Presidential Campaigns, Web 2.0, and Online Censorship

The use of online social networks like YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace has accelerated the pace of the 2008 presidential campaign. The Politico‘s Ben Smith warns that this comes at a price: the ability of network owners and others to censor political speech.

He notes controversies over the removal of Michelle Malkin videos, the John McCain “bomb Iran” video, and the . More problematic, though, is the ability of a “handful” of anonymous users to “flag” the content or for interested participants to “force material temporarily off the Internet with questionable copyright complaints.”

Such cases are rare and, one imagines, guidelines will emerge to make the process smoother and more transparent. Furthermore, as Smith notes, “The vast network of the Internet may, however, provide a safeguard against any one large site trying to censor political speech. A video posted on a small site might not access the giant communities of YouTube or MySpace, but political bloggers and campaigns could easily direct the members of their own communities to a video posted anywhere.”

via Joshua Levy

Correction: The original referred to Obama’s Facebook site, about which no controversy exists so far as I know.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Barack Obama’s Facebook site

    I am assuming you are referring to the MySpace controversy…

  2. James Joyner says:

    Indeed. I actually wrote about it (link appended above, along with correction).

  3. A site where the community unfairly flags material all the time is Digg. It’s tough to get conservative stories up on the politics front page. Not only do bands of techno-Lefties bury the story but they bury any supportive comments. They want them to go down the memory hole and toss some extra dirt on them to make sure.

    This is where competition comes in. I’ve been ignoring their politics coverage. Digg’s good at finding tech stories. That’s about it. For politics Netscape is a little more supportive of conservatism. Or some enterprising person could build a Digg clone to cater to an audience that wants more ideological diversity.