Censorsh*p or Censorshit?

by Jason Alan

I have another blog where I post short, twitter-sized jokes. The reason for this is twofold: I like to make people laugh, and I’m writing a book of jokes that also includes some insight into my experience telling these jokes on twitter.

Earlier today, I got this message from wordpress regarding this blog:

spankmaterialfortheclinicallyinsane.wordpress.com

Warning: We have a concern about some of the content on your blog. Please click here to contact us as soon as possible to resolve the issue and re-enable posting.

As I have not received a response, I do not yet know what this concern could be, but I know what it is not. I post once a day, all my own material, and no pornography. In fact, I don’t post pictures or video at at all. It is in no way spam, and considering my book isn’t even finished, I am not even trying to sell anything yet. There is also no copyright infringement. Like I said, it is all my own material. The only thing I think it could be is that I have offended someone. As far as I know, the wordpress rules do not preclude offending someone. Should they?

As it clearly states, I cannot post from that account until this matter is resolved.

But that isn’t all. Yesterday, I got this message on twitter:

This account, @JasonAlanWriter, was suspended for sending multiple unsolicited mentions to other users.

The mention and @reply features are intended to make communication between people on Twitter easier, and posting messages to several users in an unsolicited or egregious manner is considered an abuse of its use. Plus, it bothers other users! For more information about these features and proper use, pleas visit our @Replies and Mentions help page.

You will need to change your behavior to continue using Twitter. Repeat violations of the Twitter Rules may result in the permanent suspension of your account.

To continue using this account, please confirm below:

□ I confirm that I will discontinue abuse of the mention or reply feature, as well as any other behaviors that are prohibited by the Twitter Rules.

□ I understand that my account may be permanently suspended if I continue using Twitter in a way that violates the Twitter Rules.

First of all, and I quote: “Plus, it bothers other users!”

Exclamation point noted. Seriously? It bothers other users? Excuse me for being crass, but if those users are ‘bothered’, they can stick a tampon in it, block me and move the fuck on.

Secondly, I have gone through the twitter rules several times, and it does NOT say anywhere that, and I quote again: “posting messages to several users in an unsolicited or egregious manner is considered an abuse of its use”. I got this message AFTER my account was suspended, not before. What it does prohibit includes impersonation, trademark and copyright infringement, privace (posting private and confidential information), threats of violence, unlawful use (complying with local laws), misuse of twitter badges, pornography, and spam and abuse.

Spam and abuse is broken down into several subgroups, which are: serial accounts (I have none), username squatting (not doing that, although I could point out many accounts that are), invitation spam (not doing that either), selling user names (nope), malware/phishing (nope), pornography (none of that) and spam.

Under the heading of spam, what is said about @replies is clear:

1. If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions;

2. If you send large numbers of unsolicited @replies or mentions in an attempt to spam a service or link

What is a large number, then? Shouldn’t they specify that? I wasn’t sending 100 in an hour, or even 50. It was more like 10. Is 10 a large number? It surely wasn’t spam. People were saying something I disagreed with, and I told them so. At the time of my suspension, I wasn’t even being rude, although that shouldn’t even matter. None of these people had private accounts, either, and some of them included a hashtag in their tweet that I responded to. In this instance, it was #atheist. For those who don’t know much about twitter, a hashtag is specifically meant to show up in a search for a particular topic, so in essence you are inviting other people to agree or disagree with you.

When small-minded people realize they have no argument, sometimes saying ‘sorry but I disagree’, or ignoring the person, or even blocking them so they can’t see the @replies anymore just isn’t enough. They have to block AND report spam and/or abuse. The term ‘unsolicited’ shouldn’t include people that are willfully inviting discussion.

While I personally have no problem with pornography (as long as its the legal kind), I do realize that it has its place, and if a website wants to prohibit it, they should be able to. But obviously twitter does not. Take the account @iLikeGirlsDaily, for example. It posts pictures (daily, as if you couldn’t tell by the name), of naked women. While I wouldn’t consider that pornography per se, and I certainly don’t have a problem with the nude female form, some would, and this content is posted all the time, many of the pictures having the address sexyfuckbook.com written in the posted pictures. I’ve never been there (yet), but that sounds like it would be pornography to me. One might say that possibly twitter isn’t aware of this account. Maybe, if that particular account didn’t have over 780,000 followers. It’s a fairly safe bet that they’re aware of it.

Update: I just did go to sexyfuckbook.com, (for research purposes only, honest!) and it redirected two or three times, ending up somewhere called rewardzone dot something something, where it tells me ‘Congratulations’, then something about winning some type of Apple electronics device. Wow. Looks like spam to me. I doubt that Apple, Inc. would be publicly associated with such a website. They even censor the so-called curse words in the music, podcasts, etc., in the iTunes store. (Another post entirely, perhaps later).

Now, all of this being said, do privately owned websites such as wordpress and twitter have the right to censor any content that is posted? Sure they do, I would support them 100%. That is, if they (twitter especially) had not set a precedent by allowing many millions of people to freely speak their minds. Does twitter have the right to censor people even though they have made it clear that their service is and has been open to free speech? Yes, they do have the right, but I argue that it is unethical to do so, and may cost them users if this type of behavior continues.

A while back, a man named Paul Chambers, @pauljchambers, went to court over a tweet where he joked about blowing up an airport. Fortunately, he was acquitted and if you click on the link, you can plainly see that he is still tweeting, and rightly so.

So, do you think I’m wrong? Should I stop responding to the Jesus Freaks because they are likely to report me? If I get permanently suspended from twitter after years of building an audience, where do I go? Facebook? Facebook tells you very plainly not to ‘friend’ people you don’t know, so how would that work? Twitter is supposed to be a place where people who don’t necessarily know each other can exchange their thoughts and ideas. If they keep suspending people for dubious reasons that aren’t even clearly stated in their rules, then who’s next? You?

This is a post on blogspot highlighting some other atheists who have also been suspended, just in case you’re thinking that maybe it’s just me:

http://957chatterton.blogspot.fr/p/suspended-twitter-atheists.html

Update: wordpress just contacted me by email, saying that I have scheduled too many posts. Apparently the limit is 100. I have been scheduling one a day. I’m ok with that limit, and it’s good to know for future reference. So now, I only have a problem with twitter. I guess that’s a good thing, since I’m posting this on wordpress. Ha!

I think this is an important topic to discuss, and I welcome any comments (as usual), especially from anyone who may disagree with me about anything I’ve said. What do you think?