not involved in the crime. There's a difference between saying "quick, shoot that guy over there" and "death to group X".
            • by Goaway (82658)
              Advocating genocide is somehow a death threat but it is to vague to constitute a crime,

              That's pretty subjective. Lots of people would disagree with that claim, and enough do that it is considered a crime in Sweden. Since it is a crime, then by your argument it is not a limitation on freedom of speech, yes?
              • by Arthur B. (806360)
                There's a difference between an objective distinction is hard to draw and a subjective call. For example, many people would have a hard time deciding which answer is correct in an advanced quiz, it doesn't make the answer subjective.

                Sure it's hard to tell if a death threat is specific enough to constitute a crime and that's the whole point of justice by trial.

                Now I don't care that it has been labeled a "crime" in Sweden. Who said so? The Swedish lawmakers... But you cannot just "claim" that something is a c
                • by Goaway (82658)
                  Are you trying to argue that the law does not define what a crime is?
            • by joto (134244)

              There's a difference between saying "quick, shoot that guy over there" and "death to group X".

              Sure, there's a difference. Actually there are several different statements that one could discuss whether to allow or make illegal

              1. I hereby declare that I am going to kill Joe Q Public
              2. I wish Joe Q Public was dead
              3. I wish Joe Q Public was killed
              4. I will reward the first person who can bring me proof that Joe Q Public is dead
              5. I will reward the first person who can bring me proof that Joe Q Public is killed
              6. Please
      • The advocacy of a political position does not fall into any of those categories.
        • by Goaway (82658)
          Not only is that irrelevant, but if you think genocide is a "political position", you have issues.
          • It most definitely is a political position if you favor genocide as a policy for some government to carry out. Just like war. Opinions do not have to be reasonable (going back to the gold standard) or moral (wanting the United States to torture terror suspects) in order to be political positions.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      Thought crime already exists. The thoughts induced by THC, LSD, morphine, cocaine, etc, have all been deemed too dangerous to allow. Attempting to have such thoughts will get you imprisoned.
    • I had the same feelings as an American living in Germany a few years ago. Great country, had a great time, but there were a few things where there was a complete cultural divide and one of those was the freedom of speech. Mien Kampf, or at least parts of it, was required reading back in some of my college classes. Especially the ones dealing with the history around WWII. Yet it remains a banned book back in Germany, and this may have changed, but I remember that it almost took special permission for aca
      • by radish (98371)
        I found an interesting article [thebookstandard.com] about the history of book banning in the US. It's certainly true that most of the recent cases it lists are of local school districts or specific stores restricting titles, but you don't have to go far back to see instances of essentially nationwide bans. I agree that less censorship is better than more, but I wouldn't be too complacent about the current situation over here.
      • by terrymr (316118)
        But it was us that wrote the German constitution and many of its laws after the the war was over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Iron Condor (964856)

        Your post is nonsense, of course. Free speech is alive and well in Europe and has been for a long time. Contrary to the American model, however, most (all?) European constitutions consider a couple other things more worthy of protection.

        In most (all?) European constitutions you will find an article guaranteeing the freedom of expression, the freedom of the press and such; but it will usually be article number four or eight or so (since you mention Germany: it's number five there). The first couple are usu

    • I disagree. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jd (1658)
      This is what happens when laws blame those who are innocent and hold guiltless the guilty. Now, I have no objection to the prosecuting of conservatives, and think law enforcement agencies should be encouraged in the practice.... when the person is actually guilty of something more than not happening to be a god.

      Censorship, hate-crime laws and speech restriction laws can be entirely valid, fair and appropriate. When they are, they should exist - no matter who doesn't like it. But when they exist, they shou

      • Censorship, hate-crime laws and speech restriction laws can be entirely valid, fair and appropriate. When they are, they should exist - no matter who doesn't like it.

        Just because you want to silence a few nutcases doesn't make you the moral arbiter of what opinions people are allowed to express. World War II happened. Get over it. Our continent was destroyed by a war started by racist morons too, but we, at least, are mature enough as a society to discuss and judge people for their stated opinions without

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jd (1658)
          Again, I entirely agree that it doesn't make me the moral arbiter, or any other individual. The important word there, however, is "individual". Common law protections, provided they have power and bite, should be entirely sufficient to prevent any individual from turning reasonable restraint into unreasonable constraint.

          I also agree that Europe was destroyed by morons and thugs. There is not one village ANYWHERE in Europe that does not have a memorial to the fallen in World War I every bit as extensive as

    • by quintesse (654840)
      Sorry but it has nothing to do with "correcting unpopular beliefs", this is just a relatively simple case of who is responsible for comments published on a website: the author of said comment or the owner of the website.

      Because believe it or not, there are certain kinds of speech that are illegal in your precious US of A as well (defamation for example) which would generate the exact some problem if the law doesn't know how to handle it.

      So yes, this is one of those cases where it's unclear what to do but I
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The US is fairly lenient on defamation--defamatory speech is prohibited only when there is malice behind it, unlike Britain. Defamation and fraud are the misrepresentation of fact. Americans have (and passionately believe in) the freedom to express any political opinions--be it favoring the violent overthrow of the government, the extermination of Canadians, or even the idea that homosexuality is not okay with God. If you express these beliefs, the police won't come after you like they do in Europe. People

      • Does not the question of whether the poster or the blog's owner is "responsible" assume that something "wrong" has been done?

        And in this case, the "wrong" is little more than an expressed opinion to which a single person took exception. This has everything to do with punishing unpopular beliefs and intimidating anyone who might dare express them in the future.
    • by skrolle2 (844387)
      Oh cut the self-righteous drama, please, especially if you don't know the law or the purpose of the law.

      You're not automatically responsible for everything that other people write on your webpages. However, if someone notices you of the existence of hate speech or similar, you should probably remove it.

      Swedish law is, like a bunch of other law systems, more concerned with the PURPOSE of a law than the exact letter of the law. Laws themselves are usually pretty short and readable, but are accompanied by inst
  • by doombringerltx (1109389) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:38PM (#19612643)
    but trolling one couldn't be easier
  • ...the opposition censors the government!!
  • by Serapth (643581) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:39PM (#19612667)
    I don't get what the problem is? Genocide of the Palestinians would be a valid answer.

    Not a very good one mind you, but it would be effective.


    I kid. I kid.

    All countries go through stuff like this because laws arent fast enough to keep up with technology. Or, the people creating laws don't understand the technology. Happened before and will happen again, in every country around the globe.
    • To be honest, I wonder if all laws are destined to be behind technology by a generation. My guess is that in twenty years, when you have a whole generation of people who grew up ripping CDs and trading them over the internet, laws governing copyright will be banned and the RIAA will be much more powerless. In twenty years net neutrality debates will be a thing of the past because people who actually understand the internet will be old enough to realize the difference between metering by packet types and met
    • Mod +1 Horrible Joke
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aminorex (141494)
      It's odd that advocating the status quo should be considered hate speech, don't you think?
  • by Xoltri (1052470) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:41PM (#19612699)
    Would the owner of an apartment building be liable if someone posted a similar message on a bulletin board along side all of the for sale ads from other tenants?
    • by RingDev (879105)
      No, in this case the issue is with a law specifically dealing with the internet.

      -Rick
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Xoltri (1052470)
        And that's why it is stupid. Does it matter if the bulletin board is electronic or cork and push pins? No.

  • Yowza. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by capologist (310783) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:42PM (#19612703)
    I don't know anything about Swedish law (except that Pirate Bay seems to get away with anything they want), but if the blog host is making reasonable good faith efforts to remove inappropriate comments and missed one, it seems morally reprehensible to hold him responsible.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KokorHekkus (986906)

      ...if the blog host is making reasonable good faith efforts to remove inappropriate comments and missed one, it seems morally reprehensible to hold him responsible.

      Bingo. And he's not being held responsible... the problem is that the law rather untried at this point in time so the prosecutor needs to make a preliminäry investigation (in Swedish "förundersökning"). So pretty much: new law, more vigilance with the preliminary investigations until the legal situation has gelled a bit... which i

    • I wonder what would happen if someone used Pirate Bay to distribute a pirated PDF of white supremacist literature...
  • oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:43PM (#19612721) Homepage Journal
    A Møøse once blogged my sister.
    • Re:oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

      by bobcat7677 (561727) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:50PM (#19612801) Homepage
      No realli! She was Karving her initials on the bløg with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink".
  • midsommar (Score:4, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:44PM (#19612739) Homepage Journal
    they need to chill out, hop around a pole like frogs and knock back a bunch of liquor - have a few brawls and then everybody can love each other again.
  • by Burz (138833)
    Incitement to violence isn't protected speech anywhere, and bloggers have to police their comment areas for such comments (or else leave yourself in the position of promulgating them).

    It's too easy to cop-out with "oh someone else posted that comment" if one's intent is to spread violence. If the blogger left the comment there for a significant period of time, then he is probably guilty. And if the comments were too much for him to police himself, then he should have hired someone or limited the number of c
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stoolpigeon (454276) *
      you can't legislate intent - you can only legislate action. i know, people try but they are stupid. but even so - this blog post is not going to incite violence - period. there aren't a bunch of swedes waiting to hop on the next boat to the middle east to start shooting palestinians. it's ridiculous to say that there is any real damage done here.
      • by Burz (138833)
        That's a main point in my GP post: The intent doesn't even matter because using the comments area as loophole to publish violent rhetoric could be a part of someone's M.O. And accidentally spreading the rhetoric is negligent anyway.
        • what is violent rhetoric? i would say it is rhetoric that has caused violence. these kinds of posts don't cause violence.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by corbettw (214229)
            these kinds of posts don't cause violence.

            Fuck you! I'll kill you!
            • exactly - not the first time, or probably the last i've had stuff like this posted here - and it's meaningless drivel. saying words is not violence.
               
              i'm not saying speach can't be a component of violent behavior, but that is why we have brains to sort it out. just saying something ought to be done is not enough, there has to be a real threat. you are no real threat to me - whoever posted on that blog in sweden is no threat to palestinians.
          • by Burz (138833)
            Its speech that calls for violence.
            • I'd be opposed to banning that unless it could be connected directly to more than just talk. I don't think the speech alone is enough to take action against someone. And sometimes, calling for violence is the right thing to do.
    • Re:Tough cookies (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:52PM (#19612845) Homepage Journal

      It's too easy to cop-out with "oh someone else posted that comment" if one's intent is to spread violence. If the blogger left the comment there for a significant period of time, then he is probably guilty. And if the comments were too much for him to police himself, then he should have hired someone or limited the number of comments.

      I simply don't monitor comments on my website (some other types of content besides blog posts permit them, or I would have said "blog") and frankly I think that is the way to go. Because if you remove some comments, you can be stuck removing other comments... but then, this is the US. I still reserve the right to remove whatever I like, of course, and if something is illegal or just nasty and I notice it then I remove it. But if I had a policy of policing then I would have to follow that policy.

      Sorry to hear it's different in Sweden, I would run my blog out of a less oppressive country (in terms of freedom of speech, that is.)

      • by Burz (138833)

        I simply don't monitor comments on my website (some other types of content besides blog posts permit them, or I would have said "blog") and frankly I think that is the way to go. Because if you remove some comments, you can be stuck removing other comments... but then, this is the US. I still reserve the right to remove whatever I like, of course, and if something is illegal or just nasty and I notice it then I remove it. But if I had a policy of policing then I would have to follow that policy.

        If you provi

        • by Shihar (153932)
          No, that really is not true at all. You can call for the murder of all Palestinians, Jews, French, Canadians, whoever, and not only do you not need to censor it, but it isn't even illegal. In order to get in trouble for your speech in the US, you need to be committing conspiracy to commit murder. You can get in trouble for conspiracy (i.e. you need to be taking active steps to commit a crime), but that is about it. There are lots of things to dislike about US laws, but US protection of free speech is no
    • Re:Tough cookies (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:40PM (#19613501) Journal
      Incitement to violence isn't protected speech anywhere

      If you are not allowed to advocate the overthrow of your government, your free speech is exactly worthless.
    • by Shihar (153932)

      Incitement to violence isn't protected speech anywhere, and bloggers have to police their comment areas for such comments (or else leave yourself in the position of promulgating them).

      That actually is not true. For all of its faults, the US has extremely strong free speech protections and you basically have to be convicted of conspiracy before your speech can get you in trouble. I can merrily call for all the Jews, Palestinians, Blacks, Whites, anyone to go die without even the slightest worry of legal recourse. On the other hand, if I had a stockpile of weapons in my basement, armed some crazy neo-nazis, loaded the weapons, and drew up a plan to go kill some Jews, then I would actua

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ravnen (823845)
        I am no expert on US law, but in Brandenburg v Ohio [findlaw.com], the US Supreme Court stated:

        Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

        It certainly looks to me like this supports the view that incitement to illegal activity is itself illegal under US law. There is a requirement of imminence, so posting on a website pro

  • On the other side, the pirate bay in Sweden is still legal... do one need to understand that kind of logic?
  • by PerlDudeXL (456021) <jens DOT luedicke AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:51PM (#19612831) Homepage
    So apparently Sweden has the same problems with blogs and web-boards as Germany. Over here the
    blog/board owner can be held responsible for any offensive/illegal content posted by someone on
    the discussion board or comments. Even if the owner isn't aware of any such posting. This is called
    "disturbance liability". If he is sued and agrees to remove the incriminating content there are some
    stiff financial penalties if the poster is continuing.

    Some courts think it is technically possible to monitor a web-board with 200k comments per month
    like http://heise.de/ [heise.de]
    • by he-sk (103163)
      This is according to the ruling of ONE judge, hotly debated in Germany right now, and likely to be reversed on appeal.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      Yes, it all boils down to our "hate speech" laws.

      You can't say "hateful" comments about groups of people, regardless if it's homosexuals, muslims, palestinians, or exactly what.
      • You can't say "hateful" comments about groups of people, regardless if it's homosexuals, muslims, palestinians, or exactly what.

        At least you can say "hateful" things about your government...for now.

      • by phrostie (121428)
        not true

        they do nothing but bitch about everyone but themselves.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:59PM (#19612949) Homepage Journal

    Quote Old Testament scripture with respect to homosexuals... Then he'd be in *real* trouble.

    The interesting thing about freedom of speech is that it's not absolute, not even in the most liberal of countries. In the more liberal countries, you're free to say anything you like, as long as your speech doesn't have the effect of prompting action.

    Which kind of makes the so called "Freedom of Speech" pointless.

    The sad fact of the matter is no matter how much we'd like to believe otherwise, people will be judged by what they say, and even by words of the people with whom they associate. Even though this was probably a smear tactic, the realization of freedom of speech requires that we live in some kind of fantasy world where speech never has an effect on the *actions* of people. In such a world, you could say whatever you want.

    Instead, we ought to consider the consequences of speech before we speak. Speech with political consequences shouldn't be restrained, but speech with violent consequences ought not be protected. Drawing the line between the two isn't easy, because political speech often has violent consequences.

    • it's a fantasy world where a blog post sends armed swedes to the middle east to kill palestinians.
    • by computational super (740265) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:26PM (#19613297)
      Which kind of makes the so called "Freedom of Speech" pointless.

      I think you're confusing "pointless" with "ignored". I support freedom of speech - total, absolute, unregulated (and whatever your "what about" question is, the answer is, "yes, damn it"). A lot of people say they support freedom of speech, but don't really support it because they fear it. If you think that there ought to be freedom of speech with some regulations, then that's pointless, but that's you. If there are any regulations, then it's no more "free" than China or Stalinist Russia; it's just a different sort of lack of freedom.

      • I support freedom of speech - total, absolute, unregulated (and whatever your "what about" question is, the answer is, "yes, damn it")

        False advertising? Defamation? I'm interested to see how you'd justify these.

    • Quote Old Testament scripture with respect to homosexuals... Then he'd be in *real* trouble.
      Not quite. Just wanted to throw my 5 öre worth of facts regarding that specific type of speech. It's legal to refer to gays a "cancerous growth on the society" as one pastor did here in Sweden. So there's actually pretty much leeway when it comes to restricted speech.
    • by davek (18465)

      Speech with political consequences shouldn't be restrained, but speech with violent consequences ought not be protected. Drawing the line between the two isn't easy, because political speech often has violent consequences.

      Well said!

      However, if history has taught us anything, it is that the repression of any form of speech, even violent speech, serves only to fan the flames and causes far much more damage to humanity than any possible result of the original banned material.

      I should never have to be in fear of losing my civil rights simply because I put certain words to a page, no matter what those words are. Now if those words have action attached to them (e.g. I told you to go kill my rival), then I have to worry. That's

  • Somehow neither link seems to back up the claims in the article.

    I can't really read Swedish, but Carl Bildt doesn't seem to mention that he's under investigation (wouldn't he'd got immunity while in office anyway?).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KokorHekkus (986906)
      The link to the Wordpress blogg confirms it (albeit in Swedish) "...nås jag nu av informationen om att detta har lett till att en åklagare inlett förundersökning om brott." which translates to "... now I've been reached by the information that a prosecutor has begun a preliminary investigation if there has been a breech of the law".

      An english language site of swedish news is thelocal.se also has it at http://www.thelocal.se/7674/20070621/ [thelocal.se].

      And no, politicians do not have immunity whi
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:32PM (#19613383) Homepage Journal
    How can you tell the difference between an unacceptable post that was missed by a less-than-perfect process for removing it, from one that was left by an admin who wants to post it, so "missed it" on purpose?

    Government ministers have so much power, the public takes so much risk giving it to them, that they have to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. Because it's often so hard to tell the difference, and the difference often doesn't matter to the results
  • I read the links from the Slashdot story, including an autotranslation [tranexp.com] of the Swedish report, but I saw nothing describing the person who reported the ugly post. Nothing to indicate they're a "leftist" (whatever that means). Who says it was a "leftist", other than mpawlo, who submitted the story to Slashdot?
  • by sfalc (822450) on Friday June 22, 2007 @05:23PM (#19614093)
    It's all because of foolish requirements in the fifth and sixth section of the "Lag om ansvar för elektroniska anslagstavlor " , approximately translated, The Electronic bulletin board responsibility act.

    Which states that the provider is responsible for the comments if they obviously contains either illegal content (hate speech, child pornography, calls for riots) or
      illegally republished copyrighted content (i.e a very blatant copyright violation).

    And even if you didn't have the time to check all the comments or if you missed something, you are responsible, since you have been negligent ( sixth section).

    However even if he had been covered by the Freedom of the Press part of the Swedish constitution he would have been under investigation anyway, since hate speech is exempt.

    He will probably receive a small fine and that's the end of it.

  • I haven't read this article, just the OP's summary.

    Point:
    We can't yell fire in a crowded theatre.
    Should we be able to advocate genocide on the internet?

    Point:
    In the US, we have a constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech.
    Do they have the same in Sweden?
  • by Betlo (1118973) on Friday June 22, 2007 @06:20PM (#19614637)
    I've followed the development of this story for a while now.

    The blogger is Jinge of http://www.jinge.se/ [jinge.se] (Swedish) These comments have been on Carl Blidts blog since early april, for over two months now. During this time it has has been mentioned to him several times. He has been interviewed on both the news and the radio about them, without removing them. It is probably more because of incompetence then malice because he on the news said IIRC that he wanted to remove the comments but there was no point in doing it since they already were in "the cache".

    13000 comments is not much for a blog as old as Carl Bildt's. In comparison Jinge's blog has about 30000 comments all manually moderated before being visible on the blog. These particular comments were few and all in the same thread. The comments encouraged prosecution and/or extermination of the Palestinan people.

    These laws are seldomly used, but have been used in recent yers agiants hate speech advocating prosecution of and/or violence towards jews and homosexuals, and probably others that I can't remember right now.
  • Someone did some weird editing to this story, making the links completely wrong. The first link is to a very old story published by the Register not at all related to this situation, but to an old Swedish situation regarding chat forums (not blogs). I think this link should actually be removed from the story.

    What has happened in this case is that a preliminary investigation has been initiated. It is not a formal prosecution. This investigation is carried out by a prosecutor. I am afraid the editing makes

  • English Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Barkmullz (594479) on Friday June 22, 2007 @07:42PM (#19615409)

    Here is a [loose] English translation of the article

    Apparently our cleansing efforts of uncomfortable comments on this blog missed a few submissions from, in particular, one person - And via the media I have now been informed that this has caused a prosecutor to start a preliminary examination to see if a crime has been committed.

    In total, there are more than 13,000 comments, of varying type, on this blog. And during the last few months we have been trying to remove posts that were particularly inappropriate or insulting.

    As soon as we are notified about something we missed, we have removed it. However, it is clear we missed a contribution from a certain person early this year.

    Naturally, this is unfortunate. That this was not done on purpose is clear, because we have removed other comments in the past. The comments that we were notified about today were obviously removed immediately.

    That is how it is. After that the legal examination have to run its course.

    Where this will lead, I do not know. But I think it would be sad if it forced me to shut down this blog. And if I have to do that, it will most likely lead to other blogs being forced to do the same thing.

    However, we have not reached that stage yet.
  • The Real Deal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by liangzai (837960) on Friday June 22, 2007 @08:25PM (#19615775) Homepage
    Sweden actually has the oldest legislation there is regarding freedom of speech. The problem is that it is too old.

    Two separate acts, with a common ground, regulate freedom of the press and freedom of broadasting media respectively -- it is technology dependent. Anyone publishing (or broadcasting) media must have a license to do so, and whoever has the license is the registered publisher, who alone will face any legal actions if anyone in the staff commits a "crime of freedom of speech" (that is what is it called, totally Orwellian, I know).

    An exception to this was when two journalists (Guillou and Brattström) were convicted of spying when they exposed the Information Bureau, an illegal intelligence agency.

    Anyway, people publishing without such a license (like bloggers) are not protected by the two separate acts that regulate freedom of speech. Instead, private citizens are subject to a "Personal Data Act", that initially made it an offense to publish virtually anything about anyone without written permission. People have been convicted for describing colleagues breaking a foot in the yard under this law. It was initially a very harsh interpretation of a EU directive.

    Reality later had its impact as the Internet grew larger, and especially since Web 2.0 applications began to spread on the net (blogs, newspaper comments and so forth). The "Personal Data Act" was changed accordingly this year, and private citizens publishing stuff that is of an artistic or journalistic nature are in essence covered by one of the two basic acts on freedom of speech (both of which are part of the constitution, which by the way is not as strong as the American constitution), namely the one regulating broadcasting media. People who blog for other reasons than debate or journalism have no such protection.

    Mr. Bildt's blogging is thus covered by the constitution. But the comments are not, because yet another law covers such elements, namely the so called BBS Law (or law on electronic billboards). This law states that anyone operating a billboard (or equivalent; a blog is a billboard acccording to this definition) has the same role as a registered publisher in a media company, and therefore has to surveill the platform he is letting up for public use and also take action within reasonable time, should there be reason to do so.

    Practically, this means one has to remove illegal messages or comments within a week from being notified of their existence. One can also apply for a license to operate as a media company, to get the fullest protection of the law (which means that only a special prosecutor can prosecute). But then one also have to save every intermediate state of the media in question, that is the state inbetween every comment and change on the blog, like a versioning system -- this is too overwhelming for a private publisher of a blog. In the current case, a common prosecutor is investigating the case -- no one has yet been notified of anything, it is just an investigation.

    So, these are the basics of Swedish "freedom of speech". In essence, the law has a 16th century view on such freedoms of expression, only recognizing media companies as valid publishers. The common man has until fairly recently been rather unfree. The press and the media are thought to be "representatives" of the people, which is why the media is usually called "the third state power" in Sweden. Regular folks are not supposed to have freedom of speech. The press and the broadcasting media are an elite group with special privileges, and recently they have begun attacking blogs for infringing on those privileges.

    Regarding the current case, there will probably be no action, since Carl Bildt has had his foreign ministry staff go through all comments and remove those that may be unlawful. They have missed one or two such comments after being notified, but the law isn't that rigorous. A reasonable effort has been made, and it is likely no one will be held accountable for anything in this matter.

    On the ot

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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