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Why censor, should we not be able to self-regulate?

As I was listening to the pieces by the Ahn sisters I found myself reading a few of the comments and realized that pieces had been removed. At first I was confused but it dawned on to me that I had been denied the right, (privilege?) to determine the validity of a person's statement. Now i come from a place where freedom of speech is permitted and encouraged so it might be easier for me to speak but as a former soldier it was part and parcel to help give a voice to those who needed and provide a voice for those unable. Would it not be better to allow peers (even though I would hardly consider myself a peer or those who frequent TED)to provide a counterweight to those who are misinformed...(or for any reason)
I am not saying freedom of speech without consequence, merely a different way of dealing with an opposing view.

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    Mar 23 2011: Hi Bernie,
    I don´t know anything about the comments you saw removed. But I know that it is possible to remove ones own posts, which is something very different from censorship, because I have done that. And I like that it is possible to do that.
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      Mar 23 2011: true.....a valid see the difference in the message "removed by author" or "removed by admin"
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    Mar 22 2011: Bernie, posts are very rarely removed, unless they are in crass violation of TED's terms of use.
  • Apr 17 2011: Censorship has traditionally been a tool of those who wish not to be held accountable, therefore when we see it being used for whatever reason or under whatever guise, be it failure to adhere to guidelines , rudeness, whatever, it engenders distrust in the user. A simple solution , used by many forums, is to hide the comment but leave it available for readers who want to see it.
    I have great respect for the TED organization, however, I had a twinge of mistrust when I saw comments had been completely removed. To me censorship in any form is a gratuitous abuse of power.
    I have seen many discussions degraded by ignorant and rude comments, but those which allowed me the discretion to view blocked comments, if I so chose, kept the sense of being complete without the ugliness of total censorship.
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    Apr 8 2011: Bernie, your "as a former soldier it was part and parcel to help give a voice to those who needed and provide a voice for those unable" reminds me of A Few Good People, starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson. I fully understand the power plays in the film as well as power plays in the other movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the power plays in our recent case of the "maverick" Ai Weiwei ( and

    By the way, I just finished translating "Ahn Trio: A modern take on piano, violin, cello" into Traditional Chinese and I guess the removed comments might contain some rude remarks on Angella Ahn´s statement concering the popularity of atonity or the twelve-tone technique in the classic music world in the mid of the 20th century. Well, a comment on that doesn´t need not to be rude. However, I am totally with you about censorship, because I know what it is like to suppress individual expressions. Ideas worth spreading can be thus suffocated and politics become ugly. That´s why people like Julian Assange, Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaobo and even Dalai Lama could have become so controversial. It´s not about right or wrong. It´s about power, like Goethe wrote in his Faust II, "Might is right." The ones in power can always argue for their (mis)deeds. We do believe that can make a difference, but the attitude of "take it or leave it" may severely hurt the credibility of an "authority." I don´t think would like to lose its credibility by any means.
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    Apr 7 2011: Censorship is a kind of power exercise. While we praise Julian Assange for his contribution to the society with his WikiLeaks, we argue that it is a matter of "take it or leave it" when it comes to a forum discussion.

    I would not mind that my employees call me a jackass or my students call me an idiot without any arguements. Opinions are free. People who deal with me will know wether I am a jackass or an idiot or not. Leaving such insulting comments there is perfectly all right for me, because people are not dumb at all. They know how to make their judgements concerning an issue.

    Censorship biases judgements of people. It leads to mistrust. Don't we believe that people can self-regulate their utterances of opinions? Don't we believe in democracy? Or shall we argue that the Chinese Communist regime has the right to do anything with Chinese people? Or shall we argue that a government has the right to withhold information to justify a war against a remote regime? Or shall we grant some employees of a company the right to censor opinions that may bias the public perception of the company, so that people start to mistrust the company?

    Harald, I don't think so. I believe, there are some better ways to let people follow netiquette/etiquette than a censorship. Isn't it possible to let those improper comments viewable by clicking on them and leave them unclciked, when people decide not to view such insults/offenses?

    It is always about the credibility of the authority that exercises such a power of censorship. So, it would be better to try some other reasonable and credible ways to keep a forum tidy than just removing some comments upon judgement of some ones who might not be authoriized through a due process by the ensemble of the people of a community, least those who exercise censorship lose their credibility/authority easily and soon, through some probable power misuses (of some "other" ones among them).

    I am with Bernie on this issue. We are able to self-regulate.
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    Mar 23 2011: I think that the posts that have been edited out have been for personal attacks rather than for the discussion of viewpoints. Believe me, having seen a couple that were removed- they deserved it.
    There are lots of places where people can sink to the lowest denominator but this doesn't have to be one of them and the reality is that there are people who appear to be unable to self regulate. You fought a war to ensure freedom of speech but you decided that force was necessary sometimes to preserve the rights of the many.
  • Mar 23 2011: Thank you all for your responses, the posts do indicate that they were removed by the admin and there appears to be an ongoing private conversation.

    I also understand the terms of service and realize this is not a public forum, but a private venue, however, I believe some French guy (Voltaire) got it right when he said "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Does the TOS help or hinder "ad populum"?
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      Mar 23 2011: You know Bernie, when one signs up for TED he/she automatically accepts the terms of use. Everybody is totally free to say, hey, I don't like the terms, hence I choose not to be a member of this community.
      Freedom of speech is important, but even to that are limits. If you are employed in a company, do you you think that you can exercise (with impunity) your right to free speech, calling your boss an jackass ?
      Or do you think you could call your teacher in school an idiot ?
      Belonging to any community requires that one sticks to a certain set of common rules, or etiquette. These rules can be written down as here in the terms of use, or they just can exist based on common sense (like turning off your mobile when you go to the movies).
      As to your last sentence, it is not about WHAT one says, but HOW it is said. Again, most people here are looking for an intelligent and civilized dialogue.

      Kevin: as to your comment. If a post was deleted because of verbal insults, then the poster is free to do some soul searching, clean up his post (not content, but language) and re-post it.
  • Mar 23 2011: Talking about comments in general, some sites have a "hidden due to inflammatory speech etc" with a button that will let you see it - if you want to. I find this preferable. most of the time when it's just straight out censored, I'm more curious about what the person said that garnered such a long list of comments on it. Voting policies turn into the "ad populum" rule where, on democratic principles, censorship can be upheld.

    Internet discussions also, oddly, have a tendency to get heated in a way only politicians do nowadays. For that reason, flagging and censorship is prevalent elsewhere (I'm thankful the conversation is normally very rational and calm here).

    In the end, I liked freedom of speech before all this technology. Back then you had truly free speech and you could say what you wanted when you wanted. However, if someone disagreed completely, they challenged you to a pistol's-duel to the death. The result was freedom of speech + the requirement to think twice before you speak.
  • Mar 23 2011: I guess that makes me ask, does that make it ok?
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      Mar 23 2011: If it is in violation of the terms of use than it's ok. Each community has rules. Why should that be different for TED ?
      That said, I don't know the content of the posts you are talking about, so I can't really say why they were removed.
      The most likely reason for removal is lack of civility, personal insults of other TED members or speakers and similar reasons. Spam is another likely candidate for removal.
      Feel free to check out the terms of use ( ) for further details.
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      Mar 23 2011: in imo, no. i do think tho if there was a voting system open, like 5 community votes and a admin or something vote would get a removal of a comment or question. thats me tho, if i wanted that so bad i could make it myself.

      but im very much against cencorship of any kind