So, there’s this big hoopla that’s been brewing on LJ. Many are calling the event Strikethrough ’07.
I don’t necessarily see it as a question of censorship. The thing with sites like LJ or MySpace is that there is truly no way of obtaining age verification on the Internet. If you’re talking to an anonymous person, the only real way you can tell if they’re who they say they are is if they have a webcam and they hold up today’s paper–that has its own problems, of course, but you get my point…age verification is a profoundly difficult task at this point.
Freedom of speech is very important, particularly in the political arena. But, freedom doesn’t mean limitless; if we were to post journal entries about assassinating the president (no matter whom he or she is), then we’re going to be called on it. We’d be scrutinized because of the dangerous nature of the content.
On the social front, because of the inability for true age verification, is it truly appropriate for a child to see age-inappropriate pictures, posts & stories? We make such a big deal out of physical child sexual molestation. Then we turn around and we shove all of that crappy content out there for anyone to see, all in the name of “freedom of speech”.
Mind you, politics and social issues tend to intertwine themselves with each other; it’s the nature of the beast. Nevertheless, the nature of that content has to have limits. Do people really want children to see pictures, stories and posts of sexuality? Shouldn’t it be up to parents as to when children are first exposed to such things?
LJ stepped on a number of peoples’ toes. Given what they were trying to do, that was profoundly inevitable–13+ million journals out there with perhaps billions of entries make it an exceedingly difficult task of filtration. And the way they handled it on the public affairs front was awful. I think what they’re trying to do, though, is genuine and certainly needed, particularly given that you have lots of clueless people out there who think only of themselves and their own gratifications.
The thing is that LJ is not a public service–it’s not a power that’s elected, it’s not out there for political gain or loss. It’s powered and maintained by a private organization, who can set whatever rules it sees fit to employ. And, if we don’t like it, we can go elsewhere; they just won’t get our moola. They are bound by Constitutional principles, really only as they want to be. They can censor and slash however they see fit; it’s their playground. If we don’t like it, all of the protest in the world will mean jack–particularly if we don’t have paid accounts.
Until a solid means of age authentication is found, this problem is going to recur. We’re going to revisit it again and again. It’s going to become a broken record of the 21st century.