Internet: Constitutional rights may not apply

Interesting story at Wired. They talk about the way that free speech is not guaranteed on the internet when someone else owns the domain/server space.  This fact is obvious but not often mentioned.

I recently read a book that described shopping malls as the end of the downtown public square and the way it serves corporate entities because the “public” space of a mall is, in fact, privately owned and controlled.  In other words, one cannot pamphleteer inside a mall in the way one might have done in the center of town, especially not to criticize a company located there.  For example, what if Zales sold “blood diamonds” and you wanted to raise public awareness through demonstrations and pamphleteering?  A shopping mall, as private space, makes it possible for such demonstrations to be suppressed simply by denying entry.

This model can easily be applied to the internet.  The Wired story talks about Yahoo! refusing to allow a photo on Flickr that depicted a child smoking a cigarette.  The photo’s purpose was not to glamorize cigarettes, it was to accurately depict urban Romanian youth.

It’s important to remember that Google, Yahoo!, et. al, are private corporations.  Their duty is not public service or ensuring free speech, only making profits.  What is the solution to this?

It may be advisable to create publicly owned web space, for all US citizens to be guaranteed free speech and artistic expression.  The internet is not going away and the ability to navigate it and access its democratic potential should be accessible to all people.  If this is deemed not possible, it may be necessary to regulate internet companies to ensure citizens are not denied their rights.  Nobody should have to worry about an artistic statement being suppressed by a corporate entity.  Perhaps we need an online “free speech zone” that can be our virtual village green.

My question to all the presidential candidates is their stand on issues of artistic expression in a corporate-owned sphere and whether the individual should be able to expect free speech online.

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~ by Daniel on 8 July, 2008.

4 Responses to “Internet: Constitutional rights may not apply”

  1. As a person that has taken part in gorilla leafleting inside malls. I can tell you that these “rules” are made to be broken! When mall security started chasing us we had a plan b. We stopped leafleting and donned t shirts that said the same thing as our leaflets. We then SPOKE our issues. At the same time, another group made a loud march in the parking lot slowing down traffic. Security had to respond to that. When they left, those of us inside leafleted again!

    Recently, I had a run in with a bunch of censors on a social networking site. This site has a “rule” that says that only pictures showing the profile owners face were allowable. I tested this out by posting pictures of lightning and such. It took about a month for some idiot user to flag it and have it removed. But I was ready. I had copy of the pic they removed with my face added via The Gimp hehehehe. I posted that and they can’t remove it because they fit into the idiot rules.

    ClapSo’s law of the rules:

    Break em whenever you can. If ya can’t break em, bend em. It drives the nazis crazy!

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  2. I like the pamphlets-to-Tee-shirts idea!

    And thanks for proving my point, that malls exist in part to suppress public expression 🙂

    What we you guys pamphleteering, btw?

  3. ROFL, we were protesting the taxpayer financed EXPANSION of the mall hehehehe

    I’ve also taken part in such gorilla tactic protests for any of other causes over the decades…

    I’m a veteran of a thousand peace marches

    Ya wanna study creative resistance. Check out the kinds of thngs ACT-UP has been doing since the 1980’s! I can tell ya stories…

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  4. So people say that. But not many..

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