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What, exactly, is accomplished by policing Facebook in this way?

What, exactly, is accomplished by not policing Facebook this way?

We may all disagree with the group in question. But it'd be a very hard sell to eliminate/delete the group given free speech grounds...

Free speech or no, the group is arguably in violation of the following term of use (listed under "safety"):

You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

The group's page certainly contains some hateful and threatening content, but I suppose we'll just have to wait and see if Facebook finds it to be sufficient grounds to remove the group completely.

The Constitution doesn't extend to Facebook. Free speach only limits the government.

If I were living in Australia, I would get the names of each person who friends that sight. If they are EVER involved in an accident with a cyclist, this website is exhibit 1 in court.

Washcycle,

You really didn't answer my question, but I will answer yours. In general, I try to avoid doing things that are either pointless or counterproductive. Constitution or no constitution, I generally find that silencing people that I don't agree with falls into this category. Either I try to reason with them, or if they can't be reasoned with (as is undoubtedly the case here), I move on.

I asked my question to answer yours because mine was the more important one. Unless you have a reason not to do it, then the reason why is pretty unimportant. That it is a "pointless" is a pretty good reason to not do a lot of things - like watch a movie or take a nap in the park or whatever. So, since you lack any reason beyond it being a waste of time, I don't see why anyone has to justify their actions to you.

But, you could have always followed the link to the League site where they explain what they hope to accomplish:

Endorsing violence should not be tolerated, and the ignorance endorsed on this Facebook page simply begets more ignorance towards cyclists. Or as Charles Darwin said, "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."

I read this to be about how mob mentality can lead to escalating bad behavior - a.k.a. the echo chamber of the internet. Insular groups of people feeding back and forth upon one another until one of the members of the group goes out and kills an abortion doctor, or blows up a Federal Building in Oklahoma City etc... It's fine if that echo chamber does something harmless likes make people really love Battlestar Gallactica or really hate the BCS, but once it crosses over to advocating violence, then it has to be addressed.

1. Facebook has reviewed this group and decided not to remove it.

2. The group has been over-run by cyclists and now the postings and pictures are just as likely to be pro-bike as anti-bike. Sort of an "if you can't beat them, join them and then beat them" approach.

WC,

Thank you for rehearsing all of the classic arguments about why speech *shouldn't* be free. The question, however, is whether suppressing ideas that you find dangerous/ignorant/etc. is really an effective strategy for combating them.

No, the question was what is hoped to be accomplished. Now you've asked a new question to which I don't know the answer. But since that isn't what the LAB is trying to do (suppress ideas) it's not a particularly important question. LAB is trying to make it clear to Facebook, a private company, that by leaving up a hate site, they are tacitly encouraging violence. Clearly, Facebook has no problem removing hate sites as they have a whole process for it, with rules and people who decide what to remove and what not to. Look at all the rules they have on their statement of rights. If you feel this doesn't mesh with your ideas of free speech then your issue is with Facebook, not the LAB.

WC,

*My* question was not what "was hoped to be accompished," it was what "is" accomplished (see my 1st post). It would be nice if you could make people with whom you disagree just disappear. Unfortunately the world doesn't work that way.

In this instance, the matter is complicated by the fact that there clearly a bit of hyperbole and parody involved in the group in question. The equation between a picture of a cyclist being doored and jokes about dooring cyclists and an actual *call* to door cyclist is simplistic, to say the least. This is part of the reason, I suspect, that Facebook chose not to take down the site.

But yes, Facebook is private company and can delete anything they want. As for LAB, they are certainly free to exercise their free speech. I just happen to think that exercising one's speech in order to suppress someone else's is a misuse of speech. So my problem *is* with LAB too (though pretty much all pressure groups do this kind of thing). Just because a lobbying group *can* apply pressure on a company/government/etc. doesn't mean they *should*.

Well, the answer to what "is" accomplished is unknown as of yet. It is impossible to know what is accomplished by doing something until it is over and with something like this, even years from, what "is" accomplished will always be debatable. So I assumed you meant what are they trying to accomplish or what did they hope to accomplish. I don't know what is accomplished. No one does, and no one ever will.

Of course that brings us back to my first question. What is lost by doing this?

And another question is what is lost by not doing this? There is a signaling element here and signaling is important. Facebook already removes sites it deems as inappropriate, which signals to those in that group that the larger group (i.e. society) finds their behavior to be so egregious that they are risking free speech complaints to shut it down. I think that signaling has value.

When a group or individual has a reason to feel that such a site exists that threatens them, they can also signal this by asking that Facebook remove it. And LAB can signal to its membership and to non-cyclists that it is willing to do what it has to to protect cyclists. If you think their action is unreasonable that isn't necessarily bad, as it can be very useful at times to signal that you're unreasonable.

Doing nothing also signals something to membership and drivers and that may not be good.

So signaling may be a big part of the answer. But this is LAB's campaign, and I don't speak for LAB, so maybe you can go to their blog and ask them.

WC,

I am getting weary of this discussion. I'm not suggesting that cyclists do nothing. I'm just suggesting that this is the wrong "signal." I may not like all sorts of groups. I may think that they're wrong or dangerous. But I don't "signal" my disapproval by trying to limit their speech. The solution to problems of this sort is not *less* speech; it's *more* speech. Why?

1) Because I'm concerned that others will try to limit *my* speech. Who decides what constitutes ignorance? Do we really want Facebook's content policies to become a political football? The idea that Facebook is some kind of objective arbiter of reasonableness is frankly naive: they respond to political pressure. You're free to apply that pressure, but you better hope that you don't end up on the other end.

2) It doesn't work: ideas don't disappear because you try to ban them. In fact, quite the opposite. Limiting the speech of others emboldens them, it allows them to view themselves as a persecuted minority. The most powerful strategy against stupid people is to let them make idiots of themselves.

What actually happened on Facebook proves my point. Cyclists swarmed the blog, responding to speech with more speech, responding to anger with ridicule.

Free speech is not just a law (although it does find expression in laws). It does not merely apply, as you suggest above, to things like Battlestar Galactica. It is a *principle*. Although there are of course some limits, I, for one, would think long and hard before seeking silencing someone else.

And you're suggesting that the LAB didn't think long and hard about it.

WC,

No, but I suspect that they probably spent more time weighing political concerns (the anger of the membership vs. public accusations of being against free speech) than they did thinking about what it actually means to try to silence someone.

I guess I have several thoughts.

1) This has been a tiresome conversation in part because it took you five comments to final state your case, which I will paraphrase as this "If you make it easy to suppress the speech of others then you also make it easy for others to suppress your speech. Therefore you shouldn't do it." Which is a reasonable position to take, but you didn't start with that instead you asked a question to which I suspect there was no winnable answer for you. So why bother? It was a bit pointless. Just cut to the chase and say "I think this is a bad idea and here is why..." It is easier to be the one who attacks a position than to be the one who states and defends one, and so maybe I tire of being in the latter position all the time.

2. You then qualified your position to say "Although there are of course some limits..." Which is saying that it is OK, even good at times to suppress speech. How do we decided when it is and it isn't - by thinking long and hard. What some call a judgment call. I take it you disagree with LAB's judgment, which again is reasonable, but at this point you're no longer arguing a hard and fast principle but rather the more nuanced areas of what is and isn't an exception. You're free to disagree with LAB, but you are by no means the final arbiter of what is and isn't free speech. Their opinion is just as valid as yours.

3. Your last comment touches on what I was saying before. It may be that LAB's goal was not to get the site taken down, but to signal that they were trying to get the site taken down. It's like when a coach protests a questionable call. They know the ref isn't going to overturn it, but they're hoping that they can effect future calls (I'm not sure if this works). It's possible that LAB was trying to signal Facebook, drivers, members etc... that they won't back down from any fight. Maybe they even hoped to fail in the attempt to have the site shut down. It is hard to define the value of this signaling or what they might lose by being seen by some as suppressing hate speech, but my gut says the former is greater than the latter.

You're free to disagree with LAB, but you are by no means the final arbiter of what is and isn't free speech. Their opinion is just as valid as yours.

While I would agree that intelligent people can differ on the limits of free speech, I would not agree that all opinions are equal. For example, I prefer my own "judgment calls" regarding free speech to that of the military rulers of Myanmar. And if we really thought that all opinions are equal, we would hardly be having this argument, would we?

Generally, I would argue that there are good reasons for having as capacious, as broad a conception of free speech as possible. In an ideal world, Facebook would be immune to political pressure and would have common carrier protection, which would mean that they could limit themselves to enforcing US law as opposed to weighing the sensibilities of special interest groups.

Finally, I would strenuously disagree (for the reasons stated above) with your suggestion that it's wise for LAB to use free speech issues as a proxy for other fights (with motorists etc.), or in order to "influence" the referee's next call. Free speech is not absolute, but it shouldn't be political football either. And, frankly, don't cyclists have other things to worry about?

Guez, your whole complaint hinges on something that isn't true. That LAB is trying to limit free speech. But that is inherently impossible.

LAB followed a Facebook defined process for having a site removed. That could have gone one of two ways.

1. Facebook could decide that this site doesn't meet their criteria for removal (which is what happened), left it up and thus no one's free speech is suppressed.

2. Facebook could decide that, in fact, the people who created this page have violated the Terms of Use, which everyone has to agree to, and thus it should be removed. In this case, the users WAIVED their rights to speech that violates the terms. So no one's free speech is suppressed, because on Facebook this kind of freedom doesn't exist. It was never there.

One reason why people agree to the terms of use is because they're willing to give up their right to bully or harass another user to protect themselves from being bullied and harassed.

So there is a contractual obligation to follow the terms of use, a defined process for asking that material that violates it be removed, and a review process that defines what violates the terms of use. LAB worked within the confines of this legal process - which everyone who signs up for Facebook agrees to live with. This is hardly an affront on freedom and democracy. Nor is it a slippery slope to the oppressive regime of Myanmar.

So your fears that this makes us all a little less free are unfounded. The place where speech was suppressed was in the sign-up process for Facebook when users agreed to waive their rights to certain types of speech. If you want to fight for unfettered free speech, that is where you need to focus. Not on LAB using the process for exactly the kind of situation for which it was intended.

Washcycle,

I have no question that LAB was acting legally, and that Facebook is within its rights to restrict the content of its site. However, the fact of the matter is that Facebook has become a default meeting place for people with all sorts of different opinions. Limiting the expression of those opinions that we happen to find offensive has a cost.

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