Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I strike a blow for international freedom of speech

This morning I went onto the Belgian-based online music magazine Side-Line, one of my favourite sites for news about electro-industrial music, and was shocked to discover that they had made it impossible for anyone other than Facebook users to post comment on their news items. Being, as I am, an opponent of the corporate might of Facebook and other "social networking" sites, which I view as intrusive and unnecessary, I immediately sent an email to them to complain, denouncing the move as a dangerous and ill-advised attempt to curb freedom of speech. I felt this tremendously ironic given that the site has long held itself up as a bastion of that very thing, even refusing to condemn the extreme right-wing views of Croat rocker Marko "Thompson" Perkovic. Shortly thereafter I received an email from Side-Line's chief editor Bernard Van Isacker, whose rationale for the move was that "it avoids that people hide themselves behind anonymous accounts like what was the case in the past on Side-Line and where Side-Line was the only one to take responsability [sic] for comments that appeared on the site". However, after I argued that he was denying the right to comment to the many people who do not wish to have a Facebook account, he changed it back, with the caveat that "if abused it goes down immediately", which I thought was perfectly reasonable. Ultimately, however, his argument just doesn't wash with me. Everyone who leaves a comment has to give an email address, which I accept could be fake, but I see no reason why Side-Line should have to "take responsibility" for comments that appear on the site - surely they could just have a corporate-style disclaimer saying something like "All views expressed in comments are posters' own and do not necessarily represent the views of Side-Line and its affiliates". I suggested this to Mr Van Isacker, but have yet to receive a response.

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