During the week, a few readers objected to some of the comments that were appearing on this site, particularly those related to former Liberian president, Charles Taylor. Nii Darku, for example, said this: “Charles G. Taylor is a hard core criminal” this is not acceptable. I do not this you will allow it used on any one on this forum.” Others agreed. Noko 5, for instance, said in response to Nii: “…Just to add to your voice, I just don’t understand why this site allows people to say anything to Mr. Taylor with impunity or any form of repremend for that matter…..I definitly feel it is very very and I say , absolutely wrong for people to be throwing insults at him here.” Others, such as King Gray, thought it was okay as long as the policy was applied fairly to both sides (prosecution and defense).
After checking with some freedom of expression experts and our own in-house counsel here, we are not changing our policy (which is to focus on the issues related to the trial, and not to personally attack other readers) — but we are going to be more active in reinforcing an element of the terms and conditions for using this site (You can find the full terms and conditions available here: http://www.charlestaylortrial.org/about/terms/)
In particular, this part is the most important for us (though it is written in horrid legalese):
“You will not post, transmit, or otherwise make available, through or in connection with the Site:
- Anything that is or may be (a) threatening, harassing, degrading, hateful or intimidating; (b) defamatory; (c) fraudulent or tortious; (d) obscene, indecent, pornographic or otherwise objectionable; or (e) protected by copyright, trademark, trade secret, right of publicity or other proprietary right without the express prior consent of the owner of such right.”
What this means for us is this: no matter who we are talking about on this site, if we refer to a person by name or otherwise single people out as individuals, we need to apply the same level of respect as we show to other readers. We can still make our points and we are still entitled and encouraged to share our opinions on this site as passionately and as actively as we always have — including our opinions about performance in the courtroom — but we can’t make allegations against individuals — like stating that a person is a hard-core criminal — for two reasons: (1) if we apply this to Mr. Taylor, he is on trial but still presumed innocent unless the judges find enough evidence to say otherwise; and (2) statements, even those made by others apart from Alpha and I on this site that are directed towards others and could defame specific individuals, could still get the site into legal hot water – and none of us want that.
That said, don’t let us slow down our conversation — we do not want to censor people’s opinions, nor do we want to restrict free speech. But we do need to balance it with respect for individuals’ reputations and not personally attack/defame other people in our discussions, including Mr. Taylor, Ms. Hollis and the judges.
Now let’s get back to the real discussions…..