Seems like Internet censorship has been getting a lot of press lately, the Google/China issue attracting most of the media attention. Now the spotlight is on Craigslist, one of the largest classified ads sites on the Internet. The latest debate is over whether Craigslist should be more proactive in censoring those who post on it. The all began when some apartment listings appeared to be racially slanted. This and other events lead us to once again visit the questions, “Should the Internet be censored?”
Rob Sullivan does a nice write-up at Search Engine Journal on this very issue. A couple of excerpts:
“Free speech is one of the building blocks of any democratic society. Without free speech we, as citizens of the democratic society, would be subject to many forms of chastisement including personal attacks and even legal ramifications.
This is why I for one like the Internet. You see, to me the Internet is one of the last great representations of true free speech. We are allowed to post as we see fit whether it is a comment in a forum or a blog post which gets syndicated around the world.”
In the case of Craigslist, someone posted an ad for an apartment rental and explicitly asked that certain minorities not apply because, according to the person who posted the ad, these people “tend to clash with me so that won’t work out.” Craigslist now finds themselves the subject of a legal battle because of this.
Rob goes on to say, “Now, here’s the issue for me: Sure the guy’s post stated that there were certain races that he did not want to apply, but it’s not like he said “I hate you all!” Instead, he said that these people tended to clash with him. This isn’t necessarily a racist comment, he’s just stating his opinion based on his previous experience. In my mind, that doesn’t necessarily make him a racist. What really bugs me is that Craigslist is now being held accountable for this person’s post.”
Only time will tell where all this Internet censorship goes. The law is always playing catch-up to technology. So it still may take some time to define what gets censored on the Internet and what does not.