Fighting the Irish

Does free speech suffer in the aftermath of terrorism?

Anne Smith, a spokesperson for the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party, acknowledges that there are free-speech considerations involved but believes Web sites should at least be monitored. "If they are promoting terrorism, then perhaps the best thing is to have the sites removed," she said. "With the current climate in this country, there is a great feeling against terrorism, and these people [IRWAC], if they say they are just reporting it, are walking a very fine line."

The termination of Web sites by hosts, for political content as opposed to hate speech, is rare but not unheard of. Last July, the Institute for Global Communications (IGC), an Internet service provider, suspended The Basque People's Journal site. According to its critics, sections of the site supported the armed separatist group ETA. Less than a week prior to the suspension, the ETA had assassinated Spanish politician Miguel Angel Blanco. IGC, in its defense, claimed that a flood of e-mail complaints disrupted service to the point that it was forced to remove the site.

Just last week,Lycos, an Internet search engine and Web "portal," backed out of a recently signed content agreement with EnviroLink, anetwork of nonprofits, after Off-road.com, an online motor sports magazine, criticized Lycos for entering into a contract with a "radical environmental Web haven." This, says Barry Steinhardt of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties on the Internet, seems to be the trend as the Internet moves more into commercialization. "These [commercial] elements are afraid of being controversial, and as these aspects penetrate the Web, we can expect it [the Web] will be less controversial."

GeoCities has come under scrutiny recently from both its customers and the federal government. Earlier this month, GeoCities was accused by the Federal Trade Commission of lying to customers about the disclosure of information obtained during registration. In an agreement with the FTC, GeoCities, although it did not admit wrongdoing, posted a new privacy statement. The company is also currently battling with members over the introduction of a GeoCities "watermark," which allows "GeoCitizens" to jump to other Geo-Cities sites. Members have complained that the watermark not only obstructs links, but slows the loading of pages. When one member turned the front page of his site black in protest, GeoCities stopped featuring his page.

As for O'Lapain, he's looking for another server. One, he says, that "doesn't care about bad publicity."


Signal and Noise

Bulk E-Management: Since its creation, Time Inc. New Media has been in the business of churn: money, employees, and talent. Dan Okrent, the lead executive, is trying to stop that, but he's got to figure out how e-mail works first. Last week, at the departure of four employees, an e-mail notice went out to all about a beer, wine, and pizza send-off. Okrent made the classic "reply to all" error, and sent this message back to all staff: "We wande [sic] to stop having all-comers' goodbyes, for morale reasons. Pls. make this the last one." —Austin Bunn

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