I didn’t know the New York Times was an investor in WordPress.com. Leaned that from this recent NYT story.
“WordPress.com, one the internet’s biggest blogging platforms, is operated by a company called Automattic, which also runs a wide array of smaller sites and internet services. Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists have been able to remain on WordPress.com thanks, in part, to policies put in place to resist previous campaigns to get content removed from its service, particularly through the strategic use of copyright claims.”
“Posting conspiracy theories or untrue content is not banned from WordPress.com, and unfortunately this is one of those situations,” Automattic said in a statement. “It is a truly awful situation, and we are sympathetic to the Pozner family.”
I do know that I pay a couple of hundred bucks a year to Automattic to post here. I have the business package. And I do know that while they tout I can use custom themes on this site, those themes often don’t play well with Automattic’s fork of the WordPress content management system software. Yet, they work fine on my self-hosted site.
I can accept those limitations. For the most part, I can work around them. But I find it hard to accept, that a father who lost his son at Sandy Hook elementary would receive some automatic and boilerplate response to his request to remove “lies and slanders” concerning that tragic event.
“Automattic has repeatedly responded to Mr. Pozner with form letters saying “because we believe this to be fair use of the material, we will not be removing it at this time.” The letters explain that fair use could include “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” They also warn that the company could collect damages from people who “knowingly materially misrepresent” copyrights.
“The responses from their support people are very automated, very generic, very cold and there’s just no getting through to them,” Mr. Pozner said.
“They have taken this incorrect interpretation of freedom of speech to an extreme,” he added. “The only thing WordPress has taken out — and where I’ve been successful — is if someone posts personal information like my driver’s license or address.”
“Automattic said that the responses Mr. Pozner received were “a predefined statement” that is used in copyright situations. “We regret that it was used in this situation,” the company said. “We offer our apologies to the family for the response we gave to them.”
I’m for free speech. And for alternative views of happenings, history, and the hiccups inherent in being human. I know that sheer numbers of voices produce some vultures who get fat spreading fear by distorting facts, and dastardly dissemble to divide our shared sense of humanity. And above all I know, the subjective nature of what constitutes protected utterance.
But come on guys and gals. Social Media has become systemically problematic and suspect in how technology serves an instant and still infant electronic public square. No one wants you to play digital cop, but you better learn to cope with the bit and byte body count with more than simple boilerplate.
Here’s the NYT story in full.