10 April, 2007

On Rules & Free Speech


The gentleman pictured above was Mario Savio. In 1964, he was one of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California -- a group that fought for the rights of people to say and do what they want and to prevent prior restraint on a person's writing and speech. One of the things he said was "To me, freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is. ... It is the thing that marks us as just below the angels."

I think you've probably guessed where I'm heading here -- I don't agree with some of the new rules on the UAE COMMUNITY BLOG, particularly those that appear to impose prior restraint on writing and speech.

Having said that I also have to acknowledge the fact that the administrators of this blog certainly have a right to establish whatever rules they want. Let's face it, regardless of whatever proprietary feelings we may have as members of the UAE COMMUNITY BLOG -- ultimately, it's the administrators right to... well, administer it, I guess.

My first reaction to all this was to say -- well, I'm no longer allowed to say what I said -- but obviously it was profane and had something to do with ditching this place and moving on. And then I thought, well wait a sec, here -- why can't there be two blogs: one that has a set of rules and one that doesn't?

Which is why I threw something together called UAE FREE SPEECH ZONE. It's a blog set up specifically for those folks who want to say what they will in an unfettered manner and perhaps have at each other as well. It should be made clear from the outset that this has nothing to do with anger or malice -- it is simply the establishment of an alternate place where contrarians can feel free to post material that may be considered too brusque or racy here.

So if you'd like to join the UAE FREE SPEECH ZONE, head over there and send me an email. I'll add you to what will hopefully become a rather cantankerous group of malcontents.

Until it gets blocked by TRA, of course...

17 comments:

Hot Lemon& Honey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
samuraisam said...

i,bobo: So what happens when someone posts a britney spears music video? or sits there and cross posts 20 times an hour to their own blog?
Are there any particular rules you disagree with? Perhaps you could do as I invited anyone to and make your complaints/suggestions via commenting or email.

B.D. said...

I agree with -sam. The rules for UAE comm are less an issue of not allowing one to express ideas freely and more about decorum and relevance. I also suggest you identify the rules you feel actually hinder free speech.

fake balushi said...

No one practices what they preach Not even priests!

secretdubai said...

It's not about restraint - if you read the very original post here, the community has always been intended to focus on blogging and UAE blogging.

The problem with endless irrelevant posts - and what triggered sam's guidelines was a member cutting and pasting FIVE full length articles from Emirates Today in succession (which is blatant copyright infringement, no matter what your thoughts on freedom of speech) is that they push more relevant and carefully crafted posts further down the page.

We also get plenty of members complaining about irrelevant posts, both in comments and via email, so this is not just some "nazi-mod" decision.

Anyway UAE Free Speech zone is a great idea, but do be aware of UAE laws and keep yourselves safe. While internet sites aren't defined in the UAE publications law, it is so nebulous that if anyone important was ever offended, they would do their best to prosecute any UAE residents posting there. Or at the very least get the site blocked, which of course would be the worst result for everyone.

Incidentally Bobo this post of yours here is EXACTLY the right kind of post for UAE comm: it is about the UAE, and about freedom of speech, and about blogging. Now how frustrating would it be if it got knocked off the front page in 24 hours by a dozen "funny" YouTube videos and cut-and-pastes of rubbish?

Balqis said...

I dnt think this has anything to do with freedom of speech
Those guidelines are just a good marketing tool : once you copy paste or repeat posts, the place just becomes boring
Freedom of speech dsnt mean you don't have a set of reasonable rules

samuraisam said...

secretdubai:"The problem with endless irrelevant posts - and what triggered sam's guidelines was a member cutting and pasting FIVE full length articles from Emirates Today in succession (which is blatant copyright infringement, no matter what your thoughts on freedom of speech) is that they push more relevant and carefully crafted posts further down the page."

I don't think it's fair to say this is the result of any single person; it's the result of quite a few people posting irrelevent stuff and then saying they should be able to post about anything they want. And it's also the result of the fact that there are no clear-cut rules most people know of, provided people actually read the guidelines, it will probably be a bit of a help.

i, Bobo said...

"So what happens when someone posts a britney spears music video?

I agree, that would be more appropriate on a "Britney is a big fat slut" blog. Look, it's the UAE COMMUNITY BLOG -- I understand that, and I agree with points one and two. What I don't agree with is the rather arbitrary decision making process here. And please, let's not try to come off as reasonable with the "Perhaps you could do as I invited anyone to and make your complaints/suggestions via commenting or email." Let's not feign polity here, this was done in the dark without consulting other "members." And the idea of not having those complaints/suggestions out in the light of day so everyone could comment and contribute to the new standard? A little too GWB, if you ask me.

It's like labeling something a "community" and then deciding to build a highway through it without properly notifying the tenants. And we all know that would never happen here in the UAE, right?

or sits there and cross posts 20 times an hour to their own blog?

Once again, you're talking about dealing with style and not substance. This is not about all of us getting together as a "community" and deciding we all want to use the same font -- I've seen posts on this blog shut down arbitrarily because of personality and political differences, not because of style points -- that's my concern.

Are there any particular rules you disagree with?

Sure. I think items four through seven are rather nebulous style guidelines -- they don't strike me as particularly fascist, but then again how do you determine what "is really interesting? Doesn't that seem even remotely problematic? I mean, different people view blogging as different forms of discourse: some bloggers report, some journal, some even see it as street theatre or performance art. How is any one person qualified to pass judgment on the aesthetic value of someone else's blogging?

I have to run to a meeting but later on I'll try to address to my largest concern with these guidelines -- items three and eight.

Peace Out.

Prometheus said...

Bobo, you might want to view a comment that spoke of slashing someone with a rusty razor. If this is the kind of illustrious membership we have, a gag order was no surprise. There was also a blatant self-promoting comment with no reference to the post.

No question about who decides what's aesthetic, but surely you would not condone violent, virulent comments.

Agreed that the rules could've been formulated with a touch of democracy.

samuraisam said...

i, bobo:
"I've seen posts on this blog shut down arbitrarily because of personality and political differences"
Any post in particular you're referring to?

Re: font/style
The font rule is there for a reason; accessibility. Having different fonts doesn't work because what may look good on your computer may look crap on someone else's.

"I'll try to address to my largest concern with these guidelines -- items three and eight."
Item number three is basically a reproduction of anything in the UAE's Cyber Crime Law(s)
And item eight I've already explained; it is to prevent arguments getting out of hand (as they have done several hundred times in the past)

then again how do you determine what "is really interesting?
I expect people to use some of their own judgement for that.

I think some of the guidelines/rules may have been worded a bit crudely; i'm working on fixing that at the moment.

B.D. said...

The democracy you seem to want iBobo is happening right now. Ssam laid out the rules but he also left it open for comment, and presumably ammendment. That's happening right now. I see no reason to strike out and start a new, more free or democratic voice for UAE bloggers. That's not to say it isn't good or right to start up any blog you choose. Of course, we all have this right. My point is that this blog is already well establihsed, it has a high visitor count and a lot of contributers and it is in my opinion largely free and open. I say, work with it, help to improve it if you think that's in order. All the moderators (whoever they are, btw) seem to be open to this.

i, Bobo said...

One thing we need to dispose of immediately is the notion that this new thing is some sort of splintering off (obviously, the new rules provided some motivation). The idea was to set up a place where people can get verbally feral if they so desired, could say whatever they wanted whenever they wanted -- and that's the real concern here: I don't want to be irresponsible and yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, but I do want to shout "F*CK THE POLICE" and "NO BLOOD FOR OIL" in the middle of Times Square.

And to be honest, I'm not even sure I want to shout it, I just want to know I have the right to shout it, to know that individual voices still matter. (For the record though -- I love the NYPD and think that not enough blood has been spilled for oil).


"Any post in particular you're referring to?"

November 24, 2006.


"The font rule is there for a reason"

Okay, I'm sorry but I can't help myself -- but is it actually possible to say the above sentence without giggling? Or is it just me? Because it makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Besides, I was actually making your point there -- I was saying I have no objection to a style guide, nor do I object to concerns about the fair use doctrine as it relates to copyright law (by the way -- I'm not sure that fair use has been established in the UAE yet. Can anyone answer that question?)


"Item number three is basically a reproduction of anything in the UAE's Cyber Crime Law(s)"

The cyber law is a bone thrown to the slowly dying off conservative elite. Forward motion these days is dictated by those who favor the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, most favored nation status, and our beloved tourist industry. The words "Human Rights Watch" and "Amnesty International," which scant years ago elicited a snicker now garner a grudging respect, even obsequiousness in statements to the world press. And to top it off, we still haven't heard of anyone being prosecuted for social misconduct under the cyber crimes law, a law I might add, the spirit of which is primarily about the protection of commerce.

We've all had this discussion before -- there are unmarried people having sex and (even worse) living together, drunks throwing up all over the beaches, people smoking dope and getting (shudder) COLLEGE EDUCATIONS -- and these are not expatriates, these are Arabs. Young Arabs. Some of them even locals. Dressing like Western trash, adopting vile Western values, and generally reinventing a once-proud civilization that has been socially stagnant since the sixteenth century. These kids are gonna make you proud, Sammy. They're gonna drag the rest of the region kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

But you can't hide if you want to be a part of it, to observe it, to document it. And maybe that's cultural imperialism. Maybe I don't give a shit because I've got a place to go back to that's as good, if not better than here.

Look, this could go on forever, I could go point for point with you. I just wanted to point out that this is actually a good thing, that there needs to be a place to test boundaries. And hopefully, the UAE FREE SPEECH ZONE (shameless plug) will serve that purpose.

samuraisam said...

"November 24, 2006."
Allow me to be clear about that particular post; the commenting was removed for legal reasons; I received reliable information that certain people were trying to track down certain people because of that post and I took the opportunity to remove it.

Perhaps I can re-write that just in case you haven't quite understood; it was more than likely some blogger-ass was going to be busted. Perhaps you can appreciate the gravity of that particular situation; look at what was happening to 7days at that time and what they did, they merely reproduced an article from WAM.

You seem to misunderstand the intention of the guidelines; this isn't about removing the opportunity for people to test boundaries; that is not my intention. It's simply to remove irrelevent posts from here and improve the quality of posts.
I did not like removing the commenting from the 7days post but it had to be done; I can't say I'll ever not-remove the commenting again, though It'd be a decision I wouldn't particularly want to make.

To be extra clear: for the last fucking time, removing the 7days comments had nothing to do with my personal political beliefs

"we still haven't heard of anyone being prosecuted for social misconduct under the cyber crimes law, a law I might add, the spirit of which is primarily about the protection of commerce."
Would you hear about them? and furthermore, do you really want to 'test' them if the consequences are heavy fines, prison time and deportation?
Did you actually read the laws? Many of them are there to protect the local religion and individuals privacy.

I still don't get what you're poking at; we've gone from talking about local laws to the WTO? Why don't we start talking about big macs while we're at it?
This is a blog about the UAE which is mainly read by people within the UAE and as such local laws apply to a certain extent. I really don't give a crap about the who/why/what/when/where of the rules and whatever reasons the government implemented them, but I can tell you one thing; I don't want to be in the satwa-G section of dubai prison playing drop the soap for a few years of my life.

You seem more intent on making a statement than anything else; your statement has been heard.

Fahad said...

Relevence is talked about a lot on this blog, i would like to know what kind of material you guys want us to post...same old pics of UAE and news from different newspapers? which is widely available everywhere you look around... arnt we tired of looking at pictures of the same UAE again and again or stories of workers and their problems...for god sake even newspapers have sections from around the world cause people in this community come from different backgrounds and for some people what happens back home matters and effects them here in UAE.... if they talk about it and share some information whats wrong with it.... shouldnt we be here to live in harmony with each other by educating each others culture, religion and thoughts..... how long can anyone talk about whats happening in UAE while ignoring where we come from?

first we have to find out What is a community? please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community ... to a better understanding of the word community itself and its meanings..... and when you say "forum to unite" that should mean to unite people regardless of their culture or religion...but how do you do it ? defintely not by restricting people who want to share their thougts.... People will only unite if they know each other enough to live in harmony....that can be only done if we educate ourselves about each other.......not impose our thoughts but only share our opinions

not everyone will agree on some posts or another ....some people dont like my posts and some dont like other peoples post but life goes on...we should accept that and respect each other if we are to live in the same community...

and about disrespecting laws of UAE, no one should be doing it..if someone does it thn admins have all the rights to delete or do whatever with thm....

in the end no matter if we voice our concerns or not ..i think admin has made up his mind about what to do with his/her blog...

kochumanavalan said...

What's all the fuss about?

I'll be glad to post comments in Bobo's new blog (for as long as it lasts). How about you, Fahad?

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

"To me, freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is. ... It is the thing that marks us as just below the angels."

Wow! this guy was arrogant. 1st he is assuming (opening with "to me") that anyone cares what HE thinks. I sure as hell dont. maybe a bunch of hippies back in the day did, I dont.

2, he is assuming that his belief hierarchy (just below the angels) is that of everyone else.

So basically (to the poster) you chose a really bad example.

secretdubai said...

Relevence is talked about a lot on this blog, i would like to know what kind of material you guys want us to post...same old pics of UAE and news from different newspapers? which is widely available everywhere you look around...

Well, originally this place was set up more to focus on blogging and blogging-related issues, but it has kind of evolved into a bit of an online watercooler, perhaps even a "people's newspaper". And I don't mind that at all, if people are generally happy with it.

I also like the fact that new and less well-known bloggers can post here and get noticed, because not everyone has high blog traffic. So someone might find something really funny or interesting, but if they posted it on their blog, no one might see. By posting here they get a bigger audience, people visit their blog, and if it is interesting enough, those people turn into regular visitors and their traffic goes up.

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