[MUD-Dev] Free Speech

Schubert Schubert
Tue May 23 13:44:46 CEST 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jeff Freeman [mailto:SkeptAck at antisocial.com]

> Besides which, I kinda like the guy, he's only trying to 
> help.  I'd like to
> put his mind at ease that we aren't actually going to be 
> thrown in the pokey
> for telling people not to have sex in public, or swap drug 
> prices even.
> He's legitimately concerned about that.  Also thinks we 
> should tag all the
> minors as being "Under 18" in order to limit our liability, 
> or something (I
> haven't paid real close attention to that argument at all, 
> just on account
> of it being impossible to do, and so a moot point as to 
> whether we should do
> it or not).

So it's hard to say one thing or another is definitely
true about InterNet law because it's in flux right now.
Different decisions going in many different directions
have been handed out all over the states, and that 
ignores the laws and social standards of other countries.
In general, though, I know of no court that has claimed
that you must allow disruptive elements to speak in 
your -private- forum (which a MUD is).  This isn't really 
a surprise - you can, after all, be kicked out of a 
-public- park for being disruptive.

Most of the troublesome cases in these sorts of things
actually go the -other- way - i.e. the provider isn't 
doing enough to moderate.  In the mid-80s, someone 
successfully sued CompuServe because another CompuServe 
user libelled him on a chat board.  In another case, 
someone sued a chat service because their child was 
hit on by a dirty old man, who was a user of the service 
(unfortunately, I lost sight of this case, so I do 
not know how it was resolved).

Now, one might argue that that is kind of like sueing
the US mail because an unwanted Hustler appeared in 
your mailbox.  However, the argument made in both cases
(successfully in the first) was that, since CompuServe
and this chat service both claimed to be moderated, they
were liable for not successfully weeding out these 
troublesome elements.  The court further explained that
if the sites WEREN'T moderated (and more importantly, 
didn't claim to be moderated in any way), then there
would be no case.  I find that train of thought leading
to all sorts of wacky and occasionally horrific 

Fortunately, more recent decisions have begun to correct
this.  I say 'fortunately' because of the nasty implications
a precedent like the aforementioned case has for a game
like UO or EQ that ~200K users, and wants to remain
affordably priced, and yet still be a socially decent
community.  Or for that matter, for AOL, which boasts 
23 million people.  Can you imagine being held liable
any time one of your 23 million customers slips through
the cracks and cyberstalks another customer?  Hell, it's
hard enough to keep law and order on a MUD with a player
base of 500.


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