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Old 03-28-2007, 09:23 PM   #1  
vagabond
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Joined APC: May 2006
Position: C-172
Posts: 7,812
Default APC, Internet Forums and the First Amendment: Some Thoughts

I have been meaning to post my thoughts about internet forums and this thing called the First Amendment. Sitting on jury duty has given me the time to jot down some notes with the pencil I originally brought along for Sudoku.

Internet forums, particularly this one, are very interesting places where one can go learn, contribute and perhaps have some fun along the way. Inevitably, there are some people who take advantage of the anonymous nature of these forums and make inappropriate or repetitive posts or generally posts of no intrinsic value. The owners have made the rules (Terms of Service) very clear to new registrants and longtime members alike. People who choose to become members of this forum have agreed to abide by those terms or face having posts deleted, threads locked or the member restricted in mild cases and banned in extreme cases. These rules are neither arbitrary or capricious. In exchange for a medium where registered members can have a healthy exchange of information, members do not have to pay. They also do not have to tolerate annoying ads and can be reasonably assured of an environment free of pornography, racist commentary, religious intolerance and the like.

Much is made sometimes of oneís First Amendment right to free speech. The First Amendment protects us from government interference, not from private people. It must be emphasized that this forum is privately owned. The owners of this site, as private people, can do what they deem necessary to maintain it to their standards. (Iíll rephrase this in simpler language Ė The Man can do whatever he wants on his own forum.) Free-wheeling forums with loose control generally degrade into juvenile name calling, use of profanity, and usually end up attracting people whose aim is disruption. Sometimes these types of forums attract people who have no aim whatsoever, but thatís another topic for another day after a stiff drink.

I have been a member since May 2006 and in that relatively short period of time, I can say that the administrators and moderators have done an excellent job of keeping these forums from degenerating into a parody or worse, a travesty. There has been no evidence of over-moderation; in fact, there has been an abundance of tolerance towards people who sometimes just do not get it at some fundamental level.

Returning to the First Amendment, some might believe that they can say anything and the heck with everyone else. Well, I urge everyone to exercise some self-restraint. If you have had a bad day and feel like working off your frustrations, please do not do it here. If you harbor sexist or racist thoughts, please keep them to yourself. If you disagree with someone, state your reasons logically and in a civil way. There is no need to call someone names or imply something derogatory about them. Doing so does not move the conversation forward in any meaningful way. I, for one, am interested in a productive exchange of ideas and perspectives, not reading absurd rants or misguided ramblings with little to no basis. I applaud the administrators and moderators for deleting threads and posts that violate the terms of service. The last time I checked, the internet is big and has a multitude of fora from which to choose. If somebody finds it too restrictive here, this person is always free to join another forum more to his taste.

One final thought Ė do not take things personally. This is an anonymous forum. I do not know you and you do not know me. Those who know my name, for example, know it because I chose to tell them. You also should have no reason to think that anything I post is directed at you, unless I start my post with your user name. Donít forget that posts here are nothing more than personal opinions. So, if someone says that MEM is a horrible place to live, this is only this one personís opinion, and likely not shared by others. A better post is describing your reasons for why MEM is a bad place and why it is a good place.

I have met some very nice people here. We exchange emails outside of APC, and I even had the pleasure of having dinner with a member who was here on a layover. Although I did not join so that I can have more friends, meeting nice people is an incidental benefit for which I am thankful.
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