According to Brazil: Bloggers united against WordPress.com ban by Global Voices, WordPress.com blogs are or soon will be banned due to a judge in Brazil ruling against a WordPress.com blogger featuring a YouTube video embedded in the blog of a couple having sex.
The details of the blogger and content in question is a bit vague, but this is not the first time, nor the last, that international courts have made a sweeping judgment against WordPress.com due to the actions of an individual blogger. This ban blocks not only blogs in that language, but all WordPress.com blogs, which is currently approaching 3 million.
There are two issues I want to address:
- What responsibility does WordPress.com have towards its banned blogs and the international courts?
- Why aren’t more bloggers talking about blogs and bloggers being banned?
I’d love to say a lot more about how senseless such legal rulings are, but let’s address the issue of common sense and responsibility.
What Responsibility Should WordPress.com Bear?
Celso Bessa Post-its on WordPress.com wrote an open letter to Automattic and WordPress.com Team asking for specific help to protect access to WordPress.com blogs from Brazil. Help I believe should be answered on the official WordPress.com Pages and Terms of Service to help other judicial courts act against an individual without punishing the whole:
By providing the Brazilian Court with a technical report and knowledge support about the best way to handle the blocking order of this specific blog, without compromising the access to wordpress.com.
The other two requests by the author are to provide enough time for the blog owner to respond and defend their rights, and to provide the information on the issue to the blogosphere so the public can have their say. I argue both from a business perspective.
I agree bloggers should have the right, and time, to defend themselves, which WordPress.com staff does provide, as long as the issue is between WordPress.com and the blogger directly, and/or another blogger. For instance, if a WordPress.com bloggers is found to be violating copyrights by plagiarizing content or violating the WordPress.com Terms of Service with advertising, they are often warned several times before the content, and/or the blog, is shut down. When possible, WordPress.com bloggers are given every chance to make appropriate changes, but if you are blatantly doing wrong, they have a fast trigger finger on the Delete Blog button, which is why WordPress.com continues to get the highest ratings and honors as a clean, splog-free blog service.
When it comes to legal decisions, WordPress.com must respond accordingly – though they do often work with the blogger in question to handle the issue on their blog – again, when possible and within the scope of their responsibilities.
The place for bloggers to defend themselves is in court.
WordPress.com offers a free platform for people to have their say, but they cannot be held responsible for all the rules in the world that dictate what form that “say” should be in, as that form often conflicts directly with the rules somewhere else in the world. To be the legal arbitrator, or even to be a part of deciding whose rule is right, is way beyond the scope of services like WordPress.com, Blogger, and other free blog hosting services. The author of the content is responsible for their content, and should be tried, held responsible, and punished accordingly.
Should WordPress.com be responsible for establishing a “court of public opinion” for WordPress.com bloggers? Their free blog hosting services does that inherently, but to showcase specific issues is also beyond the scope of WordPress.com, in my opinion.
By publishing such information for public dissemination, WordPress.com becomes responsible for that content. If not written very carefully, with lawyers standing behind the author to take care nothing biased, accusatory, or risky is said, such content can become liable rather than responsible. The grassroots resistance of public opinion happens on the blogs, not with the blog hosts. I believe it should remain with the people.
I believe that WordPress.com should only be liable for the amount you pay to blog on WordPress.com. From a business perspective, that’s common sense.
However, I believe that WordPress.com should continue to stick to its high moral standards for running a clean blog hosting site and take responsibility for helping individual blogs in these cases. Whether they agree or not with the courts ruling, WordPress.com must provide information to the courts on how to block individual and specific WordPress.com blogs. This allows the ruling to target the accused and not penalized a huge community of bloggers – in any language.
What Happened to Our Enthusiasm for Protecting Freedom of Speech?
I think bloggers around the world have become apathetic. Lazy. Uninspired. Dumbed down. Honestly. When the term echo chamber was coined, it was a good label for all the regurgitation of content spread all over the web, drowning individual voices. Self-interest blogging is pervasive. What happened to altruism and using the blog publishing platform to support freedom of speech and bloggers around the world?
What happened to us? Why am I not seeing protests and opinions on this issue all over the web? Why isn’t the banning of three million WordPress.com blogs a big deal? Why aren’t we talking about this instead of the latest iPhone gizmo and useless SEO techniques? Why didn’t people get angry and protest loudly when WordPress.com blogs were banned in Turkey, China, and other countries? WordPress.com continues to be banned in places – why aren’t we talking about this?
Have we really become desensitized to the plight of other bloggers and the oppression of freedom of speech?
We need to find our indignant righteousness again, fellow bloggers. We need to make our voices matter. Three voices should not have to shout to be heard on behalf of millions of bloggers. I want my WordPress.com blog to be read by those in Brazil, Turkey, China, and everywhere in the world. Don’t you? Why should my blog be penalized because of the actions of one?
People are asking Automattic to take a stand. I’m asking bloggers around the world to take a stand and let their voices be heard when others can’t.
Let not millions of bloggers be blocked and banned for the sake of a couple of idiots. You don’t send an entire city’s population to jail because two people break the law. Maybe the world would be a better place if we did, but that’s another discussion. :D
- Content Theft and WordPress
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- Attack of the Mean Commenter: Blocking Commenters and Comments on Your WordPress Blog
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- Biggest Copyright Infringement in the World But Nobody Cares Enough
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- Michael Crichton – Freedom of Speech vs. Patented Speech
- Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging
- Just a Reminder About Freedom: Blogging Comes With a Price
- Freedom of Speech – Bloggers Legal Rights
- What Message Is Your Blog Sending?
- Are You a Thinking Blogger?
- Are You a Lazy Blogger?
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