[MUD-Dev] AOL lawsuit

John Robert Arras johna at wam.umd.edu
Sat Sep 1 07:41:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Fri, Aug 31 2001, Matt Mihaly <the_logos at achaea.com> wrote:

> This is chilling: http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-7017545.html?tag=lh
> It's about a lawsuit filed against AOL that alleges that AOL
> allowed hate speech to to unsanctioned in chat rooms for Muslims,
> in violation of federal civil rights laws.
>   "The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria seeks
>   class-action status and asks for an injunction requiring AOL to
>   enforce its rules that prevent members from sending messages
>   that offend community standards."

I am not as bothered by this lawsuit. It is well-known that AOL
tries to be a nanny that monitors everything that gets written there
so that it maintains a "family" or "safe" environment. The lawsuit
is not over the hate speech itself, but over the fact that AOL does
not enforce its "nanny" rules uniformly.

I consider AOL's nanny rules to be censorship...even though I know
that they aren't the government, so technically they can't censor
people. It's the same idea as when companies put restrictions on
what you can or cannot say about a certain piece of software because
you don't own it.  The rules are a part of the "license" they
tolerate letting you have to use the software. These things aren't
literal censorship, but they are companies controlling what you can
or cannot say if you want to use their service, and that's close
enough for me.

I don't like these kinds of nanny rules. I wonder if a lawsuit like
this will force companies (and MUDs) to get rid of the rules that
prohibit a laundry list of bad things from being said. I think the
appropriate response to annoying/mean people is to give everyone an
ignore command, and to have a rule that says "we don't tolerate
annoying/ mean who can be deleted/banned at the owner's discretion."
This could cover a great many things from spamming to cheating to
pking newbies to spewing mean speech, and not just a list of
specific bad words. It is an interesting question about whether or
not you will be forced to enforce your nanny rules if you state that
you will have such rules.


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