"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." This sentence is part of a masterpiece that is an important conclusion to a series of masterpieces. The road to popular rights, freedom and equality was lead by many masterpieces, from The Constitution of the Athenians, the Roman Republic, the Magna Carta, the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the American Constitution, the Communist Manifesto, and many more.
The internet opened up a new frontier for personal expression and worldwide democracy. The wave of user-generated content gave any of us the opportunity to be heard in almost unparallel equality. Finally, the promise of humanity sharing information through websites such as Wikipedia and others made popular ownership of information a consensus.
Until something like this happens. A Digg story was pulled down accompanied by a user’s termination of membership and a note by Digg’s co-founder Kevin Rose on the official Digg blog, a note which I think he’s already sorry to have posted.
As a person who is highly involved with user-generated content startups, I understand the reason behind the issue of content somehow harming a third party; we have rules regarding “copyright theft”, “intellectual property infringement” and “tortuous interference”. All are important and should be honored. However, not at the expense of your users – honor the law, but also honor your community. Users have been removed before for seriously bothering other users – that’s understandable. But don’t remove users just because they bother you.
Most importantly – honor yourself.
I fully agree with Ayelet’s remarks and suggestions, posted on her blog, which is a wonderful blog, by the way. Make this a public battle – score points on the pulpit of popular demand. The minute you quarantine your community and sanction their freedom, then you will have turned your effort for real web democracy into an empty gesture.
George Orwell's Animal Farm teaches us a lesson on how good ideas of freedom and equality can turn really ugly. Let's learn from that.