On November 12, free speech advocate Declan McCullagh responded on the Netly News mailing list to a comment he received for an article he'd written about John Gilmore...

>I am curious to hear your thoughts about one thing. How is Gilmore's
>exercise of his private property rights different from AOL's enforcement
>of its TOS? Or do you support AOL's TOS? (I do.)

Well, John isn't an evil multinational corporation, for starters...

But seriously, there is no difference in principle, according to libertarian theory. What I would call power-based theory says that AOL is exercising more control and wields more influence than Gilmore, so they should be scrutinized more closely and perhaps even prevented from imposing overbroad TOS. (The ACLU seems to subscribe to that theory at times. About four years ago they cosponsored legislation with Rep. Hyde that would strike down speech codes at private universities.)

But even if we admit (and I do) that AOL has the *right* to be censorhappy wackos, we can still argue with their *exercise* of that right. We can advise our friends and family members to take their business elsewhere. That's using our own ability and right to speak to further social change.


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
---William Pitt, in the House of Commons, 1783

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