Public Space in Cyberspace

Following my post Condemning Censorship, Even of Werewolves, a great many people took me for task for trying to make a principled distinction between public space and private space, and tangled that up with a lot of confusion about the distinction between “public” and “state-owned” space. Here I’ll attempt to shed some light on the matter. In doing so, I will not actually be retailing a private theory of mine, but touching on principles with a long history in ethics and Anglo-American common law.

Suppose I privately own a road which is the only access to your property. Can I bar you from using it? My principles say no. Ancient common law says no. Current U.S. law says no. I may charge a fee, but it must be reasonable in light of my maintainance costs and local market conditions, and it must be waived in emergencies.

A lot of people interpret this doctrine as an assertion of social ownership of the roads, but there is a different ethical basis for it shared by libertarians and Anglo-American common law. That is: the law should not be interpreted to further privilege power relationships that are already asymmetrical. Where they conflict, we should be more scrupulous about the rights of weak parties than of strong ones.

If you own a private club, should you be permiitted to bar blacks or women? Current U.S. law says no. Ancient common law is silent. I say, yes, you should be so permitted, even though I consider such discrimination odious. The difference is, that kind of law intrudes into your personal choices in ways that allowing someone to use your road does not.

Can you bar individuals from your residence because they are black or female? Yes. Current U.S. law, ancient common law, and I all agree that a homeowner has a right to control personal space that trumps other claims.

Now let’s go to cyberspace. How do these principles apply to defining public space there? In particular, how can we distinguish in a principled way between blogs, public forums, and project-hosting sites such as SourceForge?

The right decision procedure here is to think about what the power relationships are, and which choices avoid infringing personal space while also avoiding placing further burdens on weak parties. Matters are simplified by the absence of state ownership, so no confusion between public space and government-controlled space is at issue.

A blog is like a private home controlled by a single owner. Treating it as private space imposes no undue burden on guests, because their investment in the content is minimal. They may of course, leave comments, but the comments have value primarily as a reflection of or comment on the owner’s posts. Little or no harm is associated with being banned. In this case it is easy to say “private space”.

A forum is like a club. Some are private and specialized, others more open. The value of the posts in a forum is a joint creation of the members; no individual member normally contributes more than a small fraction. Harm from being banned varies from none to significant, depending on the value of the forum social network. I could do a more extended analysis of how different forums with different traditions imply different rights analyses, but I’m going to pass over that to get to what I think is the interesting case. I’ll say as a placeholder that I think the public-or-private answer depends contingently on the history and social norms of the forum community and can go either way.

A project-hosting or forge site is very different from either case. The most important difference is that the site acts, in effect, as a gatekeeper for access to the user’s own property – the source-code repositories and other project data. The user’s investment is high, and harn from being banned can be severe – in the worst case, even a diligent user may lose work that is backed up nowhere else (e.g. commits since the last backup, project mailing lists, etc.). The analogy of a private road controlling access to a weaker party’s property is strong, and the same remedy applies, which is to restrict the putative owners from taking actions which further burden the weaker party.

If I were running a hosting site like SourceForge, I would make sure that my ban procedure included burning copies of the user’s content onto CD-ROMs and shipping them to his/her contact address. Otherwise, I think I could be sued successfully for destroying property that is not mine. My wife the attorney agrees this would be fair and prudent.

The social expectations around a hosting site also matter. These are, normally, chartered to a particular community. SourceForge’s, for example, is held forth as being open to all projects with licenses conforming to the Open Source definition; Alioth is for Debian developers; Savannah primarily for FSF and FSF-approved projects. Such representations have ethical weight, and courts do not ignore them when a dispute goes to law. If I were running any of these sites, I would consider violation of the traditional norms of my user community to be not just a public-image problem but a multiplier to my risks in the event of a lawsuit.

There are also relevant precedents with respect to community bulletin boards hung in supermarkets, which I know about because I was an individial amicus in the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Communications Decency Act back in 1996. If you are a supermarket and hold forth the bulletin board as being for community use, you are essentially barred from censoring in a content-sensitive way except as required by laws relating to obscenity, felonious threats, and other criminal speech.

I trust it is now clear why I have asserted that forge sites are not private space within the meaning the term has in common law and reasoning about speech rights. This does not mean the owners can’t shut them down, but it does mean that while they are running, the rules of public space – or, perhaps more specifically, the public thoroughfare — apply.

82 thoughts on “Public Space in Cyberspace

  1. I think you need to expand a little on “the law should not be interpreted to further privilege power relationships that are already asymmetrical. Where they conflict, we should be more scrupulous about the rights of weak parties than of strong ones,” as that seems identical (to me) to arguments made about overturning bans based on race or gender. Not that I actually mind that — I’d prefer it if libertarianism took more account of power relationships — but I wonder how you define the difference between an easement like access to property and widespread prohibitions on arbitrary groups.

    (And if it’s not going to *completely* derail this thread, I’m also interested in how this applies to your thinking on the net neutrality debate).

  2. >as that seems identical (to me) to arguments made about overturning bans based on race or gender.

    There’s a difference which matters weakly in ancient common law and strongly to libertarians — those sorts of law rely on ascriptive membership in a group. This is bad ethics and bad law, as edge cases involving (for example) mixed-race children constantly demonstrate.

    For my view on net neutrality, see Net neutrality: what’s a libertarian to do?. I agree there’s a power asymmetry in there with some ethical weight. Unfortunately, as is all too common in such cases, the political cure would be far worse than the disease.

  3. So you think you have the right to ban black people to enter your house, but you can’t ban people in a public forum if most people agree?

    Personally I love “hacker news” because of this:
    http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

    I used to like reddit before it got to be what it is today.

    I believe offensive behaviour needs to be punished in a public forum, it’s the “broken windows” approach. I don’t buy your “but this is censorship”. It is and it is good for the people if they are the same rules for all. Nazis were totalitarian, that’s it, like communists, they took people power and use it, but is the people decision.

    I’m sorry but if they are people that is offensive by nature, some mentally ill I want them to get out of my lawn fast. In openclipart people will send you emails like “you are the devil because you posted eye or hands icons, that’s against god, remove them or die”.

    In our LUG mail list we had someone call another “fucking scab” and worse(he said it was not and insult, just reality), we removed he from the list, we had the same “ohh, that’s censorship!!” debate and another person(from 300) went out voluntarily. If this man were not removed, I would have quit the list(and a lot of other people too).

  4. >So you think you have the right to ban black people to enter your house, but you can’t ban people in a public forum if most people agree?

    No, I think the answer to that question depends on the forum’s history and social norms.

  5. No, I think the answer to that question depends on the forum’s history and social norms.

    I find myself reminded of Fidonet’s (historically) one and only rule: “Do not annoy others and do not yourself become easily annoyed.” Whilst you could find yourself being banned from an echo in theory, in practice you had to be pretty damned annoying — repeatedly — for it to happen. (“Annoying” being some of the same things found annoying on Usenet: cross-posting, excessive trolling, spamming, off-topic posting, etc.) This social norm and historical rule, set in motion by Tom Jennings way back when, did have rather unfortunate consequences that led Fidonet’s reputation as “Fight-O-Net”. :)

    Such fighting did eventually lead to some echo moderators — and moderators usually had at least some teeth because they were often also Net and/or Regional Echo Coordinators) — to lay down more rules for their particular echos, which became like little fiefdoms. But I think on most echos people were still given lots of leeway.

    Anyway, being banned was about being annoying, and what constituted ‘annoying’ was decided by the moderator. I think such precedents still exist today at least to some extent.

  6. “The analogy of a private road controlling access to a weaker party’s property is strong”

    No. It’s weak.

    I don’t invite you to use my private road at will, then slam the door shut once your house is built. Unless you’re a moron, you don’t even consider purchasing the land for development until you’ve secured a legal right-of-way (for a price, perhaps) that would prevent such future issues. For those edge-cases where an existing property ends up being ‘land-locked’ (these are almost exclusively due to state interference, however), there are legal remedies relating to unconscionable practices.

    The forge is a privately owned space (ie. not state-controlled) that throws open its doors to all comers that wish to participate in accordance with its rules/mission etc. It may be very loose and informal, but at some point, the right to assert those rules can always be exercised.

    The only blunder I see with SF is a political one – they handled the situation poorly. Yes, they should have kicked the bum out, but they should have adopted the [eventual] strategy of the lady in question – host the offending material as a read-only example of behavior that will not be tolerated…an Internet-based form of shaming & shunning, perhaps?

    As for the use of such intangible concepts as “power relationships”…I think you’re walking right into a tar pit of contemporary liberal fluffy non-thinking.

  7. PS. I do agree with your ethical “ban then burn the material to CD” approach….although I would simply make the material available through a public read-only ftp server.

    ESR says: I in turn agree that would be an acceptable alternative.

  8. >As for the use of such intangible concepts as “power relationships”…I think you’re walking right into a tar pit of contemporary liberal fluffy non-thinking.

    I agree with you that most left-liberal talk of power relationships reveals fluffy-non-thinking. But that’s a contingent fact about modern left-liberals’ inability to think clearly on a lot of topics where they’ve been canalized by Soviet memetic weapons, not a necessary one about the concept of power relationships. You’ll find that, though not under that name, deep in the common-law/republican/libertarian tradition (note to readers; that’s small-r republican, not big-R Republican).

  9. As I have been digging in to this I have found there is a whole field of interest that I never knew existed here.I am still far from convinced that property isn’t the right solution here, but certainly my interest hs been piqued to learn more.

    Perhaps it would be interesting to note that the Nobel Prize for Economics has just been awarded in part to Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University. Her work apparently is a study of how shared commons are managed effectively by groups of people without the need for government control via regulation, or free market control via ownership. How many of the problems of “the tragedy of the commons” can be dealt with through an organic self imposed regulatory framework, rather than the need for these other control mechanisms. I just read about her in a press release, and don’t know much more about her, but it seemed so very relevant to the subject under discussion here, that I thought I’d mention it.

    (Though given the recent Nobel Prize debacle, and the fact that Paul Krugman is a Nobel Laureate in economics, I wonder these days if a Nobel prize is more a badge of the shame of conformity that a mark of distinction.)

  10. I’m going to disagree. Not about the realities of the law, but about what’s right.

    – The age and commonness of laws is no argument for their correctness.
    – Trying to force good behavior on the odious is like whack-a-mole, and only helps the odious hide.
    – A forum or a forge *is* someone’s property.
    – New forums and forges are relatively easy to create.
    – They don’t have your property, they have copies of it; this isn’t gold we’re talking about.
    – There is no right to copies on exit, only (hopefully strong) user preference and pressure.
    – There is no contract. Only a set of nice things that they’re doing for people, which they should be free to alter or cease at will.

    So if you don’t like how they do it:
    – do talk about it if you think pressure from their users might change things
    – do create an alternative
    – don’t use a gun or a government to force them to do nice things for you, just cause you really, really want them.

    This is the internet, not a road to an encircled property without an explicit road agreement, in an era before helicopters.

    Unfortunately, ancient and common law (and the recent and uncommon) often gets in the way of our freedoms instead of protecting it.

  11. Suppose I privately own a road which is the only access to your property. Can I bar you from using it? My principles say no. Ancient common law says no. Current U.S. law says no. I may charge a fee, but it must be reasonable in light of my maintainance costs and local market conditions, and it must be waived in emergencies.

    This seems like a very idiosyncratic position for an anarchist. A more standard, and, I think, better libertarian approach is to say that at the same time he purchases the property, the buyer should form a contract with the road owner establishing access rights to the road.

    It also seems to me that your approach is one that is much better codified by a legislature than by court precedent. The principle that “the law should not be interpreted to further privilege power relationships that are already asymmetrical” doesn’t follow out of any libertarian axiomatic system that I’m aware of, and seems highly ripe for abuse through advantageous interpretation. I’d be very wary of any court that made a ruling stemming from it. It would be straightforward enough for a legislature to pass new right-of-way easements into existence, but ancap societies don’t have the luxury of being that capricious.

  12. Suppose I privately own a road which is the only access to your property. Can I bar you from using it? My principles say no.

    That is because I have an easement to use your road. When you bought the property, you also bought the (perhaps implicit) contractual obligation to the owner of the property accessed by your road. Generally, this happens because someone once owned both properties, built the road, and subdivided, creating the easement. Without that easement, no one would purchase the otherwise inaccessible property. Therefore the property owner obligated by the easement gained value for value.

    In the case of a blog, I have paid you nothing in return for having my words seen here. Your right to delete them, and to restrict my ability to post any further comments, is absolute. In the case of Source Forge, the question is whether the user has provided any value to SF in exchange for the “easement”.

    When one signs up with SF, they agree to certain terms of service. If those TOS create such an easement in the mind of a reasonable person, then it exists. Otherwise, SF is free to do as it pleases. I suspect if your wife looked over the TOS, she’d agree that it creates no such easement.

  13. >the question is whether the user has provided any value to SF in exchange for the “easement”.

    Actually, the answer is clear and I can speak from personal knowledge, having been a director of the company at the time SourceForge was launched and privy to the business plan.

    SourceForge has economic value as a demonstration site and testbed for the company’s principal product. Every project that lands there adds to that value.

  14. >This seems like a very idiosyncratic position for an anarchist. A more standard, and, I think, better libertarian approach is to say that at the same time he purchases the property, the buyer should form a contract with the road owner establishing access rights to the road.

    Or, better yet, the easement should be transferable and travel with the deed. Agreed. But it’s possible to imagine situations in which, through no particular fault of anyone, no such easement exists when the road becomes critical. Suppose, for example, there was just one other road out that got destroyed in a landslide?

  15. Or, better yet, the easement should be transferable and travel with the deed. Agreed. But it’s possible to imagine situations in which, through no particular fault of anyone, no such easement exists when the road becomes critical. Suppose, for example, there was just one other road out that got dretroyed in a landslide?

    Emergencies justify all sorts of things that aren’t allowed under normal circumstances. That’s why it’s very important to restrict the declaration of a state of emergency. Whatever entity is empowered to make that declaration should not also be responsible for managing the emergency, or it’s likely to become a permanent state of affairs.

  16. “The age and commonness of laws is no argument for their correctness.”

    Why not? Would you similarly dismiss all similar appeals to tradition or just particularly this one? I don’t consider appeals to tradition wrong, I simply think they are not a very strong evidence, they are a weak to medium-strength evidence, depending on the circumstances. I consider them evidence because people in the past weren’t idiots and if they hadn’t did away with an institution for a long time then perhaps it served a useful purpose, it’s “well-tested”. Especially when, as in the case of common law, it was a by the people, for the people thing. This is why they are evidence. The reason, however, that they aren’t particularly strong evidence is that because conditions might have changed or we might have discovered better solutions.

  17. “host the offending material as a read-only example of behavior that will not be tolerated…an Internet-based form of shaming & shunning, perhaps?”

    The political bum is not ashamed of his politics.

  18. Whatever entity is empowered to make that declaration should not also be responsible for managing the emergency, or it’s likely to become a permanent state of affairs.

    Indeed. Prior to September 14, 1978, the United States had been in a declared state of national emergency since March 6, 1933, plus 3 three others enacted by EOs issued by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. (Some might argue that the 1933 delcaration is technically still in effect, although in actuality Congress neutered it by canceling the effect of the provisions of law enacted by declaration, so arguing it is rather a moot point.)

  19. > [...] But it’s possible to imagine situations in which, through no particular fault of anyone, no such easement exists when the road becomes critical. Suppose, for example, there was just one other road out that got dretroyed in a landslide?

    You’ve just argued, in effect, that if I own a non-essential road to your property (there being others at the time), it is in my best economic interest to *destroy* it before it becomes essential, because the “essentialization” of the road unconditionally transfers wealth from me to you, according to your construction of law. This is the Endangered Species Act rule: cut your forests and drain your wetlands before the critters move in.

    (I assume you’re arguing that this road having become essential to you, you may now enjoin me from replacing it with a residence or other more valuable – to me – alternative.)

    A libertarian-ish approach might be to sell, routinely, insurance against such emergency expropriation. But that’s just a fancy way of taxing property holders (the insurance premium). You are saying that “emergency” need, by some definition, legally entitles others to my property. I suspect you don’t much care for Ayn Rand… :-)

    Cheers
    — perry

  20. > The social expectations around a hosting site also matter. These are, normally, chartered
    > to a particular community. SourceForge’s, for example, is held forth as being open to all
    > projects with licenses conforming to the Open Source definition

    I’d argue that “and subject to the SF Terms of Use” is an intended part of Sourceforge’s charter. To create a sourceforge project, the person in question would have had to state that “I have read and agree to the Terms of Use, and acknowledge that non-compliant projects will be removed.”, and said Terms of Use specifically require “Your Content is not obscene, lewd, lascivious, excessively violent, harassing, libelous or slanderous, does not advocate the violent overthrow of the government of the United States, does not incite, encourage or threaten immediate physical harm against another;”. I haven’t seen anyone champion the cause that the content in question wasn’t ‘excessively violent” by a rational standard.

    Fundamentally I don’t have a problem with SourceForge requiring that content meet a certain standard, assuming that standard is freely available and objectively and rationally applied. Nor do i have a problem that someone red flagged a project that they felt doesn’t meet that standard so long as that petition is objectively and rationally processed.

    However I can get behind the idea that sourceforge does have a moral obligation/duty of care to provide some form of limited access to the content in question (I’d argue that removing it from all search results and moving it to a special removed-projects URL and then sending that URL to the maintainer is a better solution, especially considering ESR’s earlier posts about de-jailing forge data). At the far end of the spectrum, a forwarding link on interfaces (email lists and web pages) stating that this sourceforge project has been removed for which reason and a configurable URL for the new home would be very welcome.

  21. >I’d argue that “and subject to the SF Terms of Use” is an intended part of Sourceforge’s charter.

    There’s an argument for that, yes. But here’s an interesting piece of data for you. This morning, while pursuing a technical issue with SourceForge support, I fond myself in IRC conversation with the guy who handled the takedown request, and we discussed the matter. He said, and I quote “I’m glad someone questioned the outcome.”

    I don’t think he’ll mind my saying that the takedown request caused quite a flap there. Lawyers were consulted. He said that he tried to decide based on community practices rather than “how icky the guy is” (I said this seemed right to me). Eventually, they decided the content was a TOS violation and they had to act on that, but there was soul-searching over the free-speech implications. He said he liked my post on the matter and was very pleased with Beth-Lynn Eicher’s solution. I said that I did not think anyone at SourceForge had behaved unethically. Happy ending.

    The point is that if the TOS is part of SourceForge’s community charter, then it’s at least partly in conflict with other elements of the charter, a conflict that was keenly felt by the guy who had to make the call.

  22. I have made three attempts at launching a productive developer community that offered access to all of the tools needed to manage a successful project. Apart from my involvement in ShareSource, I have stopped attempts at offering central, combined services such as SF. I now just donate space and bandwidth on my network to projects that need it.

    In each attempt, I consulted with attorneys to draft a TOS that could be read by a legal lay person without much difficulty. The intent of the TOS was simply to advise people not to do things that could damage the community as a whole. Yet, dozens each month would upload restricted, copyrighted (usually binary) data to their repository, usually in an attempt to share proprietary video games, cracks for various proprietary software and even restricted source code.

    I had to, of course remove the projects immediately once I confirmed what was described in the take down letter that my bandwidth providers forwarded to me. Then I faced an interesting dilemma – should I make their data available to them? Won’t I be breaking the law if I distribute the material in question? Then came another question, How much time am I, a hobbyist willing to devote to sifting through this kind of mess in the first place?

    Any action that you take is uncomfortable. On the one hand you have to ensure that your provider does not cut you off, thereby destroying the community. On the other, dissention within the community solicited by several unhappy members can be equally toxic.

    The larger your community becomes, the more frequently you will have to deal with these issues and the risk of becoming a victim of your own success increases. If you go on the premise that using your service is a right, not a privilege, I don’t see how you can maintain a healthy community. I’m not implying that its not possible, I’m just very interested to see how that could work.

  23. So it appears you advocate the principle of “balancing” rights which presupposes that individual rights are somehow in conflict.

    “the law should not be interpreted to further privilege power relationships that are already asymmetrical. Where they conflict, we should be more scrupulous about the rights of weak parties than of strong ones.”

    It appears you are arguing that “the law” needs to decide when someone has too much of something and someone else needs it more, or in other words, to be deliberately inflammatory, “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” I say this to be pithy and provocative but is this principle to help encourage the “public good” over which you were so outraged you argued that rapists should be turned free if the victim is no interested in pursuing the manner?

    I believe the guiding principle is the voluntary agreement under which the parties decided to engage their respective properties. In the case of sourceforge that would be the terms of service, which the user has no chance to redline or negotiate, but he is free to keep his data on his own computers or buy hosting from someone else.

    I understand you want to encourage sharing of software and ideas. But why is the guy who uploaded software’s property right sacrosanct, but the one who spent far more money time and effort developing a popular site where people want to share their software and paying the electricity and bandwidth and janitor bills have to be sacrificed? The contract protects both parties interests, and if they don’t agree they go elsewhere.

    Your principle reminds me strongly of something I read today in an article called The Rise of American Big Government: A Brief History of How We Got Here, in which Mr. Dahlen cited the supreme court decision Munn v. Illinois (1876) Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote (excerpted by article author):

    “Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence…. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good….”

    The author of the article cited this decision as a key one that paved the way for the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act.

  24. >The author of the article cited this decision as a key one that paved the way for the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act.

    There’s a difference, however. I don’t recognize the existence of “the public” as a rights-holding entity. In fact, I deny it for exactly the reasons you give.

    The principle I enunciated is that in conflicts between the rights *of individuals*, we should be more scrupulous about the rights of the party with a power disadvantage. It is a huge and unjustified leap to go from that to Morrison Waite’s repellent collectivism.

  25. > The principle I enunciated is that in conflicts between the rights of individuals, we should be more scrupulous about the rights of the party with a power disadvantage.

    However in the case you cite there is no conflict of individual rights. I contend there can be no such conflict.

    The user who holds less power and posts things on sourceforge has no rights to the sourceforge property other than those mutually agreed by the terms of service. The person who is somehow landlocked by another’s property and cannot escape I think is a case that is more a thought exercise than a reality. In such a thought exercise although it would be inconvenient for me to have to use a boat or a helicopter to go to the drugstore, I can’t see that we both have a right to use property that he owns.

    > It is a huge and unjustified leap to go from that to Morrison Waite’s repellent collectivism.

    This may be true, I made the leap because I can’t understand your principle in another way. In the sourceforge case everyone but sourceforge is at a power disadvantage by the fact that sourceforge owns and made the property valuable and the users don’t own the property on which it is hosted. In this microcosm the users are the public are they not? To apply your principle completely by allowing me to post my content they have turned over ownership because without them I couldn’t get my stuff out there so I am eternally at a power disadvantage because of their achievement and my failure to achieve.

    So what am I missing?

    And of course the analogy between sourceforge to the landlocked property owner screwed over by the private road owner is flawed because we are talking about the Internet, there are lots and lots of roads, it is a minor inconvenience to have your content removed from somewhere, unless you had credible reason to expect that it would not be removed, i.e. you were in good standing in the contract.

  26. “I can’t see that we both have a right to use property that he owns.”

    There seems to be a superstition that “property rights” are some sort of metaphysical “connection” between the owner and the object owned implicit in much of this debate. I hold that property rights are entirely relations of right and obligation between people with reference to objects, where a right is simply the obverse of an obligation. A common law judge (I cant recall which off the top of my head) once called property “a bundle of rights”. So the real question is: what obligation does one property “owner” owe to his neighbor in return for the obligations which he holds that his neighbor owes him?

  27. >The point is that if the TOS is part of SourceForge’s community charter, then it’s at least partly in conflict with other elements of the charter, a conflict that was keenly felt by the guy who had to make the call.

    It might be easier to look at this as a trade-off rather than a conflict.

    Then, instead of a black-and-white choice between freedom-of-speech and freedom-from-harassment, we have a question of relative emphasis. Some parts of the community would prefer more emphasis on freedom-of-speech, other parts would prefer more freedom-from-harassment. Unsurprisingly, the part of the community suffering from harassment prefers the latter.

  28. >Some parts of the community would prefer more emphasis on freedom-of-speech, other parts would prefer more freedom-from-harassment

    These are not symmetrical alternatives of equal value. If the cost of so-called “freedom from harassment” is that people can be blackballed or censored for speaking unpopular positions, the cost is too high.

  29. >These are not symmetrical alternatives of equal value.

    Of course not, that’s why I suggested it was possible to place more emphasis on one or the other.

    >If the cost of so-called “freedom from harassment” is that people can be blackballed or censored for speaking unpopular positions, the cost is too high.

    This is just a value judgement on your part. Others (especially those being harassed) might judge the relative value differently.

    I also think you’re confusing the issue by conflating harassment with “speaking unpopular positions”. If my “unpopular position” was “1 w2nt t0 se11 y0u fak3 v1agra !!1!”, would you consider it legitimate to censor me?

  30. >This is just a value judgement on your part

    No, it’s a brutally functional judgment. I think communists and socialists are evil, and I consider their advocacy of statism intrinsically threatening to my life and freedom. Does this mean I get to blackball people from the community for expressing communist or socialist views? If your answer is anything other than “Fuck, no!”, where does it stop? Do we all exclude each other for having wrong opinions?

    Nobody – not the feminists, not you, and not me – has a right not to be offended.

  31. >If your answer is anything other than “Fuck, no!”, where does it stop? Do we all exclude each other for having wrong opinions?

    No-one’s advocating excluding anyone for “wrong opinions”. Harassment belongs in the same category as fraud and spam, and communities have a legitimate interest in preventing it.

  32. >No-one’s advocating excluding anyone for “wrong opinions”

    Aren’t they? Near as I can tell, the SF takedown was all about “wrong opinions” and not harassment. Nobody can make anybody else load a Nexuiz level they don’t choose to view. For that matter, the werewolf’s blog is plenty toxic and disgusting, but do you suppose he somehow forced women to read it? If he didn’t, wherein was the harassment?

    Anyway, I reject “harassment” as a useful category for the same reason I reject “psychological harm”. Acting against felonious threats, fine; suppressing spam, fine – but “harassment” is a wide-open invitation to personal and political abuse.

  33. >Aren’t they? Near as I can tell, the SF takedown was all about “wrong opinions” and not harassment. Nobody can make anybody else load a Nexuiz level they don’t choose to view. For that matter, the werewolf’s blog is plenty toxic and disgusting, but do you suppose he somehow forced women to read it? If he didn’t, wherein was the harassment?

    I suggest you take a look at Beth Eicher’s blog.

    >Anyway, I reject “harassment” as a useful category for the same reason I reject “psychological harm”. Acting against felonious threats, fine; suppressing spam, fine – but “harassment” is a wide-open invitation to personal and political abuse.

    On what basis do we have the right to suppress spam? If we restrict freedom of speech by banning spam, threats, and (presumably) fraud, then why not harassment?

  34. @ JT
    > There seems to be a superstition that “property rights” are some sort of metaphysical “connection” between the owner and the object owned implicit in much of this debate.

    I don’t think there is a metaphysical connection. I think that the only implementation of the right to life is the right to property. Because you must survive by the use of your mind to obtain your needs from your environment the only way to protect your freedom to act to further your life is to protect your right to the complete use and disposal of the fruits of your thought and labor.

    It’s not mystical or magic, it’s a right that if not protected absolutely in a social context, leads to different parasites claiming portions of your property (meaning your life) as their own by the fact that they’d like or “need” it, you have it and they don’t.

    @esr
    > Does this mean I get to blackball people from the community for expressing communist or socialist views?

    What do you mean by blackball? If you can’t speak out against them, exclude them from invitation to your groups or remove their graffiti from your property then it is you who are no longer free to act by the fact that you disagree with them or that most people disagree with them?

    If by blackball you mean initiate force against them, as in vandalize their property, make credible threats against them then of course I agree.

    > Do we all exclude each other for having wrong opinions?

    Often. Again it depends on what you mean by exclude. If you mean filter email from and ignore anything you see from them and convince others that the person in question has absurd opinions, or is dead wrong about certain facts, I can’t see what is wrong with that.

    > Nobody can make anybody else load a Nexuiz level they don’t choose to view.

    Ah I think I’m starting to understand why you are so bent out of shape about the sourceforge takedown. So you view it as follows:

    1. Sourceforge cultivates a community by allowing anyone to post anything, as long as it’s open source.
    2. Sourceforge has stated terms of service, but by in large don’t focus on them, mostly a legal requirement to cover their ass.
    3. Someone else puts their property there, it’s essentially private because the only way to see it is to go looking for it. Say an analogy like a hotel or apartment building and they have abhorrent posters inside their apartment.
    4. Someone knocks on their door enters sees the posters and goes to the management to have them thrown out of the apartment. And the management goes in picks up all their stuff and throws it in the dumpster and changes the locks.

    I definitely agree that sourceforge in this sense has conflicting goals, or that its terms are in conflict with its apparent goals or mission. Did Ms. Eicher need to go tell them, no. But she clearly doesn’t like him and didn’t violate his rights by reporting him. Sourceforge opened the door by making that the terms on which they agreed to host his stuff, whether they made a big deal about it or not.

    My primary disagreement is in classifying this as censorship. It isn’t. People exist who will attempt to stop you. If they do this by speaking out against you or convincing your customers not to do business with you through reason, they have not violated your rights. They have shown something about their character about how they are so focused on you and what you are doing, but in the end if you are right they can’t stop you. I think the Ms. Eichers and the werewolves of the world are best ignored.

    But I think your battle is not against censorship but you should take sourceforge to task for being inconsistent in mission and terms. Spread the word tell everyone to host their code elsewhere because you are at risk of losing your stuff at their whim. Put them out of business because no one will ever use them again (if they all agree with you). This is your right to speak and you won’t violate any of their rights.

  35. >I suggest you take a look at Beth Eicher’s blog.

    I have. I see a lot of confusion there about the differences among harassment (directing unwanted communications at the target), publication of odious political opinions, and actual felonious threats. She documents effectively that the creep has a pattern of felonious threats going back to 2005, but nowhere does she establish that the SourceForge material was anything other than publication of odious political opinions. It is not possible to be harassed by material you have never viewed.

    >On what basis do we have the right to suppress spam? If we restrict freedom of speech by banning spam, threats, and (presumably) fraud, then why not harassment?

    Spam and harassment are different behaviors with different purposes and different ethical consequences, and both are different again from material contained felonious threats. Your question would only be on point if the SourceForge material itself actually contained felonious threats. Nobody has even alleged that, so I refuse to be dragged down that rathole.

  36. My primary disagreement is in classifying this as censorship. It isn’t.

    Absolutely. I get sick of leftists screaming CENSORSHIP!!!11eleventy every time someone says they don’t want to pay for some Artiste to produce “art” that offends them. It is not censorship to refuse to publish something. It is only censorship when the threat of force is used to prevent it from being published at all.

    Where we get into real trouble is when tax money is used to fund “art”. I have great sympathy for those who don’t like their money being spent on a crucifix in urine. Unfortunately, since government money represents the threat of force to collect tax revenues, every decision made by a government to fund one artist and not another is arguably violating someone’s rights. As the civil society shrinks, and Leviathan government grows ever larger, at some point such decisions effectively constitute censorship.

  37. esr> If you own a private club, should you be permiitted to bar blacks or women? Current U.S. law says no.

    I thought U.S. law allowed you to restrict admission into a private club even if you use arbitrary or bigoted guidelines which is why there are so many men-only or women-only groups in the US. (Or did I parse the sentence incorrectly?)

    esr> Eventually, they decided the content was a TOS violation and they had to act on that, but there was soul-searching over the free-speech implications.

    Did they point out the specific content which was a TOS violation?

  38. >I thought U.S. law allowed you to restrict admission into a private club even if you use arbitrary or bigoted guidelines which is why there are so many men-only or women-only groups in the US.

    It does not.

    >Did they point out the specific content which was a TOS violation?

    Not in conversation with me.

  39. I get the point about having access to one’s property, though there should be a closer look at the policies to see if SourceForge guarantees that kind of reliability–not to mention that there are alternatives more suited to that role.

    Furthermore, that is only half of the role played by SourceForge, and I think the lesser half. The dominant half is the market for the exchange of a particular kind of content. And, participants contribute based on expectations established by the terms of service. So, I do think that as long as there are other avenues to satisfy the free speech issue the role of SourceForge is less a matter of access to property then it is a matter of how the community shares.

  40. >I have. I see a lot of confusion there about the differences among harassment (directing unwanted communications at the target), publication of odious political opinions, and actual felonious threats. She documents effectively that the creep has a pattern of felonious threats going back to 2005, but nowhere does she establish that the SourceForge material was anything other than publication of odious political opinions. It is not possible to be harassed by material you have never viewed.

    She isn’t claiming that the deleted material is harassment.

    1. We can all agree that mikeeusa has “initiated force” (at the very least the felonious threats count as such).

    2. Ms Eicher is therefore entitled to defend herself and her friends from mikeeusa (presumably this must be proportionate in some sense?). She thinks that ostracism from the OS community is the best way to do this.

    3. Ms Eicher reported mikeeusa’s TOS violation. This is free-speech on her part. SourceForge exercised its property rights in excluding mikeeusa. Since no party has used force against mikeeusa, this is not only proportionate, but shows remarkable restraint.

    >Spam and harassment are different behaviors with different purposes and different ethical consequences, and both are different again from material contained felonious threats. Your question would only be on point if the SourceForge material itself actually contained felonious threats. Nobody has even alleged that, so I refuse to be dragged down that rathole.

    I’m curious as to why you consider spam to be unprotected speech, because that would help me understand why you classify harassment as protected. It seems that you’re using a consequentialist argument, in which you weigh vague hypothetical risks of jack-booted-thuggery against actually occurring harm that conveniently falls on people other than yourself.

  41. Pete, I’m not going to try to speak for Eric, but I can justify ending spam by any means necessary on a purely libertarian argument: Spam is theft. The spammer steals my resources for his speech. Since he does so without my consent, I have the right to stop him from doing so.

  42. >Pete, I’m not going to try to speak for Eric, but I can justify ending spam by any means necessary on a purely libertarian argument: Spam is theft. The spammer steals my resources for his speech. Since he does so without my consent, I have the right to stop him from doing so.

    This works for spam targeted at your inbox, but what about spam in a public forum? If spam on a public forum is stealing (just to be clear, I agree that it is!), what exactly is being stolen? And isn’t harassment stealing the same resources?

    If a spammer has a SourceForge account, is it appropriate to ask for that account to be cancelled, if you believe cancelling their account would make it harder for them to spam?

  43. “We can all agree that mikeeusa has “initiated force” (at the very least the felonious threats count as such).”

    Bullshit. Speech is not force.

    No threats were made.
    Wishes are not threats.
    Speech is never force.

    Idiot lefitst.

  44. >Bullshit. Speech is not force.

    But speech can carry the threat of force and thus be coercive. Felonious threats are in that category.

  45. >1. We can all agree that mikeeusa has “initiated force” (at the very least the felonious threats count as such).

    Agreed.

    >2. Ms Eicher is therefore entitled to defend herself and her friends from mikeeusa (presumably this must be proportionate in some sense?). She thinks that ostracism from the OS community is the best way to do this.

    I agree that she is so entitled. I agree that ostracism is appropriate. However…

    >3. Ms Eicher reported mikeeusa’s TOS violation. This is free-speech on her part.

    There you go off the rails. Ethical and legal protections on free speech are not intended to shield someone who telephones an assassin and says “Go kill pete”. Ms. Eicher crossed the line from expressive speech to action.

  46. Pete opined, “We can all agree that mikeeusa has “initiated force””

    Not so. Some do not agree. At least two disagreeing opinions have been posted so far. MikeeUSA posted cartoons containing violence (most cartoons contain violence) and non-specific rhetoric, but no credible threat of force against anyone. While some may agree, “All” do not agree.

  47. >There you go off the rails. Ethical and legal protections on free speech are not intended to shield someone who telephones an assassin and says “Go kill pete”.

    Killing me would be coercive.

    Ejecting mikeeusa from a public space, by the owner’s of the public space, for breaching the explicit rules governing that public space, is not coercive.

    >Ms. Eicher crossed the line from expressive speech to action.

    If I inform you of a trespasser on your property, on the understanding that you are likely to use force to remove them, then I accept that I have crossed a line from “expressive speech” to action, but I do not accept that I have done anything ethically suspect.

  48. >While some may agree, “All” do not agree.

    I should have been more specific: everyone arguing in good faith can agree.

  49. Jon Says: ” I haven’t seen anyone champion the cause that the content in question wasn’t ‘excessively violent” by a rational standard”

    MikeeUSA’s cartoons were not different in violent content from classic Mikey Mouse, Buggs Bunny, and innumerable other cartoons, including many current games. The reason for banning Mikee is because of political prejudice, not because of cartoon violence.

  50. pete Says: “I should have been more specific: everyone arguing in good faith can agree”

    Are you accusing everyone who doesn’t agree with you of “bad faith”? .

    Must be a new definition.

  51. >MikeeUSA’s cartoons were not different in violent content from classic Mikey Mouse, Buggs Bunny, and innumerable other cartoons, including many current games. The reason for banning Mikee is because of political prejudice, not because of cartoon violence.

    The cartoons may not depict violence excessively, but that was never the issue. The issue is that they constitute, by encouraging violence against feminists, implicit threats of violence against individual feminists. They are objectionable not in the way that a violent film may be objectionable, but in the way that, for instance, a person calling your house with death threats is objectionable.

  52. No one’s house was called.
    No woman was told that X is going to go a kill Y.
    Wishes are not threats.
    Speech is not force.

    Leftists always try to use the state as a proxy to do their own violence against people who speak against leftist ideals. This is while they are condeming the police in other instances!

    Leftists are never brave enough to even go up to the people that speak against them and do their OWN violence they so demand the state commit for them. No they want to “kill two birds with one stone”: put the police whom they hate in danger and destroy people who speak against leftists.

    Leftists are despicable.

  53. >If I inform you of a trespasser on your property, on the understanding that you are likely to use force to remove them, then I accept that I have crossed a line from “expressive speech” to action, but I do not accept that I have done anything ethically suspect.

    You changed the subject. Of course that is action. Some actions are ethical (consequentially good) and some are unethical (consequentially bad). In neither case are you shielded from your responsibility by ther fact that your act was an utterance of speech.

  54. >You changed the subject.

    That’s unfair; I was making an analogy that was apt to the situation.

    >Of course that is action. Some actions are ethical (consequentially good) and some are unethical (consequentially bad). In neither case are you shielded from your responsibility by ther fact that your act was an utterance of speech.

    I consider all speech to be “action”*. So please be patient if I’m a little clumsy when borrowing your arbitrary categories.

    So where are we up to?

    1. mikeeusa made coercive threats.
    2. ostracism is an appropriate response.
    3. Beth Eicher’s and SourceForge’s actions in ostracising mikeeusa are shielded by SourceForge’s property rights.

    Where is the ethical violation then?

    (*) Of course I hold to Mill’s consequential argument for protecting certain kinds of speech.

  55. >The issue is that they constitute, by encouraging violence against feminists, implicit threats of violence against individual feminists.

    I differ from your reasoning in one respect. It is not by any vague “encouraging violence” that those cartoons constitute a threat, it is by the signal that the individual author of them specifically harbors a desire to do violence to feminists and might well act on it. The odds that those crude, ugly drawings would successfully incite anyone else are negligible, but they reveal an individual mind that is deranged to a degree that any feminist would legitimately find threatening.

    We need to be very careful not to legitimize censorship on grounds of “encouraging violence”. A lot of things can be swept in under that rubric.

  56. >Where is the ethical violation then?

    It is ethically wrong to act in a way that legitimizes censorship of political opinion in the future. That’s where I started the thread.

  57. “I differ from your reasoning in one respect. It is not by any vague “encouraging violence” that those cartoons constitute a threat, it is by the signal that the individual author of them specifically harbors a desire to do violence to feminists and might well act on it. The odds that those crude, ugly drawings would successfully incite anyone else are negligible, but they reveal an individual mind that is deranged to a degree that any feminist would legitimately find threatening.”

    “We need to be very careful not to legitimize censorship on grounds of “encouraging violence”. A lot of things can be swept in under that rubric.”

    These two are functionally the same. In one you censor the works by punishing the author under the banner of “self defence” and “public welfare”, and the on the other you censor the works by punishing the author for “encouraging violence”. Both are leftist anti-speech policies.

    A good way to actually encourage violence is to physically go after people who publish opinions you find repulsive: as they are being dragged off to the prison they may commit violence in an attempt to free themselves. Once you silence one detractor this way the rest of your opponents must make a decision: silence themselves or understand that the game has changed and that they must step up to the new field of discourse which is no longer that of the free flow of ideas but of a sort of civil war.

  58. >It is ethically wrong to act in a way that legitimizes censorship of political opinion in the future. That’s where I started the thread.

    You still haven’t established that this has occurred. If we imprison a criminal, that has a negative effect on their political speech, but any such effect is incidental.

    Any “censorship” of mikeeusa is an incidental consequence of legitimate ethical actions to prevent future harassment.

  59. >Any “censorship” of mikeeusa is an incidental consequence of legitimate ethical actions to prevent future harassment

    I do not accept that censorship of political speech can be justified in any way whatsoever, and “future harassment” is not a magic invocation that changes that. The consequences of allowing exceptions are too grave.

  60. >I do not accept that censorship of political speech can be justified in any way whatsoever, and “future harassment” is not a magic invocation that changes that. The consequences of allowing exceptions are too grave.

    You missed my point, which was that the “censorship” was a side-effect.

    If we imprison someone for, say, murder, that has a side-effect of “censoring” their (unrelated) political speech. Does this make imprisonment of murderers illegitimate, so long as they have political views of some sort?

  61. >If we imprison someone for, say, murder, that has a side-effect of “censoring” their (unrelated) political speech. Does this make imprisonment of murderers illegitimate, so long as they have political views of some sort?

    No. Your point is invalid, because suppressing the werewolf’s speech was the intended result of the action. The fact that Ms. Eicher thought she had legitimate reasons to do so is psychologically interesting, but not relevant to analysis of the consequences.

  62. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1310#comment-241155
    > Ouch, this “solution” strikes me as even worse as the opposite.
    >
    > If the precedence is the ability to remove hate work and repost it with a huge long
    > disclaimer and counter propaganda than I just couldn’t get behind such a sick idea :(

    I agree with esr’s point that individual rights are inseparable from private ownership. But the problem is that the “open source” is not owned by any one person. Ah that slippery slope to tape worm economics called democracy (shared ownership or shared state), but the solution is that content creation, editing, hosting and ownership must become more granular:

    http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/3637#comment-51620

    This ties into shared source code management (version control) as well, as I think contribution to the world should involve self-publishing orthogonal OO autonomous modules.

    The entire open source model needs to change, otherwise it is on the verge of it’s economic and organizational blowoff exponential peak, then breakage, and finally rot and decay. Contemplate this censorship problem as algorithmic problem of the way open source organization is statism.

    Ban me please!

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1271#comment-241468

    ESR says: Your request to be banned is granted.

  63. >No. Your point is invalid, because suppressing the werewolf’s speech was the intended result of the action.

    This claim is false. Beth Eicher explains her reasons for reporting the content here. The intended result is less harassment.

    Note that Beth was pleased with the compromise outcome. This is consistent with a desire to reduce harassment, but inconsistent with a desire to suppress mikeeusa’s speech.

    >It is ethically wrong to act in a way that legitimizes censorship of political opinion in the future. That’s where I started the thread.

    Read this post carefully. Beth believes she is acting in a way that delegitimises future censorship (by proving that communities can self police harassment).

  64. “Read this post carefully. Beth believes she is acting in a way that delegitimises future censorship (by proving that communities can self police harassment).”

    She was told what she did was initially unacceptable to a respected member of the opensource community, in order to save face for herself and “the feminists” she had a friend of hers repost a very small portion of the deleted items. Nothing changes the fact that she and hers pursued the removal of all copies of those items from all hosts they could locate that provided it to the public on the internet.

    Furthermore, while what was done may prevent women from hearing or reading material that they don’t agree with, the feminist contingency of the opensource movement does not create much of anything for the opensource movement save attacks on it’s leaders and financial backers. (RMS, Mark Shuttleworth). Men do. Men are being told that the feminist belief system is more important to “the community” than men’s cares or even their contributions of new material

    The leftists seek to rid the opensource community, as they have of every above-ground community, of everyone who is opposed to their beliefs. They are succeeding. If they can’t do it thought online banishment they do it through imprisonment.

  65. I’ve been following this thread with much interest.

    This claim is false. Beth Eicher explains her reasons for reporting the content here. The intended result is less harassment

    Mmmm…<fingertent>if you read her post carefully, you’ll see that she spends a lot more time talking about his content than about his behavior. I think, at least initially, her goal was to silence his content. </fingertent>

    Note that Beth was pleased with the compromise outcome. This is consistent with a desire to reduce harassment, but inconsistent with a desire to suppress mikeeusa’s speech.

    Yes, but I think she was swayed by the wisdom of her contact with the tribe’s elders rather than this being her original intent and thought intially. I think she really wanted to suppress mikeeusa’s content, at least initially.

    Keep in mind that while people’s intent can be changed, especially in this case, it is Beth’s orginal intent that carries the most weight in this discussion.

  66. >if you read her post carefully, you’ll see that she spends a lot more time talking about his content than about his behavior. I think, at least initially, her goal was to silence his content.

    His content is what was removed, therefore it’s natural that that takes up a lot of her post. The emphasis is on his harassment: she didn’t even look at his “work” until she had decided to do something about him.

    >Yes, but I think she was swayed by the wisdom of her contact with the tribe’s elders

    That seems unlikely; the tribe’s elders seem wilfully ignorant of feminist theory.

  67. His content is what was removed, therefore it’s natural that that takes up a lot of her post. The emphasis is on his harassment: she didn’t even look at his “work” until she had decided to do something about him.

    Yet removing his account from Sourceforge doesn’t do anything to stop him, for example, from harassing her friend Morgan Mackenzie. So he can’t harass her on Sourceforge, he’ll just find some other venue. It isn’t like he can’t send her harassing e-mails or post messages to harass her on some other forum she frequents.

    That seems unlikely; the tribe’s elders seem wilfully ignorant of feminist theory.

    Just exactly whom are you accusing of being willfully ignorant of feminist theory? Personally, I practice an essentially feminist religion (Georgian Wicca). I think that speaks volumes about my knowledge of feminist theory. I don’t think esr is willfully ignorant of feminist theory either, but I’ll leave it to him to defend himself if he so chooses.

    Based on what I read, I personally think that she hadn’t decided to contact SourceForge about its removal until after she looked at his (admittedly crappy) work. However, I don’t really know as I am not Ms. Eicher. I do tend to agree with esr that protecting an individual’s right to free speech needs to come first. If he made threats of violence against any particular individual, then the solution is simple: you notify the authorities and let them deal with it, all the while taking whatever precautions you deem necessary to defend yourself if it comes to that. And by “authorities,” I don’t mean Sourceforge; credible threats of physical violence are a criminal matter and we have proper ways of dealing with criminals.

    Look, pete, I don’t like the guy’s speech. I am as offended by it as Ms. Eicher certainly is. I don’t like Neo-Nazis and their speech, either. But I am willing to fight to the death for their right to say it, no matter how ignorant and narrow-minded I think it is. The moment we start censoring MikeeUSA’s speech, the more we open ourselves up to the possibility that someone might not like what we have to say.

  68. >That seems unlikely; the tribe’s elders seem wilfully ignorant of feminist theory.

    This particular tribal elder’s contact with ‘feminist theory’ suggests that, in general, it is a revolting mess of half-baked ideas, special pleading, fuzzy thinking, cod-Marxism and cant, with an ugly streak of anti-male hatred for flavor. Feminism has been extremely poorly served by its theorists, which I actually think is a damn shame because I consider the freedom goals of the movement noble and worthy. Feminism’s full potential as an instrument of liberation is, I believe, not yet realized, and I would be happier if it actually had a theoretical apparatus that didn’t make me want to blow chunks pretty much every time I learned more about it. As it is, I rather wish I knew less about ‘feminist theory’ than I do.

  69. I find myself wondering just how many people are behind the three or four different commenter tags supporting the anti-feminists… and what proportion of the anti-feminist population out there they represent.

    For the record, the open source project I maintain would welcome contributions from both feminists and anti-feminists, as long as they actually advanced the goals of the project and did not carry license terms that conflicted with those of the overall package. Indeed, we have only rejected one code contribution, ever, and that was primarily because the submitter included a license that was both incoherent and antithetical to the goals of open source (among other things, it prohibited the code from being used by those in any country in a declared state of war with Israel).

    I don’t care what the person is like who wants to contribute code. I only care that the code is good.

    To the best of my knowledge, there have never been any contributions from women to my project, but I believe that’s due to the fact that there are very, very few women who are IBM mainframe hackers, period.

  70. >I find myself wondering just how many people are behind the three or four different commenter tags supporting the anti-feminists… and what proportion of the anti-feminist population out there they represent.

    There are many excellent reasons not to engage in the suppression of political speech that have the character of duties undertaken with gritted teeth. So it’s kind of nice when the bad guys are so strident, stupid, and obnoxious that they are self-refuting, isn’t it?

  71. Yes, but we can’t let the fact that they’re such obviously obnoxious idiots get in the way of the larger point – which, I believe, was the point of your last post. :-)

  72. There are many excellent reasons not to engage in the suppression of political speech that have the character of duties undertaken with gritted teeth.

    His speech is hardly being suppressed when he can get everything SF has to offer on the cheap. Do you think, seriously, that this is going to stop him from producing and distributing these maps? Before you go around defending this guy, you should be very much aware that he is a deliberate (and quite clever) troll, and he is generally considered as such on the Nexuiz forums, where he has been banned numerous times.

  73. Apologies for the double post, but that is to say that I think saddling your argument to this pony is going to go nowhere.

  74. Feminism has been extremely poorly served by its theorists, which I actually think is a damn shame because I consider the freedom goals of the movement noble and worthy.

    FWIW, I agree with you, but I also think that there is a difference between ‘feminism’ and ‘Feminism’. I think most women who consider themselves feminists are not Feminists; they have the same worthy freedom goals, but many disagree with the Feminists crazy thinking.

  75. >Just exactly whom are you accusing of being willfully ignorant of feminist theory?

    I had esr in mind in particular:

    This particular tribal elder’s contact with ‘feminist theory’ suggests that, in general, it is a revolting mess of half-baked ideas, special pleading, fuzzy thinking, cod-Marxism and cant, with an ugly streak of anti-male hatred for flavor. Feminism has been extremely poorly served by its theorists, which I actually think is a damn shame because I consider the freedom goals of the movement noble and worthy. Feminism’s full potential as an instrument of liberation is, I believe, not yet realized, and I would be happier if it actually had a theoretical apparatus that didn’t make me want to blow chunks pretty much every time I learned more about it. As it is, I rather wish I knew less about ‘feminist theory’ than I do.

    As well as his earlier mis-characterisation of Dworkin’s work

  76. >Yet removing his account from Sourceforge doesn’t do anything to stop him, for example, from harassing her friend Morgan Mackenzie.

    1) he was using his work on SourceForge to misrepresent himself as an important member of the community. By denying him the ability to misrepresent himself this way, his harassment is marginally less effective.

    2) her actions were designed to send a “not in my neighbourhood” message. The best response to harassment is speech. This requires a certain amount of social capital, in the form of norms against harassment, that the open source community does not yet possess. Beth is working to establish such norms.

    >Based on what I read, I personally think that she hadn’t decided to contact SourceForge about its removal until after she looked at his (admittedly crappy) work.

    Of course not. How would she know it was against the TOS without looking at it?

    >Look, pete, I don’t like the guy’s speech. I am as offended by it as Ms. Eicher certainly is. I don’t like Neo-Nazis and their speech, either. But I am willing to fight to the death for their right to say it, no matter how ignorant and narrow-minded I think it is. The moment we start censoring MikeeUSA’s speech, the more we open ourselves up to the possibility that someone might not like what we have to say.

    If mikeeusa’s speech was just sitting on SourceForge harming no one there would be no problem. The problem was its link to a wider pattern of harassment.

    Suppose NAMBLA start spamming people with their political opinions. Is our response illegitimate “censorship” or legitimate “spam blocking”?

    >And by “authorities,” I don’t mean Sourceforge; credible threats of physical violence are a criminal matter and we have proper ways of dealing with criminals.

    The “authorities” have a taste for knee-jerk suppression of speech. Beth wants a the community to be self-policing, because such a community is safer from censorship by the “authorities”.

  77. Pete: Suppose NAMBLA start spamming people with their political opinions. Is our response illegitimate “censorship” or legitimate “spam blocking”?
    Spam is spam, no matter how worthy the cause, and subject to legitimate blocking.

    This is where the EFF and I part company: their defense of spam on free speech grounds does a grave disservice to the cause of communication on the Internet. I will not contribute to the EFF for this reason, until their stance changes.

    Please stop dragging spam into this. It’s a different problem, on a different level, and your attempts to tie it into censorship merely serves to obfuscate, to the point that I’m beginning to suspect it’s deliberate.

  78. pete> By denying him the ability to misrepresent himself this way, his harassment is marginally less effective.

    His work is still on SF. He can still represent himself as a member of the OSS community. The only work that was removed was the code that protested the 19th amendment.

    pete> How would she know it was against the TOS without looking at it?

    I don’t think she believes that any of his work in particular actually violated the TOS. As far as I can tell she has not pointed out specific examples of material that is in violation by itself. She just seems to think that any code in general contributed by a bigot is a TOS violation. This does not require actually looking at the material to make such a judgement.

  79. >Please stop dragging spam into this. It’s a different problem, on a different level, and your attempts to tie it into censorship merely serves to obfuscate, to the point that I’m beginning to suspect it’s deliberate.

    Go read the accounts of mikeeusa’s harassment. You’ll see a remarkable similarity to spam.

  80. I’m going to ask what is probably a stupid question, born of my ignorance.

    Based on my decidedly un-academic knowledge of libertarianism, I was under the impression that individuals join forces to help each other enforce the common goals and mores of those individuals. In any of these loose pseudo-random groups (there has to be some common ground for the individuals to ally, even temporarily), the individuals can choose to what essentially amounts to eviction of any individual from the group.

    Doesn’t the underlying principle of personal freedom facilitate the forced “communal” actions, on an ethical basis?

    And even if we examine non-libertarian social groupings, almost every group of adults reserves this right. (One obvious exception to this rule would probably be coerced groups (e.g., jails), which serves more as an anecdotal exception that helps prove the rule.)

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