There has been a bit of a furore over moderation in our little Kottu Community recently. An itty bitty troll has been bugging Groundviews, and Groundviews hit back by displaying the troll’s details to the public. Now Land Like No Other and Lanka Libertarian got upset about that and had their own posts up about it, which reached the top hits list of Kottu. But that is a whole different story. The fact is that a whole bunch of people are upset that Groundviews censors some of the comments that don’t adhere to their rules. I can understand Groundviews’ ground view. After what happened to Moju (which I enjoyed along with my Kottu), no one would want that repeated to any other blog. Incidentally, Groundviews has the right to do whatever it feels like in its own blog. Indi published an interesting post on the ethics of comment moderation too. All in all, an interesting state of affairs.
What I am wondering is, if such a relatively minor thing as comment moderation on a privately owned blog caused such a ruckus, what would happen to overall blog moderation as opposed to comment moderation. Currently we have the freedom to say whatever the heck we want, and at whom we want.
El Presidente is sometimes described as a strong-man in the lines of Premadasa. A put-up-with-nothing type who will not be pushed around and does whatever he wants. He signed an MOU with the opposition party, and then effectively nullified it by accepting (or engineering) a large number of cross-overs. Three of his ministers bugged him and he summarily kicked them out. What will happen if he suddenly realizes that there are bloggers out there who don’t like him? Maybe he might think bloggers can be a threat to national security. I am simply theorizing. What would all us free-speech-fanatics do when our mode of expression is restricted.
Before you scoff that this might never happen, I point out some examples where it has happened.
During 2005 in China, bloggers who host their content independently on their own server space have to register, and those bloggers that host their content through blog hosting companies are to be policed to the extent that they cannot display ‘questionable content’ including politically sensitive content (read the interview with Isaac Mao). Ouch. Imagine if we weren’t allowed to display politically sensitive content. Rebecca Mackinnon has this to say about Microsoft’s policing of Chinese Language blogs.
Some Pakistani Bloggers are upset over incidents in their country.
And Brazil’s blogosphere was upset during its election time do to this incident. And again some one stirred the blog nest by making a decision to prohibit the participating athletes from maintaining blogs, flogs, video logs or personal websites during the 2007 PanAm games in Rio.
What would we do, I wonder, if our freedom was curtailed. Yell and fight back? Join the FMM (now now, Don’t curse)? Quietly grumble and leave the country?
One of the beauties of the Internet is how it has democratized information, making it easily available to anyone with a computer and a connection, and allowing anyone with an idea, crazy or not, to distribute it to a worldwide audience.
Either ways, I believe no matter what comes up to block our freedom of expression, we will always come up with something new. They block blogs, hell we’ll use hieroglyphics. They block expression, we will simply change our form of expression, capoeira style. Freedom always finds ways to win out. And you will always find helpful people with tips on improving your dissident style: Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissident.