Saturday, April 17, 2010

First Amendment Vs. Privacy

Currently reading - Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn

Nathan Bransford's This Week in Publishing pointed to an interesting article in the NY Times about whether or not bloggers should do away with anonymous comments. This gist of the article was the rash of incendiary, crude comments on news organizations' blogs.

I'll be the first to admit there are times when anonymous comments can yield valuable information without jeopardizing the anonmyous commenter's livelihood. But many sites have turned into out-and-out brawls. Recently, several agents, such as Generous Janet Reid turned on moderation because of the crap being spewed on her blog's comments.

That's one reason I post comments under my own name. If I don't have the balls or the tact to stand by what I said, then I shouldn't be posting, should I?

But the issue is moving into a whole 'nother arena than good manners.

Yes, the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, but only in a public area (and even then there are limits, like not shouting "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater). Guess what? The internet isn't a public place.

I can hear those shocked gasps, but it's true, Virginia. The internet is, for all intents and purposes, a private place owned by private citizens, just like a store, which invites citizens to visit. If you run into Wal-Mart and start screaming obscenities, they can throw you out. The store is on private, not public, property.

Do we treat the internet as a public place? Sure. Just like when I meet with my critique group in a local eatery, we talk about anything and everything under the sun. Could we have been thrown out if someone had seen what was in the purple box I gave Jody? Yep, the staff had every right to remove us. Part of the privilege of remaining is acting in a reasonable manner.

On the other hand, why do we expect privacy when we tell the world everything? Christie blogged about the purple box incident, so now all six and a half billion people on earth know (theoretically anyways).

Oh hell, I know more about people's personal lives than I care to just sitting at my local coffee shop. Yes, blond buffant lady, I'm talking about you. I really didn't want to know about your son-in-law's ED, how you'd just die if your daughter adopted one of those little Haitian babies, and how it (melodramatically) destroys any chance you'll ever have of grandchildren.

Now, if I know all of this by listening to some middle-aged chick talking way too loudly on her cell, imagine what I know about the rest of you.

Heh, heh, heh.


  1. I agree with you 100%, Suzan. If you can't sign your name to whatever you've posted/said/spewed, then stay hidden in your mother's basement. You're obviously too cowardly to come out anyway. Stand up for yourself and take the hits you generate. If you can't, or won't, then keep your fingers off your keyboard. Huh. I guess I feel pretty strongly about this. LOL. And I bet that if there was a prize involved, anonymous would post their name...

  2. Well, if I ever get to Janet Reid's point, I'll start running more contests. LOL

  3. I don't have a problem with anonymous comments; I have a problem with jerkwads. Yes, there are plenty of people who'll take advantage of anonymity to practice their gluteal haberdashery, but I'm not willing to ban all anonymous commenters just because some of them are jerks.

    You're absolutely right about the freedom of speech issue. The first amendment prevents the government from abridging free speech, and as you said, even then there are a few caveats. If you're in a privately owned space of forum, the first amendment doesn't apply at all. I just wish more people knew that.