"Perry" McLaughlin

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

In reality, the interactions in cyberspace are too new to have a substantive body of case law. I'm not sure how any court would rule about whether this is a public or private forum. I do know the the law allows peaceful assembly in public spaces and free expression (within limits). I can picket a government building and chant slogans... as long as I do not overtly interfere with the functioning of the building.

If someone interferes with my right to assemble and protest, I do not necessarily need to prove damages. I have the right to file for an injunction preventing the party, public or private, from interfering with the free exercise of my rights. If the party continues to violate my rights (after an injunction has been granted), they risk consequences of the court AND civil litigation.

Please, Brian, feel free to stop by and interfere with my civil rights. After I post an essay on a public bulletin board... rip it down. Paint over my protest sign and unplug the microphone as I speak before a peaceful assembly. Explain to the judge in a real court how you were simply a "speed bump" in my path and that no "real" damages were done. (laughter)

After all, according to your logic, I can write a new essay, paint a new sign or plug my microphone back in. Oh... but not on YOUR public street corner... on some other street corner. Is it a free country, Brian, as long as I can find some public place to assemble and speak? Or does freedom mean I have at least some rights in every public place? I'd love nothing better than to see you dazzle the judge with your ledgermain... and save any lost kittens in the courtroom.

By the way, the your arguments about free press are completely off base. This is not a public conversation, not a publication. The fact it is typed rather than spoken does not make it a newspaper. If MIT allows the public to use its conference rooms for public gatherings, then it should plan on getting sued when it starts to pick and choose which public groups can use them. It should also hire extra attorneys if it plans to assign staff to each room to monitor the discussion and attempt to censor any speaker who says something the University does not particularly like.

I realize free speech and free assembly have limits. The courts have whittled away at these freedoms time and again. My entire argument is based on my notion this is a public forum... no different than a public street or park. If you interfered with my right to assemble or speak in a public place, Brian, you'd be on the losing end of any court case (except perhaps those in your imagination). On the other hand, if this is a private forum... then the sysop can be arbitrary and capricious.

The reason I never applied for a password at EZB is that I have no desire to post on a private Internet forum... particularly one where essays and links are subject to the whim of an anonymous group of sysops. You may have a different standard. By the way, let me know in advance if you plan to disrupt my peaceful protest... I need time to paint my signs and break out my tie-died T-shirt.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), May 03, 2000


Yeah, but Ken. Who listens to an idiot like Brian?

-- (C@n't stand .him), May 03, 2000.


Not an accusation, necessarily, but an observation: Is this one of those threads for which I lost respect for BigDog last year? You remember the type...pick a poster and then tell everyone how unworthy they were of anyone's attention because they didn't agree with one's personal opinion.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), May 04, 2000.

Brian is an extremely likeable, intelligent fellow whose posts I enjoy. I disagree with Brian's position regarding censorship on this forum. That doesn't change my appreciation of him.

Flint is a somewhat likeable, intelligent guy whose posts I don't enjoy very much. But, they're well-crafted, and I usually read them. I agree with Flint's position on censorship, but that doesn't make him any more likeable to me.

Decker is a genuinely unlikeable, intelligent man whose posts I lightly skim past or often skip altogether. I may agree with his position on censorship, but, he's still an arrogant, red-faced whiner with Little Man's Syndrome.

-- (Another @two.cents), May 04, 2000.

But Ken, do you have a permit to gather outside that building or march your peaceful march? Seems like sometimes you have to have a permit for everything. But you being a city manager and all, well you should know these things.

-- (Look@Lusenet.Listings), May 04, 2000.

My vote is for Brian. Instead of bragging about how "intellectual" he is, he shows it.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), May 04, 2000.


You can see the problem of putting my name in the subject line. People seem to think that I am the subject of this thread. This may be some sort of privilege, but I can't say I am all that comfortable being the subject of conversation while standing within earshot.

>> This is ... a public conversation, not a publication. [... MIT] should plan on getting sued when it starts to pick and choose which public groups can use them. <<

OK. There is your legal theory in a nutshell.

My theory says that this forum is not a place but a publication. MIT (or some other similar entity) publishes the written contributions of forum participants, on demand and on-the-fly. The speed with which revisions to this publication take place gives the forum some of the characteristics of a conversation, but this is a function of the printing technology being used. But the inherent technology is that of publication, not conversation.

If I were to address a court on this subject, I would also point out that some fairly expensive equipment is used to facilitate this publication process. The most predictable effect of ruling that posting to a Greenspun forum constitutes protected speech and that the owners of the equipment have no right to any control over the contents stored on their server, would be to ensure that the public would lose free access to any similar facility run by a private party.

If the pertinent analogy for the forum's server is to "a public place", then any owner of private server who allows free public access is laid open to the argument that allowing free access to the public erodes their ownership of that server, in the same way that letting the public walk across your land will eventually create a public right of way that you cannot control access to.

In another thread, you mentioned the ACLU. Perhaps you are a member, Ken. In which case, I am sure you could find a way to speak to one of their expert attorneys about your theory. You might be the catalyst for a test case! Then again, maybe we shouldn't get our hopes up. Sometimes life brings unexpected disappointments.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), May 04, 2000.

To expand on what Brian is saying about publication, I'd like to point out that in a peaceful public gathering, the discussions are taking place in real time, expressed by speach. The speach is not a permanent record as is the print and/or other press medias, such as this forum.

To equate a public gathering, as in a public park, on the internet using typing as mode of communication, I would use the chat rooms. In a chat room, statements made by a person scroll off the screen and soon will disapear off of one's program's buffer, UNLESS one switches on the "log session" feature, which would be akin to recording a public meeting in the park with a voice recorder. Note also, that the server on which the chat room is hosted also has the choice to log those sessions.

This forum, in contrast, is not real time, and the statements are relatively permanent, just as in a print media. Therefore, my view would be that of Brian's, and this forum would be protected under freedom of press laws.

-- (pardon@me.ken.I.have.no.name), May 04, 2000.


I'm still not convinced this is a public forum [equated to a public street or park.] I understand that this is an axiom [to YOU], but it's not to me.

If a forum on a .com is presumed to be public, why is Ralph Nader lobbying for names that indicate free speech?

R alph's crusade in Cairo

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), May 04, 2000.


Thanks for showing... and I hope you have not lost your sense of humor over my good natured needling. And don't worry, I have nothing but good things to say about you.

I am not ready to concede that this is a publication. If MIT felt they were publishing this, I imagine they would establish an editorial policy and some degree of censorship to limit their liability. After all, as the publisher they would bear some degree of liability for libel, pornography and other naughty behavior. It is possible MIT doesn't know about Greenspun's activities... although I rather doubt it since individuals from the old TB 2000 contacted MIT administrators. If MIT is aware of the Greenspun fora, I imagine they have concluded they are not the publisher, per se. Of course, they could be getting bad legal advice.

If we were going to trial, I think I'd find a mute man to put on the stand. Does a man unable to speak still have freedom of speech? I think he does, even if he has to use a technological device and even if his "speech" is the written word. The act of using a laptop to "speak" does not convert this man into "the press," even if he is using someone else's computer (or a sign language translator).

I do think you hit the right note when you talk about "adverse possession." This is the legal concept that allows possession of private property because of uncontested use over a period of time. If the public is allowed to use this space for a period of time (usually determined by state law), it becomes a public space. Intriguing concept.

If MIT does not "manage" the public fora, I think the are making an implicit endorsement of this as a public space. I certainly think they would fight any suggestion of liability for the content. Perhaps we should ask MIT if they think they are the publisher? I'd be curious as to what they might say.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), May 04, 2000.

>> I hope you have not lost your sense of humor over my good natured needling. <<

Not to worry. Growing up in my family was a never-ending lesson in the value of a thick skin in the face of good-natured needling. Even a sensitive soul such as I grew a pretty thick hide.

And you were right on the money in an earlier remark (another thread, but which one?) about it being far worse to pat me on the head and say what a good boy I've been. There's no faster way to earn my lasting enmity than to show me open disrespect (unless its playing the bully).

I literally have dreams on that subject where I wake up shaking with rage. (Of course, it's no mystery to me why this is so, but I'd prefer to let that lie quiet for now. There's a time and a place for everything and this thread ain't it.)

Anyway, you remember to lighten the touch often enough that I do not take you for a gouger and biter. You do dearly love to score points, though. No one would ever mistake you for the Mahatma Gandhi. More along the lines of Pete Rose, I'd say. Pete once said he'd run down his own grandmother if she stood between him and home plate and she was holding the ball. After he scored he'd help her up and dust her off.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), May 04, 2000.


In real life, I imagine you a sensitive soul. Despite my curdmudgeonly manner on the forum, I've spent a fair amount of time "saving the world" myself and understand the instinct. I respect your intellect and maturity enough to play "hard ball" with you. You are a worthy foe and you deserve, nay demand, my best effort.

As bullies, I hate 'em. This is one of the reasons I became somewhat bitter on the old forum. I watched the bullies drive off people more sensitive than me. And I imagine many folks didn't participte after watching the carnage on a few threads. Truth be told, I always hoped someone like Andy would have materialized in real life and tried poking his finger into my chest. Alas, life is full of disappointments.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), May 04, 2000.

It is possible MIT doesn't know about Greenspun's activities... although I rather doubt it since individuals from the old TB 2000 contacted MIT administrators.

This is correct. According to Phil Greenspun, MIT was very confused when they kept getting emails about an entity known as "Timebomb 2000" as they had no idea what it was or why they should care. Phil has stated that the equipment and software that make up the forums is entirely his own and that MIT is simply where it is currently housed. I don't know if that makes MIT responsible for content or not.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), May 05, 2000.

oh joy, a thread where kenny and brian go down on each other.

-- maybe you could talk (flint@three.some), May 05, 2000.

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