freedom of speech

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Michiel de Jong

Oct 16, 2012, 8:44:50 AM10/16/12
I was just talking to Kirsten from HIIG about how there are some
interesting questions re ToS and freedom of speech. for instance,

- prohibits publishing content that:
- impersonates others or is intended to mislead
- is other people's confidential or private information
- contains a threat of violence
- is copyrighted
- is aimed at furthering illegal activities
- is spam

- they don't seem to talk about racism and other hatefully provocative
content, nor about nudity or culturally offensive content.

- prohibits publishing:
- violence and threats
- self harm
- bullying and harrassment
- hate speech
- graphic content
- nudity and pornography
- identity and privacy (way down the list, compared to where twitter puts it)
- intellectual property
- phishing and spam

- compared to twitter, no explicit mention of content that is aimed at
furthering illegal activities

- the mention:
- illicit content
- malicious products
- hate speech
- personal and confidential information
- account hijacking
- child safety
- spam
- ranking manipulation
- sexually explicit material
- violent or bullying behaviour
- impersonation or deceptive behaviour
- they don't allow you to use a pseudonym
- don't sell regulated goods (viagra etc.)

So putting these three into a table, we see:

(T,F,G) violence and threats
(F) self harm
(F,G) bullying and harrassment
(F,G) hate speech
(F) graphic content
(F,G) nudity and pornography
(T,F,G) impersonation/misleading
(T,F,G) privacy of others
(T,F) intellectual property
(T,F,G) phishing and spam
(T) is aimed at furthering illegal activities
(G) illicit content
(G) malicious products
(G) child safety
(G) ranking manipulation
(G) they don't allow you to use a pseudonym
(G) don't sell regulated goods (viagra etc.)

This is just a quick first look at how different services restrict
your freedom of speech. most of them seem to be aimed at reasonable
reason, protecting the rights of others that often weigh against your
freedom of speech. But let's continue this discussion! :)


Hannah Poteat

Oct 17, 2012, 10:59:54 AM10/17/12
For what it's worth, many of these are prohibited because there are state or federal laws prohibiting such conduct. For instance, all three companies are in California, and their terms of use are interpreted under California law. All three companies' terms of use prohibit posting other users' private information or content that impersonates another person. California has state laws protect individual privacy. California also criminalizes malicious online impersonation. Additionally, there are federal laws against spam.

I could go down this chart and pair each content prohibition with a state or federal law regulating that content. So it isn't that providers are limiting your free speech with their terms of service; it's that there are laws in the US and the various states that limit free speech, and the terms of service are trying to communicate to users that they need to comply with those laws while using the providers' services.


Charles Michael Fulton

Oct 17, 2012, 4:25:52 PM10/17/12
It's important to note that the United States Constitution only applies to activities of the federal and (in most cases) state government. That is to say, the Constitution does not protect a Twitter user from censorship by Twitter. Twitter, Facebook, and any other non-government entity, may legally censor any speech it wishes under US law.

Nov 6, 2012, 9:19:19 AM11/6/12
Thanks Michiel for getting this thread started that already attracts helpful comments.

However, the note that those private companies only comply with California State Law in my view doesn't explain why it's then so different what they present as legally binding contracts to the users. Is it just different interpretation of existing law? Or can we understand ToSs as well as how they frame and condition speech, expression of opinions and communication on their respective platforms?

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