Freedom of Expression also means that others have the right to block out what they don't want to hear. Blog owners have every right to ban users and block comments without being accused of censorship.

Freedom of Expression also means that others have the right to block out what they don't want to hear. Blog owners have every right to ban users and block comments without being accused of censorship.

Freedom of Expression – Of Course I can Block you Out

I’ve been fighting for years on this blog for the right to true freedom of expression in India. Despite many who claim to support it, I find that it’s still a misunderstood concept with people usually swinging to one extreme or the other.

Recently I’ve been called up by those who claim that my moderation of comments and blocking out those who I feel are spoiling the discussion is “censorship”. While no one has a problem with filtering out spam, they feel that someone who supports freedom of speech should always allow people to express anything they want – or be a hypocrite.

This is clearly a misunderstanding of Freedom of Expression. And it arises because some individuals don’t properly comprehend that property rights are even more important. A blog for example, is the personal property of the blog owner. It is their house and those commenting are guests. A publicly accessible blog is like a home with its door open. Anyone can walk in, take a look at the interiors, and talk to those inside. But the owner will almost certainly evict you if you start behaving in a way they disapprove of. Whether it’s breaking stuff, or creating a nuisance of yourself. It’s their property and the owner has every right to kick anyone out of their place.

A blog for example, is the personal property of the blog owner. It is their house and those commenting are guests.

They cannot however, stop the person from doing whatever they want in their own house. As a blog owner, if I were to try and prevent someone from saying whatever they want on their website or social network, that would be censorship. That is what I am against. I’m against the involvement of the government in matters related to free speech. Private individuals and even corporations are perfectly at liberty to ban or block people from their networks.

So to clear this up once and for all, blog moderation is not censorship. The essence of free speech is that people can say whatever they want and other have the equal right to ignore them for whatever reason. By banning or blocking comments or even people, a blog owner is making the choice to not expose him or his audience on his personal property to a certain kind of material. The banned person has every right to post his or her comment on their own blog or create content on any number of free social networks. Or write a book, a letter to the editor, or whatever. In today’s world, content publishing has been democratized and it’s not as if there is a dearth of outlets for people to speak.

So when I ban someone or block a comment on my blog, that is because I either want to keep the discussion on track or want to maintain a certain atmosphere of discussion. I’ve used this option only a handful of times, but I will continue to moderate comments that are not a good fit.

And that’s not censorship.

What do you think of this post?
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Comments

  1. Ashish Deodhar says

    And blocking my comment protesting your association of wrong people with a random subject is truly liberal! Cheers.

    Reply

    • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

      I’m under no obligation to engage with someone who’s only interested in trivialities and side tracking the subject. It would be illiberal if I were you try and legally prevent you from saying something. This does not qualify. Bye.

      Reply

      • Ashish Deodhar says

        In reply to bhagwad

        Talking of triviality – how happily we bend the rules of freedom of expression. Any freedom comes with huge responsibility. You take the liberty to associate completely random people with completely random issues (and in the process potentially paint them in the bad picture) but you don’t accept the responsibility of apologising when you’re mistake is brought to your notice?

        This unnecessary discussion wouldn’t have reached this stage had to chosen to apologise for including the wrong picture, perhaps by mistake, and amended your post. That’s the responsible way.

        Now of course you’re under no obligation to engage with me on this debate or indeed even to apologise for your mistake but then I am obligated to call your “freedom of expression” bluff and point it out to you. If you choose to shut your ears and sing la la la la, that’s your problem.

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        Because I don’t care what picture was included. It’s irrelevant to me.

        I don’t think you understand what “Freedom of Expression” means. Please tell me what interpretation of freedom of speech says that I have a responsibility to engage with you on an issue I have no interest in talking about? You have a blog (I think), you have a social network account…go talk about it over there. Don’t use my blog for your own agenda and then demand that I provide you with a platform.

        I am in no way infringing on your freedom of expression. This is my blog, I get to decide what I want to talk about. That is my freedom of expression. This discussion is over. Please read the title of this post. If you have something to say about it, I’m listening. Otherwise don’t bother commenting.

        Reply

      • Ashish Deodhar says

        In reply to bhagwad

        The picture is of two prominent BJP leaders who have nothing to do with the supreme court’s ruling. Don’t you think your including their picture in a post to protest the supreme court’s ruling misleads people? Don’t you agree that it was a mistake? Are you so proud and arrogant that you refuse to own that mistake?

        I have plenty to say on the topic at hand, and I would love to endorse your opinion in this blog post, irrespective to the mistake you’ve made on facebook, but I would equally like to point out your mistake to you and register my protest. Do I not have that privilege in your “liberal” world?

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        I feel that you’re perfectly at liberty to point out any mistake of mine – in a place where I’m not forced to listen and pay attention to it if I don’t want. That is the essence of freedom of expression – we can block out stuff we have no interest in. So for you to claim that I’m violating your freedom of expression by refusing to engage with a topic I find irrelevant on my own blog absurd.

        In “my liberal world” as you put it, people can say anything they want. And others can simply choose to ignore them if they have no interest in what is being said. In this case, I have no interest in talking about an irrelevant (to me) photograph that was by chance attached to an article I linked to.

        I only know three BJP people by face – Advani, Modi, and Vajpayee. I’m not going to vet every single image that is attached to an article I link to. So it’s of supreme irrelevance to me.

        Reply

      • Ashish Deodhar says

        In reply to bhagwad

        And you think I am forcing you to listen? I am posting my comments on your blog. You’re free to block me from here just like you did on facebook!

        Your supreme lack of general knowledge is misleading people and potentially giving someone a bad name. That it doesn’t bother you one bit, believe it or not, is still shockingly surprising to me.

        All it takes is ‘sorry, that picture was a mistake’ but I guess that’s too much to expect from you.

        And anyway, I don’t care to point out your mistake to the whole world. I only wanted to point it out to you. I have done that and now am outta here.

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        Of course I’m free to block you. The fact that I haven’t already should give you an idea of how reluctant I am to do that when the person is not name calling and is trying to have a decent conversation.

        Reply

      • Ashish Deodhar says

        In reply to bhagwad

        But I was name calling and having a rather indecent conversation on facebook???

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        You definitely started getting personal. And if I remember correctly, a long time ago I was commenting once on your blog and you started talking to me directly…instead of addressing the issue and that was the last time I commented there. It was during the Lokpal agitation I recall.

        Getting personal, using adjectives that address the other person directly etc. are all abhorrent to me.

        Reply

      • Ashish Deodhar says

        In reply to bhagwad

        Right. Had it been anyone else, I would have invited you to prove I was using foul language or “getting personal”, as you put it but I know it would be a waste of time with you. The fact that you refer to some age old conversation between us (which, frankly, I don’t recollect) to justify blocking my comments on facebook, shows how laughable you are!! (oh am I “getting personal?”)

        Anyway, am outta here… this time, seriously :)

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        Yes…that is an example of getting personal. If you had said “The conduct is laughable”, that is one thing. To say “You are laughable” is unacceptable.

        Second, I didn’t use that example as a justification. That’s a misreading of what I said. I used that as an example to demonstrate that you seem to have a tendency to do talk in this manner. And I have a problem with that.

        Reply

      • In reply to Ashish Deodhar

        To humor you, here are examples of what you said on Facebook that were personal and caused me to block you:

        1. ulta chor kotwal ko datein
        2. Perhaps that will help you look less of a fool then

        Neither of which is what I would call civilized conversation.

        Reply

  2. “The picture is of two prominent BJP leaders who have nothing to do with the supreme court’s ruling. Don’t you think your including their picture in a post to protest the supreme court’s ruling misleads people? Don’t you agree that it was a mistake? Are you so proud and arrogant that you refuse to own that mistake?”

    Bhagwad has already stated ” I didn’t even know they were BJP leaders. It’s the default image of the article. ”

    He didnt choose it. His article is not about politics. Maybe you have not understood this, or do not wish to understand it for reasons of your own, which is why you choose to go on and on irrelevantly…

    Reply

  3. As a blogger, I TOTALLY agree with this post! Some people just don’t know how to disagree respectfully.

    Reply

  4. Couldn’t agree more. It seems many believe Freedom of Speech/Expression means having to take abuse hurled at you and when you don’t put up with that abuse, you’re censoring that person.

    Reply

  5. I agree one hundred percent with the post and your comments too. Great post. I mean how can one ask someone to think and write in a way one sees fit. That expectation is just dictatorial.

    Reply

  6. This is exactly my point too. I am linking this blog to my post :)

    Reply