Can a Writing Platform Legally Ban Certain Topics?
I was commenting on an article about freedom of the press by momathome , and I realized my reply was long enough to be a post all by itself. So I decided I'd just come over here and write it up as one.
For those who haven't read the original post, the premise is that a site like Persona Paper can't legally forbid its users to write about specific topics because it's a violation of freedom of the press , as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution .
Because Persona Paper is an American web site and because the Supreme Court has recognized that “ digital and social media deserve the same respect as newspapers, magazines and broadcasters ,” Lee Anne feels that freedom of the press applies on this site. And it's very true that freedom of the press extends to citizen journalists and bloggers , the same as it does to trained journalists.
In her post Lee Anne discusses the possibility of restricting certain topics here on Persona Paper , since some users were suggesting a ban on topics they felt were more appropriately dealt with elsewhere. She outlines several reasons why there shouldn't be any topic restrictions here, including the fact that posing such limits would be “in violation of the law in the US.”
The problem with that argument is that freedom of the press has nothing whatsoever to do with the limits a publisher (in this case Persona Paper) places on what it will and will not publish. Freedom of the press is about government-imposed censorship and “ does not apply to the authority of owners and publishers of newspapers and media outlets to suppress or edit whatever they feel necessary .” Publishers, whatever the type of medium, “do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content.”
So while I personally don't think Persona Paper needs to forbid users from posting about specific topics simply because they are unpopular, I don't think there is anything that would legally prevent elitecodex and MaeLou from making a decision to restrict certain topics in the best interests of the site. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not even an American. But it seems pretty clear that freedom of the press applies only to governments preventing them (and by extension, us) from writing about specific topics.
I had to make several edits to this post, mainly due to fatigue and stupidity on my part. If you got several notifications because of this, I truly apologize!
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/flag-usa-privacy-policy-129531/