On Comment Policies and Free Speech
Blogs are like small independent newspapers run out of your basement. You usually only get enough printed for you family + 20, and hope that your family passes out the copies you printed. Someday you might get big, and you might be able to add some ad space, but for now, you can’t. You just write what you want to write, not concerned about subscriptions or revenue.
No, resoundingly, no. Just as editors at newspapers throw out the op-eds with poor grammar, or that are threatening or extremely disrespectful, blogs must and should edit for quality. Further, I am the Editor in Chief of this blog, so I can decide what stays and what goes on any criteria I deem important.No one is required to read this newspaper, or that newspaper, so if you don’t want to read it, you can just toss it in the street if someone hands it to you (don’t do that, please recycle!) and be on your way. No one is forcing you to read this blog, or any other blog. Most newspapers have letters to the editor and opinion sections. Blogs have comment sections. No newspaper can print every single op-ed or LTE. There isn’t enough space. The internet, or blogs, have unlimited space though… So should blogs be required to publish every comment?
Is this impinging upon someone’s free speech rights? Now, I blog from the United States, and I realize that not every nation has “1st Amendment” rights, or an equivalent thereof in the system of governance. Since I live in the US, and since it is the place in which I must follow the laws, I shall write specifically upon it. Please feel free to use my work to create your own analogy for the legal system in which you participate if you so choose.
Anyway, here is the 1st Amendment, for clarity’s sake:
_Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis mine) _
Ok. So, it says that Congress, that is, the Congress of the United States, ie, the federal government, cannot make any law restricting freedom of speech. It’s been further extrapolated in various Supreme Court cases to also mean that the government cannot compel speech. What does this mean for your comment policy? It means that unless you are the entirety of the US government, you can do what ever the fuck you like. The 1st Amendment protects you, dear reader and maybe commenter, from the government silencing you or forcing you to say things you don’t want to say. It says nothing about me, the Editor in Chief of my personal blog deleting untoward comments. The 1st Amendment says you can shout all you want about whatever you want in the public square, but it does not say that people must sit there and listen to you. The 1st Amendment says you can write all the LTE’s you want. It says nowhere that the Editorial board must publish it. You are entitled to speak all you want, you are not entitled to an audience.
So, this is my newspaper. Read it, or recycle it. Write a comment. But don’t expect me to publish it. If the Constitution said it was illegal to delete comments, it would not be an available function on all blogging platforms.