Is it hypocritical for free speech advocates to moderate comments on their own site?


Have met quite a few Norwegians whilst working abroad and found them absolutely wonderful people, not a bit crazy!

OK there was Eric who worked as a nuclear physicist in Norway and after getting a bit tipsy told me exactly how much fissionable material in Kgs was required to sustain a thermonuclear reaction, back in the day when it was still a secret.

So OK maybe one or two?

So after selling my secret to Kim Jong-il and the DPRK I sit here on my private island sipping Martini’s reading about the nuclear tests they are doing with pride!

NSA etc… only joking guys!



We owe the Hoth scenes to Norway and Norwegian Mountain Rescue Skiers for the extras.


As is Australia, the EU, and just about everywhere else that isn’t the USA.

The rest of the world is not living in desperate envy of America’s freeze peach absolutism. We’ve seen where it leads, and have made a reasoned decision that it is not a good idea.

Should there be a basic principle encoded in law that freedom of expression should be encouraged where reasonably possible? Sure. Does that require giving free reign to malicious slander, murderous hatemongering, fraud, sadism and corruption? No.

Every country deals with these issues slightly differently, and there are legitimate grounds for criticism in many places. But that does not imply that extremism is therefore correct.

The world is complicated and grey. Black-and-white absolutism does not provide an effective means of dealing with it.


Precisely, and also something that is not true of Facebook. Because, y’know, good luck setting up your own Facebook. Even Google couldn’t manage to do that.

The good news is, human beings are more directly connected to each other than at any other point in human history. Spoiler alert: this is also the bad news.

Perhaps, but also the source of “disemvoweling” which I feel is not just a bad idea but actively harmful. I think it’s more clearly stated as a breakdown in the cost of emotional labor:

First we’ll reframe the problem: the real issue is not Problem Child’s opinions – he can have whatever opinions he wants. The issue is that he’s doing zero emotional labor – he’s not thinking about his audience or his effect on people at all. (Possibly, he’s just really bad at modeling other people’s responses – the outcome is the same whether he lacks the will or lacks the skill.) But to be a good community member, he needs to consider his audience.


You see? A liberal arts education does have its uses!


You don’t have to set up a whole Facebook. You just have to set up a site for the niche Facebook doesn’t allow.

So if you want to post boobies and people fucking - there are sites for that.

You want violent, real world war imagery that may include children, there are many sites for that.

Real world example: When Facebook stopped allowing gun buy/sell/trade groups, people went and built their own site trying to emulate the concept of people having the ability to form their own trade groups. I am not sure how well they are doing, but they made it, and they didn’t have to create a whole new face book, just the one part they can’t do on facebook any more. And besides that there are a half dozen large B/S/T and auction sites that, IMHO, is even better than FB ever was due to the ability to search and have nation wide coverage.


I am curious what you mean by that? I mean other than the rampant inane internet debates.

A few examples of negative consequences, defended on free speech grounds in the US, which would be regulated, prohibited or prosecuted in many other countries:

Citizen’s United / US campaign finance and advertising in general: among the reasons why Australian elections are so much cheaper and faster than in the US is that we regulate time and manner of political advertising, limit political donations and prosecute conflict-of-interest corruption.

Revenge porn: this sort of violation of privacy and harassment is slam-dunk illegal in most places.

Crush videos: infamously defended by a USSC decision.

Fred Phelps: he can believe whatever shit he wants, but his graveyard antics would’ve sent him to prison almost anywhere except the USA.

Stormfront: most places have no problem with restricting speech that calls for the murder of fellow citizens. See Rwanda for the eventual consequences of not doing so.

The KKK: ditto.

Father Coughlin: I’m sensing a theme here…

Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising: American medical commercialism is weird. Most places recognise that television marketing is not an appropriate forum for medical decision making.

Quackery in general: Not a victimless crime. Ditto “psychic” fraud.

Unregulated marketing fraud: Regulation against misleading and harmful advertising (e.g. Oz-style tobacco packaging regulation) is much weaker in the USA.


That’s off the top of my head. When applied with context-blind literalism, the US first amendment appears to be an example of “for every complicated problem, there is an answer that is simple, elegant and wrong”.


I’m sure here to say … this is still going on?? Good golly Miss Molly.


For most of your complaints, those things aren’t fully protected by the 1st Amendment, but clearly the laws are different.

Quackery and marketing fraud are regulated and illegal. Some of the stuff is allowed, but you can’t make certain claims (ie homeopathy, which is a think in Europe as well). Revenge porn is illegal in most states and I imagine the others will catch up. There are also anti-harassment laws etc.

Campaign reform is an issue, but Freedom of Speech is only part of the issue. This can be regulated differently in the future.

Direct to consumer pharmaceuticals ads again isn’t a right, it is just currently legal. There are limits as to how booze, tobacco, and gambling are advertised, for example. This too can change.

The rest, the hate groups, really aren’t prevalent in every day things (and I say this living an hour from the Phelps). It is a problem, yes, but is it big enough to do away with the 1st Amendment? I don’t think so.

Sure the system isn’t prefect, but the reason for the Amendment was two fold - one because so many early colonists were religious pariah and victims of persecution, and 2) past oppression of news, information, and dissenting opinions.

You are correct there are currently people abusing their rights. But one can’t also ignore the powerful protection it has given Americans under law. I mean, many people see us as Pseudo-fascists anyway, would you want us to lack the ability to question say Macarthyism? We could get real dark - what if prayer was mandatory in school, or the Pledge of Alliance? What if not standing during the anthem or burning the flag was a jailable offense? What if the gov. places limits on how you criticize it? Etc. These aren’t just what ifs, you can see consequences of it in recent history.

I concur it isn’t perfect, but please keep in mind, 1) there are some limits to free speech and 2) some of the things you have issues with could be changed, it is just now how the law is written now.

While I’m at it…

  1. “Person X is bad, and I’ll pay you to kill them”

  2. “Person X is bad, and you should kill them”

  3. “Person X is bad, and it would be a good thing if someone killed them”

  4. “People of group X are bad, and I’ll pay you to kill them”

  5. “People of group X are bad, and you should kill them”

  6. “People of group X are bad, and it would be a good thing if someone killed them”

How many of those should be legal to say? I’ve seen US right-libertarians argue for all of them.


What context? Do you allow satire? What about 16 year olds talking shit?

Legitimate threats like this are illegal. Like if you are caught trying to hire a hit man. Joking about bombs at airports or killing the president will also get you in trouble.

So if someone had a pro-Palestine march in your country, is a “Death to Israel” sign illegal? Or is that sort of thing not even allowed?

You should be able to say all those things, although obviously you’re guilty of murder if you pay someone to commit murder, so why wouldn’t you be equally guilty if someone did your bidding for free?

Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences. The point is that you are responsible for what harm you actually cause, not restricted from speaking because of what you might cause. (Sort of the opposite of laws against drug use, where they punish you for what might possibly happen even if nobody is harmed.)

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Kinda my point: context matters, in a way that black-and-white absolutist rules do not allow for.

Happens all the time.

That sign would be legal; “death to Jews” might not be. There’s room for judicial and police discretion in the laws, and context would be considered in any prosecution.

You can have a system that controls genuine dangers without forcing you to prosecute every idiot undergrad. But it requires the judgement of people for it to function; you can’t do it with just a piece of literature.


Have you read about our judicial and police discretion lately? It doesn’t have the best track record.

ETA - this illustrates the point of the Bill or Rights. It isn’t to protect us from each other - it is to protect us from the government.

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Disemvoweling was the only thing I really liked about TNH’s moderation style. I miss it, and I wish the mods here still did it.

Good night, all!

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I’d argue that removing human judgement from a corrupt, biased and abusive judicial/police system is attacking the wrong problem. You’ll just trade one disaster for another.

As your earlier McCarthy example shows, rights on paper are useless when the bodies enforcing those rights are biased or corrupted. See also the experience of abolitionist publishers in the antebellum South.


I think it would be almost impossible to create another Boingboing, especially with similarly minded community members and the same level of talent in it’s authors.

If I wanted to be able to have tangential discussion about articles on this site, a second, fake, boingboing forum wouldn’t have any users.

Since the community guidelines welcome constructive criticism, discussing it here, with Robs blessing seems like a way more practical option than trying to start my own version of Boingboing.