Yesterday, I used the SOPA Blackout Plugin to display a splash page informing my website visitors that my site was “down for the day” to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills in the House and Senate.
And then I tweeted and Facebooked to ask people to sign up for my upcoming WordPress Swimming Lessons group coaching class (deadline to sign up is Friday, January 20, and I’m not accepting any new client work in February, so this is definitely a case of Legitimate Urgency).
A Facebook friend gently chided me for making it harder for people to sign up for my class.
She’s right. I did make it harder. Not on purpose; not to force people away from my site.Â There was, after all, a “continue to site” link right on the splash page (though I can see how it was easy to miss), and the splash page only showed up once for each visitor (and I know full well that “just once” may have turned people away).
But I didn’t shut down my business or my website. I continued to work, plan, and hang out online at the same time that I was protesting. And I responded, in part, “I know it might not seem sensible, but… neither does SOPA/PIPA.”
And I’ll do it again on Monday, January 23. Because as Allison Boyer noted over on BlogWorld’s blog, SOPA and PIPA matter more today than they did yesterday. It’s not just about defeating one or two particularly badly written bills; it’s about crafting laws that uphold everyone’s rights (and I say that as a business owner as well as a citizen).
Is moderating blog comments online censorship?
Anyway, I got to thinking about the phrases that get thrown around about “stopping censorship.” And I wondered if anyone (other than my Internal Voices Committee, which always has something to complain about) could legitimately accuse me of censorship because I moderate my blog’s comments.
According to my pals at Merriam-Webster, the transitive verb “censor” means “to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.”
By that definition, yes, I am engaging in censorship merely by moderating comments, even if I approve all of them,Â simply because I am examining them in order to make a decision! Interesting, eh?
Now, the definition of “censorship” contains this, among other definitions: “censorial control exercised repressively.” Here I could go down the rabbit hole of looking up the definitions of “repress” and “control” and so on, but I’ll simply say this: Even if I exercise my censorial control repressively here on this one website (which I don’t believe is true in the first place), the Internet is far bigger than me and my one-person business site. There are so many other venues for online expression that to claim that I could be acting repressively is honestly kind of funny.
Further, I believe that every website owner has the same right — to delete content that doesn’t meet their standards. Whatever those standards might be. And I think this view is consistent with wanting to stop the government from stepping in and making those content-removal decisions without the benefit of due process.
I stand by my decision to moderate, and I’ll state for the record that yep, I will absolutely delete anything I consider objectionable. This is my blog, my website, and my online home. No one gets to enter without my permission. I am the sole and final judge of what counts as objectionable here.
That said, I can count on one hand (with a few fingers left over) the number of times I’ve manually deleted comments. Evidence shows that 99.6% of my real, human commenters are just fine, simply because they are real and human. And my moderation process reflects that — if a given user’s first-ever comment is approved, my site will automatically approve and post additional comments by that user.
(Manually deleting comments doesn’t include spam or robots, which are automagically filtered quite well by a combination of two plugins (Akismet and WP-Hashcash) and a comment blacklist that screens for certain non-Roman characters.)
What about you? Do you have a comment policy? Why or why not? How is it working out for you? Want to see how fast I approve comments? 🙂