I had an interesting decision over free speech last night. Basically, I got a comment against a posting I wrote several months ago about a new housing development in Finchampstead called Foxwood. As you’ll see if you have a read, my point was over the fact that they were being sold as being in a semi-rural area – which in my opinion they aren’t.
The commenter fairly obviously didn’t agree, and particularly didn’t like my comment about the brochure highlighting Waitrose rather than Tesco (rather indignantly saying that they shopped at Tesco – worth saying that so do we). My assumption is that they were possibly someone who had bought, or were considering buying one of the houses, however I couldn’t actually enquire further, as when I tried to e-mail them to apologise for offending them, the e-mail bounced and I found that they had put a phoney e-mail address on the comment.
The big issue from my point of view was that the general target of the comment was me personally, rather than any attempt to counter-argue the main point – that the developer was justified in describing Nine Mile Ride as semi-rural. On top of that, looking at the logs they had pretty well come straight in to the posting (putting “Foxwood Finchampstead” into Google brings up the posting as it’s second result), and not read anything much else before commenting.
Having let a couple of other people read the comment, who agreed that it was attacking me and not the arguments, and especially in light of the fake e-mail address, the comment was removed. This was despite the fact that the people who read the comment said that they would have commented themselves saying that it wasn’t addressing my point as well. Essentially I didn’t want the discussion to go down some sort of mud-slinging path.
Before I now get flamed with people saying that I’m blocking free speech, I’ll refer you to a posting that Robert Scoble made on the subject. I’m quite happy to take comments from people who don’t agree with what I say, but if they are attacking me, rather than countering the opinions, and especially if they are hiding behind a phoney e-mail address, they’ll get deleted. As Scoble says:
Because it’s on my blog I’m responsible for it. It has my name associated with it. So, no, you TOTALLY don’t get what free speech is if you think you should have free and unfettered speech in everyone’s comment area. Get a clue about what free speech is.
Want free speech? Get a blog of your own. That way only you are responsible for your words. If you’re writing on someone’s comment area, though, the standards are (and should be) different.