Should There Be a Limit to Hate Speech on Blogs?

Squeezed May 16, 2005

Richard Silverstein has a problem. One of his posts on his self-described “progressive but critical Zionist” blog attracted the attention of some anti-Zionists, one of whom left the equivalent of cyber-graffiti.

Understandably, he’s miffed, not only at what happened, but by the response by Six Apart, the company that makes Movable Type and runs the Typepad blog service on which his blog runs.

Also being of a race that has suffered in concentration camps and which has been the target of a paranoid society, I think it’s really unfortunate that such hatred still exists in the world today. And I applaud Richard for taking such a strong stand.

That having been said, though, it shows the challenge of trying to regulate speech on the Internet.

Banning a jerk by IP address really won’t do a thing unless he’s posting from a static IP address. Most ISPs (and most especially a large one like Qwest or Verizon) use DHCP which parcels out IP addresses as needed. So two things would happen:

  1. Banning an IP address will block all other innocent people who use that IP address.
  2. The next time the offender connects his computer, he’ll probably get a new IP address and would be free to come back to wreak havoc.

So I can see why Six Apart is squeamish about globally banning commenters by IP address from all the blogs they host.

If someone did post something hateful and objectionable about Japanese, Christians, health insurance employees, marathon runners, or any other group I belong to, I might ban the IP address, but with full knowledge that the person may come back for more under a different guise. Not sure whether I’d go as far as complaining to his ISP unless he started really interfering with my blogging.

Just like the flu virus, the forces of evil mutate very easily.

I wish Richard the best in getting satisfaction. Hate speech is like a cancer, but chemotherapy can only do so much.

5 Responses to “Should There Be a Limit to Hate Speech on Blogs?”

  1. Richard Silverstein Says:

    Thanks for blogging about this issue. You make some reasonable points though I do feel that it should be incumbent on TP to create tools by which it can decisively identify abusers & ban them should they choose. They seem to have no robust means of doing that now.

    One correction: my blog is not “strongly pro-Israel.” I am a progressive, but critical Zionist, meaning I am critical of Israel’s policies, but supportive of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings justice & security to both sides.

  2. Keith Says:

    Sorry about that, Richard. I updated the text. Thanks.

  3. Linkmeister Says:

    Doesn’t the work Jay Allen has done on the MT Blacklist cooperate with Typepad? Same company makes both MT and TP; you’d think they’d be compatible.

  4. Keith Says:

    I’d think so too. But it seems Typepad and MT are different and are aimed at different audiences. Typepad is a blog host, like Blogger. MT is a program you have to install; it’s for geeks like us who have to have their own domains. :) So I’d think that TP probably has an interface kinda like MT but more limited in scope.

    From reading Richard’s posts it seems like TP has something like MT-Blacklist built-in that takes care of spam. But I think Richard was trying to get 6A to deal with someone who was being an anti-Semitic jerk. :P

  5. Richard Silverstein Says:

    That’s right Keith. I was trying to get them to ban an anti-Semite. But I’d also love it if TP would give us something like MT Blacklist. I’d also love it if they gave us Typekey. If I had Typekey this jerk wouldn’t have been able to post as a first time poster until I’d authenticated him & his comment.

    The current means of dealing with spam is ridiculously time consuming & LOTS gets through Typepad’s own spam filter esp. trackbacks. But that’s another topic.

    Thanks for correcting that info about my views of Israel.

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