I’m back from Hawaii! More on that later.. but for now, I want to talk about an interesting topic.
Friday morning (the day we left for Hawaii) I got SO INSPIRED. I’d had this post sitting as an unfinished draft for months and I was incredibly inspired to finish it. Suddenly the words were just pouring out! So while my husband was running around the apartment packing, I was blogging (naturally).
Here’s something Nereyda submitted to me a few months ago:
Hey Ashley, you wrote a really great comment on a different blog last week about freedom of speech and how bloggers get it wrong. I would love it if you could make a post talking about it. With all the drama going on right now with bloggers vs. authors and bloggers vs. bloggers, I thought it would be a good thing for us to see since everyone is so quick to cry ‘freedom of speech’ for everything.
You know what grinds my gears? When someone signs up for a website, breaks their rules, their post/topic/review gets removed, and they cry, “Censorship!! Freedom of speech!”
I used to moderate an online forum with hundreds of thousands of users, and part of my job was removing/hiding posts that broke the rules, sending people written warnings, and issuing bans. We had rules like “no flaming” and “no naming a specific person in a negative light”, etc. And I got A LOT of people messaging me back saying things like:
“You shouldn’t have removed my post! THAT’S CENSORSHIP!!”
Freedom of speech is freedom from THE GOVERNMENT—not everyone in the world.
You cannot go into a school and say, “Fuck you” to your teacher and expect to get away with it because of “freedom of speech”. Schools, organizations, websites, and other normal citizens have their own rules and codes of conduct. You cannot act in certain ways or say certain things. This is equally true of online communities, like Goodreads and Amazon for example.
Goodreads is fully allowed to ban or remove certain kinds of reviews.
It’s been a few months now since I made that comment that Nereyda mentioned above, but if I remember rightly, it was in response to a blog post about someone saying their review was removed from Goodreads for targeting the author. Goodreads doesn’t allow reviews that mention the author personally, or shelves that name the author (like a shelf called “stupid-author”).
Now, whether or not Goodreads should remove reviews that mention the author is irrelevant here. I’m not going to sit and pick apart whether or not the rule is a good one. But what I will pick apart is the fact that Goodreads is fully within their right to make whatever rules they want and enforce those rules. We don’t have the right to say whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want.
We can’t go into a school and say, “Screw you, you giant asshole” to our history teacher without getting a detention (or worse). We can’t sign up for a website, agree to follow their rules, then break those rules, and expect to get away with it.
Similarly, Amazon is allowed to implement their “you cannot review a book if you’re friends with the author” policy.
A lot of people are up in arms about this new policy. Amazon is forbidding people from reviewing a book if they’re friends with the author. That in itself doesn’t sound so bad, but the problem is that Amazon has taken this to the extreme. They see that a reviewer is friends with an author on Twitter and takes that to mean that they have a personal relationship, thus banning the person from reviewing the book.
Now I’m not saying this is a good policy. In fact, I definitely think Amazon has taken it to the extreme by overestimating who’s actually friends on a personal level.
But my point is that Amazon is allowed to be doing it. If they take down your review, they’re not infringing on your freedom of speech because Amazon is not the government. They’re a separate entity and allowed to have their own rules and posting/publishing terms and conditions.
It seems a lot of bloggers are misunderstanding this. Just last week I saw someone comment on Amazon’s policy, saying something like:
“Amazon is infringing on my freedom of speech by not letting me post my review.”
Sorry, chica, but that’s just not true. Amazon is not the government so they’re not infringing on your freedoms if they decide to remove your reviews/posts/comments/whatever.
Want an example that’s easier to digest? You are the master of your own blog. You’re fully within your right to delete any comments you want.
Imagine this scenario:
- A spammer posts a comment on your blog advertising Viagra (let’s assume it was published by a real person and not an automated bot).
- You delete the comment because.. it’s spam.. duh.
- The spammer comes back crying, “Freedom of speech!” You removed their words. HOW DARE YOU!
- But your reaction is probably going to be to roll your eyes and think, “It’s MY blog. I can do what I want!” And you would be 100% correct.
When it’s your blog, your space, and your property, you’re in control. You can do whatever you want. That’s because you’re not the government of the United States. 😉