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    Associated Press: Free speech is thorny online

    The Associated Press has an interesting story, "Free speech is thorny online." It discusses the problem that individuals are facing when interacting online. Companies that run Web sites are policing photographs or speech that are legal, but controversial. The Associated Press reports:

    The governmental role that companies play online is taking on greater importance as their services — from online hangouts to virtual repositories of photos and video — become more central to public discourse around the world. It’s a fallout of the Internet’s market-driven growth, but possible remedies, including government regulation, can be worse than the symptoms.

    One example is Dutch photographer Maarten Dors, whose photo "of an early-adolescent boy with disheveled hair and a ragged T-shirt, staring blankly with a lit cigarette in his mouth." Yahoo took the photo down without notice — twice; the second time after Yahoo had allowed him to repost it.

    In Dors’ case, the law is fully with Yahoo. Its terms of service, similar to those of other service providers, gives Yahoo "sole discretion to pre-screen, refuse or remove any content." Service providers aren’t required to police content, but they aren’t prohibited from doing so. […]

    [Problems can arise from] having online commons controlled by private corporations. Rules aren’t always clear, enforcement is inconsistent, and users can find content removed or accounts terminated without a hearing. Appeals are solely at the service provider’s discretion.

    Users get caught in the crossfire as hundreds of individual service representatives apply their own interpretations of corporate policies, sometimes imposing personal agendas or misreading guidelines.

    Read more here.

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