Free Speech, pseudonymity and the Web

Where to draw the line between the right to say what we sincerely believe and the right of others not to be insulted, belittled, threatened? Where to draw the line on protecting those who post pseudonymously on the internet?

The Internet has created opportunity. The opportunity for those living under repressive regimes to communicate, to organise, to advertise the fact of their oppression internationally. But also the opportunity for oppressive regimes to trace and document this activity and track down dissidents. And the opportunity for groups with extreme views to advertise and organise racist rallies.

I’m conflicted. My conflict is between ensuring the right of anyone to speak their mind and the responsibility of owning up to those views.

Where to draw the line?

49 thoughts on “Free Speech, pseudonymity and the Web

  1. Homo sapiens: a species of wild violent apes, with a thin veneer of sociality.

    Once people can be anonymous, they tend to lose that veneer of sociality. What keeps people behaving reasonably, are the social pressures. And too much anonymity removes those social controls. I base this on what I have seen on the net over several decades.

  2. So I thought that Rumraket’s insinuation that phodoo is a Jew was over the line.

    And of course, when I dared him to back that up with evidence, that could be seen as racist.

  3. Given the times that Patrick accused Salvador of being a child molester, isn’t it a bit late to be getting a conscience about what people write here?

    Oh, and where was Elizabeth then? And the worries about the site hosting libelous comments.

  4. Someone who influenced millions if not billions of people once said this:

    “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.”

    If that rule had been applied in Charlottesville, would we be talking today about the tragic events there?

    Would we be reading the uncivilized, degrading comments here full of hate, prejudice, racism and unfounded accusations?

  5. I intended this thread to be a venue mainly to address the issue of the conflict between unfettered free speech and racism. Events in Charlottesville, and reactions to them, and who is prepared to be counted in condemning Donald Trump’s stance are already being addressed in Tom’s thread so perhaps there’s redundancy and discussions might be better concentrated there.

  6. Surely by these days Free Speech has been settled. in fact I understand its the agreed moral right and legal right.
    YES one must submit to what people sincerely believe and so say.
    Slander means the person was lying. Thats illegal.
    Why do we have free speech?
    We have it because we are free men and nobody tells us to be quiet or punishes us in our nations/homes.(if they do its oppresion)
    Our free governments back up this.
    Its settled!
    Of coarse its not settled as over the centuries famous, or otherwise, cases prove it.
    Everyone knows examples.

    we do not have free speech in our parents home. rightly so!
    therefore free speech is really just for important things in our societies/nations.
    Otherwise society organizes speech pretty good.

    Therefore we have to obey free speech, unless otherwise contract is made, but reject malice or obstruction to the purpose for speech.

    Forums/blogs like this should ensure free speech for free conclusions/opinions/floating thoughts but not tolerate malice.
    The bosses have the right to judge when malice has come.

    I have never spoken malice on the internet because of my identity as a Evangelical Christian, and general good natured person(if I can say so).
    I have gotten a lot of malice at me but its just silly and beneath me to feel the sting.
    i use my real name as I’m proud of all i say .
    i never put anyone on IGNORE.(how does that work anyways)
    I never complain about other people or the bosses.
    TSZ is very reasonable and I notice they put up with unreasonable people.

    Mankind wants free speech for truth and good reasons.
    So free speech must be obeyed but reject malice. mankind accepts censorship/punishment of malice.
    Yup that means somebody is the JUDGE.
    Yeah maybe send warnings before imprisonment etc etc.
    Yeah its up to accusers to prove their case. Accusation is not indictment.
    I give my support to TSZ to demand free speech and censor malice.
    TSZ is the Judge.

  7. Neil Rickert:
    What keeps people behaving reasonably, are the social pressures. And too much anonymity removes those social controls. I base this on what I have seen on the net over several decades.

    Yes, many people go reckless when they perceive there is no responsibility enforced on them. However, this means they were not really humans to begin with. Real humans have rationality and morality regardless of social pressure.

    And let’s be clear. This thread was apparently created because of the case with Byers, who seems to be speaking under his own full name openly, so his behavior is the same regardless of anonymity. Not that this makes it moral. It just means that anonymity and social pressures are not factors in his case. Maybe you have seen stuff on the net over several decades, but you have not been drawing the correct conclusions.

  8. Free speech is not absolute, as we all know. Inciting violence against others is illegal. Anyone doing so can be charged. But I would be interested in what people here think about a hypothetical (although I suspect it will not be hypothetical).

    There are plenty of videos of the neo-nazi’s KKK and other white supremacist nut-jobs protesting in Charlottesville. Let’s assume that the entire protest was peaceful as opposed to what we saw, but retaining all of the racist chants and symbols. Undoubtedly, many of these people’s employers also saw them on these videos. Do these employers have the right to fire any of their employees that they saw on these videos? Or are these people protected by free speech?

  9. Mung: So I thought that Rumraket’s insinuation that phodoo is a Jew was over the line.

    What the flying fuck are you talking about? I have never made any assumptions about or commented on anyone’s ethnicity and I don’t give a shit where they come from or anything along those lines.

    Retract that fucking bullshit right now.

  10. Acartia:

    There are plenty of videos of the neo-nazi’s KKK and other white supremacist nut-jobs protesting in Charlottesville.Let’s assume that the entire protest was peaceful as opposed to what we saw, but retaining all of the racist chants and symbols. Undoubtedly, many of these people’s employers also saw them on these videos. Do these employers have the right to fire any of their employees that they saw on these videos? Or are these people protected by free speech?

    Pretty much, political views are not a protected class covered under the law. If you are a small company under fifteen employees many of those laws don’t apply.

  11. Rumraket: Retract that fucking bullshit right now.

    Bite me. You tried to smear him by associating him with the practice of stoning, and for no reason whatsover than your own anti-religious bigotry. Own up to your comments or retract them.

  12. Mung: Bite me. You tried to smear him by associating him with the practice of stoning, and for no reason whatsover than your own anti-religious bigotry. Own up to your comments or retract them.

    That had nothing to do with anyone being jewish you gimp. I used the term abrahamic religion, as he’s clearly a believer in abrahamic religion.

    And I didn’t try to “smear him” with anything. HE brought up the tendency for captive chimpanzees to throw feces, and I argued that this was basically an expression of the same behavior humans have where they throw objects at people and things they disapprove of and showed this same basic behavior even comes to expression in the abrahamic religions with the practice of stoning various offenders.

    So retract the claim that I have somehow brought up anyone’s ethnicity (jewish or otherwise) as a smear or any kind of issue. I have not and you fucking know it.

  13. Rumraket: So retract the claim that I have somehow brought up anyone’s ethnicity (jewish or otherwise) as a smear or any kind of issue. I have not and you fucking know it.

    Christianity is considered to be an Abrahamic religion that doesn’t call for stoning anyone. Who else does that leave? Do the math.

  14. Mung: Christianity is considered to be an Abrahamic religion that doesn’t call for stoning anyone.

    The old testament is part of the bible, isn’t it? And the bible is the primary christian holy scripture, isn’t it?

    Here’s a nice article on the subject for you to peruse: What does the Bible say about stoning?

    Question: “What does the Bible say about stoning?”

    Answer: Stoning is a method of execution during which a group of people, usually peers of the guilty party, throws stones at the condemned person until he or she dies. Death by stoning was prescribed in the Old Testament Law as a punishment for various sins. Both animals and people could be the subjects of stoning (Exodus 21:28), and stoning seems to have been associated with sins that caused irreparable damage to the spiritual or ceremonial purity of a person or an animal.

    Some sins that resulted in stoning in the Old Testament were murder (Leviticus 24:17), idolatry (Deuteronomy 17:2–5), approaching near to Mount Sinai while the presence of God was there (Exodus 19:12–13), practicing necromancy or the occult (Leviticus 20:27), and blaspheming the name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:16). Stoning was probably the punishment for various types of sexual sin, as well (Deuteronomy 22:24); the related passages in Leviticus 20 do not specify the method of execution, only that the guilty party was to be “put to death.”

    The Mosaic Law specified that, before anyone could be put to death by stoning, there had to be a trial, and at least two witnesses had to testify: “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness” (Deuteronomy 17:6). Those witnesses “must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people” (verse 7). In other words, those who testified against the condemned person in court had to cast the first stone. Examples of stonings in the Old Testament are the deaths of Achan and his family (Joshua 7:25) and Naboth, who was condemned by false witnesses (1 Kings 21).

    Stoning was the method of execution chosen by the unbelieving Jews who persecuted the early Christians. Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was stoned to death outside of Jerusalem by the Sanhedrin. On that occasion, a young man named Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, held the coats of those who cast the stones (Acts 7:54–60).

    In another famous passage of Scripture, the Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus into granting approval for the stoning of a woman caught in the act of adultery. Significantly, the adulterous man was absent—the Law prescribed death for both the guilty parties. Jesus’ response is interesting. The woman was clearly guilty, but Jesus understood the duplicity of His enemies. Instead of giving them a direct answer, Jesus turned to those who had dragged the woman before Him and said, “Whichever of you is free from sin, throw the first stone” (John 8:1–11). By this, Jesus is asking for the witnesses to step forward—the witnesses, bound by an oath, were the ones to cast the first stones. He also shows the compassionate heart of God toward the sinner and silences the mob’s hypocritical allegations.

    Another mode of execution that was also considered stoning involved throwing the guilty party headlong down a steep place and then rolling a large stone onto the body. This is exactly what a mob in Nazareth tried to do to Jesus after His speech in their synagogue. Hearing His claim to be the Messiah, “they got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff” (Luke 4:29). Jesus’ deliverance from this angry mob was miraculous: “He walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (verse 30). It was not the Lord’s time to die (see John 10:18), and He could never have died by stoning because the prophecy said none of His bones would be broken (John 19:36).

    Stoning is a horrible way to die. That particular manner of execution must have been a strong deterrent against committing the sins deemed offensive enough to merit stoning. God cares very much about the purity of His people. The strict punishment for sin during the time of the Law helped deter people from adopting the impure practices of their pagan neighbors and rebelling against God. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and Israel was given a stern commandment to stay pure: “You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 17:7).

    So the bible really does condone stoning. Christians (thankfully) today just make excuses for why it no longer applies.

  15. Mung: Christianity is considered to be an Abrahamic religion that doesn’t call for stoning anyone. Who else does that leave? Do the math.

    Supposing that’s even true, that would still leave judaism AND islam. So nice own goal there buddy.

    Look, your pet religion in all it’s preposterous copies, forebears and interpretations clearly calls for stoning of sinners of various transgressions. I recommend you just:

  16. Mung: Christianity is considered to be an Abrahamic religion that doesn’t call for stoning anyone. Who else does that leave? Do the math.

    Burning at the stake no problem?

  17. Rumraket: Supposing that’s even true, that would still leave judaism AND islam. So nice own goal there buddy.

    So you have something against Muslims too?

    Now you’re getting it. You implied phoodoo was either Jewish or Muslim. Neither one makes you look good.

  18. Rumraket: Here’s a nice article on the subject for you to peruse

    Did you read it? It is the Christians who were being stoned. Nice own goal, genius.

  19. Mung: Did you read it? It is the Christians who were being stoned. Nice own goal, genius.

    In several places by other christians, genious. I fucking quoted the whole thing stop bullshitting.

  20. Mung: So you have something against Muslims too?

    Now you’re getting it. You implied phoodoo was either Jewish or Muslim. Neither one makes you look good.

    I see that the concept of granting an assumption for the sake of argument is lost on you.

    I didn’t imply anything, I know for a fact he’s an adherent of one of the three abrahamic religions, but there was nothing in any of my posts that were an attempt to “smear” him with a religious identity as if that itself would diminish his worth as a person. And you fucking know it stop kidding around.

    What you wanted to insinuate was that I’m some sort of antisemite. And now that you can’t because the facts don’t support that charge, you want to insinuate that I’m some sort of bigot who hates jews and muslims instead. Neither of which are true, and you know it.

    And to be clear, I think all three religions are shit. Their teachings are false and they inspire people to do a lot of bad shit. Though ironically, judaism less than the other two.

    But I didn’t actually argue that phoodoo is somehow a bad person simply because of his religious beliefs (nor do I think that). And you know it.

    I merely pointed out that the primate tendency to throw objects at things they disapprove of also comes to expression in the abrahamic relgions. By showing phoodoo that despite his sense of great human superiority to the other primates, his very example of a primitive primate behavior (captive chimps throwing feces) comes to expression in his religion in the act of stoning sinners.

  21. Mung: Did you read it? It is the Christians who were being stoned. Nice own goal, genius.

    And who were casting the stones, first or otherwise?
    I see nothing in what Rumraket wrote that could be reasonably interpreted as racially slurring phoodoo. If you want to continue arguing that point please do so in the dedicated thread.

  22. I think what Mung is trying to say is that back in the old testament days before Jesus, there were no christians, they were all jews, so it was jews stoning jews in the old testament. Fair enough, that’s true. But the old testament is still part of the christian bible. Problem is there’s nowhere in the bible where the practice is repudiated other than in the example with Jesus, the traditionally required witnesses weren’t present. So it’s not that stoning is repudiated, it’s just that the conditions that would call for it aren’t met to Jesus’ apparent satisfaction in that purported situation.

  23. Rumraket: Problem is there’s nowhere in the bible where the practice is repudiated…

    Actually, there is. You finally made the correct connection between stoning and the Mosaic Law. Now all you have to do is make the disconnection between the Mosaic Law and Christianity. Go ahead, you can do it.

  24. Alan Fox:
    I intended this thread to be a venue mainly to address the issue of the conflict between unfettered free speech and racism. Events in Charlottesville, and reactions to them, and who is prepared to be counted in condemning Donald Trump’s stance are already being addressed in Tom’s thread so perhaps there’s redundancy and discussions might be better concentrated there.

    I find no social media censoring Islam or BDS, and I find them hateful. There’s lots of hate out there. I don’t know anyone I’d trust to censor it.

  25. Mung, to Rumraket:

    You finally made the correct connection between stoning and the Mosaic Law. Now all you have to do is make the disconnection between the Mosaic Law and Christianity. Go ahead, you can do it.

    You mean this “disconnection”? Jesus said:

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Matthew 5:17-20, NIV

    The Bible can be so inconvenient for Christians sometimes.

  26. Rumraket: I didn’t imply anything, I know for a fact he’s an adherent of one of the three abrahamic religions,

    Oh do you?

    Is this the same way you know other facts, by declaring them?

  27. keiths: The Bible can be so inconvenient for Christians sometimes.

    Poor keiths, as clueless as ever. Your cluelessness does not make the Bible inconvenient for anyone but you.

  28. Jesus, in the verse I quoted:

    Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

    [emphasis added]

    Go ahead, Mung. Explain to us why Jesus is wrong about that, and you are right.

  29. Poor keiths. Not only does he not understand the Bible, he doesn’t understand plain speech. I see little point in trying to reason with someone who fails at understanding even the simplest communication.

    Does anyone know why I should try?

  30. Either Jesus was wrong, or Mung is wrong. How utterly black and white. One might suspect a false dichotomy. Especially given it’s the keiths stock-in-trade.

  31. You’re dodging, Mung.

    Jesus says:

    Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

    Yet you say it’s okay for Christians to do that. Exactly how can you and Jesus both be right?

  32. I enjoy watching Christians fight the Bible, particularly when it’s Jesus’s own words they’re fighting.

  33. Only in the irrational world of keiths does “anyone” mean any person at any time in any place, ever. Only in the hypercritical world of keiths does “anyone” never have a limited applicability. Such barriers to communication are far too often erected by keiths.

    A word has one and only one meaning, and it just so happens that it’s the meaning that suits keiths, regardless of context or hermeneutics. You simply cannot reason with such a person.

  34. Mung,

    The straightforward interpretation is that Jesus meant “anyone”when he said “anyone”.

    Let’s hear your argument for why that passage should be interpreted differently.

  35. No, keiths, you have the burden of proof, not me.

    You need to demonstrate that there is no possible alternative reading that makes sense in order for your false dichotomy to be an actual contradiction.

    Your claim is that Jesus was right and I am wrong. You have to be right about that, not simply possibly right. You need to justify your interpretation. That your interpretation is one possible interpretation and that it may therefore be the correct interpretation just isn’t going to cut it.

    Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may
    not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

    The keiths interpretation would be any man, any where, at any time, ever.

    ETA: And women are excluded, because it obviously says man and therefore can only mean a man.

  36. Mung,

    Your claim is that Jesus was right and I am wrong.

    No, it isn’t.

    However, you’re a Christian. If Jesus said

    Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

    …and you want to argue that he didn’t really mean “anyone” when he. said “anyone”, then it’s up to you to support your odd interpretation. As a Christian, you can’t just toss Jesus’s words aside when he says says something you don’t like.

    Deal with it.

  37. Mung, who famously said “I don’t just read the Bible, I study it,” gets grumpy when someone out-Bibles him.

    It must really chap his ass when that someone is an atheist

  38. Mung knows that the bible can be interpreted any old way. So he can never lose when “interpreting” the bible.

  39. Rumraket: But I didn’t actually argue that phoodoo is somehow a bad person simply because of his religious beliefs (nor do I think that). And you know it.

    Sure. I know plenty of decent theists. The reason phoodoo is a terrible person is not because he’s religious. If it was then there would be hope for him as many people see the light, eventually. But even if that were to happen it’d still be phoodoo the terrible person who is now an atheist.

  40. keiths: As a Christian, you can’t just toss Jesus’s words aside when he says says something you don’t like.

    And you have no evidence that I am doing so. You have only bare unsupported assertion. not only that, but I see you’ve been reduced to quote-mine the text in order to try to make it say what you want it to say. Naughty naughty.

  41. keiths: …and you want to argue that he didn’t really mean “anyone” when he. said “anyone”

    No, my argument is that “anyone” has a range of meanings, and that you’ve cherry-picked the most ridiculous one. 🙂

  42. keiths: Jesus says:

    Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

    My second rebuttal to your silly argument is that you’ve been reduced to quote-mining.

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

    So your interpretation is absurd on its face.

  43. Judaism doesn’t hold that everyone is subject to the Mosaic Law, so why does keiths think that Jesus made such a claim?

    Did the church keiths attended growing up observe the Mosaic Law and did keiths ever question the pastor of his church about why they disagreed with Jesus?

    I’m a preterist. The simple response to the keiths claim that Christians are still waiting until “everything is accomplished” is that we aren’t.

    A little study on the part of keiths would have shown him why Christians don’t interpret the passage the way he does, but he’s not interested in that.

  44. keiths: It must really chap his ass when that someone is an atheist

    What does Mung’s preference for assless chaps have to do with this discussion? 🙂

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