Free Speech, The 1st Amendment, And Blog Comments

freedom-of-speech-on-the-internet

While the internet is largely an openly available place, many people believe that while visiting a website or blog that allows comments – they have a (Constitutional) right to comment and speak their mind as they wish. And if a comment is subsequently removed, that their 1st Amendment rights have been violated.

The thing is, they’re wrong. And here’s why…

 
There are times when a visitor on a blog may become irate when their comment is removed. As a blog owner, I know this to be true ;) . I have received my share of nasty emails and have had my share of frustrations while moderating some comments on our blog over the years.

There is often a misunderstanding of the 1st Amendment in this regard (for those of us who live in the United States).

Most internet sites are privately owned, and they have no obligation to allow you to speak freely in their space.

Whether it’s a blog owner deleting a comment they find offensive, or a large company website deleting user comments that violate their policies, your speech may be censored. You have no first amendment right to free speech in those places.

This includes our discussions on Modern Survival Blog.

We have always held our community up to high standards, and if you post a comment that we find isn’t up to those standards, we reserve our right to dismiss it.

While we at ModernSurvivalBlog.com realize that a more strict comment policy environment will reduce overall number of comments in a discussion, and while we know that many visitors are used to other sites where it’s basically a free-for-all, we have chosen to put in the extra hours to maintain what we believe to be a more constructive environment. It takes time, effort, and some frustration, but we feel it better serves the majority of those who visit us regularly.

Additionally, while some websites don’t allow comments at all, and unlike many other sites which require registration, we do not require User registration. This opens us up tremendously to the difficulties of dealing with comment spam. But so far we’re managing…

That said, most people have no problems with our terms of use:

Our Terms Of Use

 

 
A civics lesson:

The First Amendment To The U.S. Constitution

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.

This amendment (and all of the others) were added because the Constitution itself, according to its drafters (and the states, which had to ratify it), didn’t offer enough protections for the civil liberties from the powers of government.

This is very important: freedom of speech, along with the other freedoms in the first amendment, are designed to protect the liberties of the populace against an oppressive government that would seek to squash those rights in its own self-interest.

Private entities and private spaces, however, are largely not required to protect your speech.

Conversely (as an example), if you speak your mind (in a public space) and find a group of people shouting back at you, your rights aren’t being trampled, you’re just unpopular — and all of you have the right to speak.

Most of us turn to the internet because the tools are free and available: Twitter, Facebook, blogs with comment sections, forums, they all offer one-click methods for us to speak our minds.

However, when you leave a comment on a company’s page, tweet your grievances, or comment on a blog, you’re speaking in privately owned spaces. This means you should have no expectation that your speech is somehow protected beyond that service’s terms of use.

That said, if you follow our terms of use, you should have no problems here.

 
So where can you speak freely if you find your opinions are no longer welcome or if you’ve been banned from commenting on a blog? You can set up your own space to speak — as in start your own blog and invite people to come and participate, or start your own social media page.

Again, because these are actually private spaces, your speech is only as protected as your service provider’s terms of service.

If you start a free blog at WordPress (for example), you have to stay inside their lines of acceptable use. If you start a Facebook page (for example), you have to adhere to Facebook’s TOS.

On the other hand, if you shell out money to host your own blog and your own speech (like we do), you’re now the party with the terms — you can be as lenient or restrictive as you choose.

You may not have the audience you wanted, but free speech protects your right to speak — it doesn’t force others to listen. You’re still subject to your hosting company’s TOS, and it’s still a semi-private space, but it’s the closest you can get to public on the internet, and most hosting companies don’t care what you say as long as it doesn’t get them into legal trouble.

I hope this helps your general understanding of posting comments on blog sites, including ours.

Thanks for visiting.

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13 Comments

    1. Thanks for not requiring that annoying registration. Another 1st amendment point many are unclear on is that while Americans all have a right to speak, nobody has a right to be heard.

  1. Excellent reminder Ken;

    The owners of websites have the right to delete any comment that they want. I define that as property rights and I will die defending them.

    If you come to my house, I determine what you can and cannot say, I also determine if you get to exercise your right to bear arms. Its my house.

    It amazes me that people get worked up over internet comments being deleted.

    God Save This Great Republic and thanks for your work Ken.

  2. That’s why I gave up on some other sites I used to visit. There were way too many troll comments to wade through to get to the useful comments.

  3. Key is ‘Congress shall make no…’ Neither blog owners, nor their hosts such as google, are the federal gov and are not making laws. Courts have erroneously extended the first amendment to ridiculous interpretations, allowing every moron and malcontent to believe they have the right to be a-holes using written or spoken word. Thank you for sparing us the tedium of reading rants from the under-educated or generally annoying.

    I have a belief that the behavior of ‘liberals’ is driven by unmanaged emotion because they have failed to learn and practice logic. When unable to articulate a reasoned defense of their belief/position, their only fallback positions are the emotional plea followed by personal attack or character assassination. Reading such content does not enrich dialogue or provide a basis for expanding our perspective. It mostly engenders negative emotion, a major waste of our personal energy. Thanks for conserving energy!

  4. One reason I visit this site daily is the lack of trolls. It takes much time on other sites to ID the serious posters and one comes to appreciate them. Many, many diverse opinions that occasionally turn negative, but that is like a face to face anywhere. Big deal.

    I just find it mandatory to perform ones own due diligence for any/all topics discussed. The internet is the best source for information EVER. However, it also dictates ones constant and unswerving pursuit of the TRUTH. It always seems so elusive. Greatest treasure hunt one can engage in.

  5. I think your running one of the best sites I’am aware of Ken. As a Mod at a couple of other forums I know its a thankless job most of the time.

    Our Terms of Use are much like yours and really does keep things clean.

    We’re lenient until the personal attack(s) occur, then its one warning, and if one repeat, that member is out of the game.

    Keep up the good work Ken!

  6. I am glad I don’t have to muddle through the nasty speech degrading others out of fits of anger here. Thanks Ken for giving us a civil opinion, suggestions, and a decent informative place to visit.

  7. Well stated. I come to this blog because I find a lot of very useful information here, and the commenters are generally quite respectful. While I have particularly thick skin, there are indeed a number of people that do not, and many of them troll various sites as a result. I sincerely appreciate that you take the time to maintain this site, and spend the energy required to properly moderate it. When I go to a website, I make no presumptions as regards my “rights”, because when I’m in the house of another, my rights are whatever the homeowner says they are.

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