Bloggers all over are currently discussing the suggestion of a blogging code of conduct, where bloggers are required to refrain from insults and threats, or get their blogs yanked.
The debate is generally anti-code, justified by the claim that it is freedom of speech to say what you want, and said freedom is protected by the US constitution. The thing is, we aren't discussing political blogs or racist blogs or pornographic blogs or blogs that in general have some kind of inflammatory material on them. We are discussing blogs much like my own: One person's personal outlet offered to the world because it's a rewarding thing to do (get to write, get to share, get feedback). But on some blogs, commenters are leaving insults and threats, including death threats.
The general reaction to this, that I have seen so far, is if you can't tolerate some sicko comments on your blog, you are too sensitive for blogging so just stop blogging. Don't bitch about the internet being all mean and harsh and evil and stuff because it's Free Speech, man!
In other words, the right to free speech equals the right to insult, to badger, to threaten. Too bad if it upsets the recipient.
That got me thinking. Is that really free speech? Is that sort of writing really a right? All of our laws are generally about getting people to be nice to each other, about getting along and not harming each other in any way. So why would the first amendment in the US constitution be an exception to that?
I don't think it is. I think the first amendment and any laws that protect the right to free speech are about protecting the right to speak your mind without being ridiculed or persecuted. That means that insulting or threatening someone because of something they wrote goes against the spirit of the first amendment.
As well as being wrong.