Chat Rooms: Freedom of Speech and Bans
Synopsis: Examines the concept of freedom of speech and banning users in chat rooms resulting in arguments and ISP disconnections.1
Author: Disabled World Contact: www.disabled-world.com
Published: 2009-02-02 Updated: 2020-02-08
Remember your ISP is required by law to keep a record of ALL your surfing habits, including email correspondence, for a period of several months.
If you are asked to stop discussing objectionable subject matter and you continue to discuss it. It is no longer chatting it is now harassing.
Online chat rooms can often turn from being fun enjoyable places to visit online, to places of spammers and scammers, obnoxious users, freedom of speech arguments, and ISP disconnections. In general there are four types of chat room users:
The Typical Chatter
These are users that are a pleasure to have in any chat room. These chatters makeup 99.9% of online chats. They are always polite and welcome new people to the room and make them feel comfortable and wanted.
These people generally end up being regular chatters on a site and are an asset to any website operating a chat room(s).
These chatters have nothing to fear as they abide by the terms of the chat room and website, and its not in their nature to be offensive.
The Obnoxious Chatter
Two pink chat balloons withe the words - I don't need the Internet - The Internet needs me.
In stark contrast to the above, this type of chat user is the obnoxious abusive kind.
On occasion you will come across a chatter who will be irate with you on something you said or who just thinks they are "SO good." Usually this will be the result of a disagreement on a particular subject or something that can be derogatory to other chatters.
These people will often pick someone out of the crowd and start insulting them for no apparent reason other than to make themselves look "cool" and that they supposedly know everything. They are your typical low self esteem online bully.
These chatters get their kicks by causing arguments and conflict in a chat room. When other chatters start ignoring them, which is the best thing to do, they become even more abusive wondering why no one wishes to chat with them. Should a chat moderator or monitor warn them about their chat behavior they usually begin waffling on about freedom of speech (see below) and their God given rights to say what they like. HELLO obnoxious person, What about the chat room operators right to keep THEIR chat room and other chat users free from trouble makers, foul language, and threats. Guess their narrow minds can't quite get around that fact...
Harassment comes in many shapes and forms, for the most part harassment in chat rooms is deemed as: "Any exchange in a room (public or private), at which ANY party involved did not consent to." If you are asked to stop discussing objectionable subject matter and you continue to discuss it. It is no longer chatting it is now harassing.
Illustration of male and female with chat balloons chatting.
It should be pointed out here that a website is the personal property of the website owner, or company.
Think of a visit to a website or chat room as you would think of visiting someone's home. You are a welcome guest as long as you abide by the house rules. Should you not behave at someone's home you are asked to leave, and in some cases asked not to return. A website is the same, you are welcome to use it as long as you follow the terms of using the website.
Your permitted use of a website, and its chat room(s), is governed by a websites terms of service. The terms of service are a binding LEGAL contract that outlines your use of the website, should you not agree with the terms of service you are requested to leave the website.
Should you continue to use the website or chat and go against the terms of the site, the website owner has the absolute right to ban you from their chat room, or ban you completely from using their website entirely. This is the same right you have to vanquish trouble making people you do not want from your own home or property.
What may Happen to a Persistent Obnoxious Chatter
The best defense is to ignore the offending chatter. Usually this will prompt them to continue ranting on how much of a weenie you are for not fighting back. But believe me it is an effective way of dealing with insulting people.
If an obnoxious user continues to post unwanted remarks in the chat room the website owner can phone, or email, the users ISP and have their Internet service disconnected for breach of their websites terms and breach of the ISP's "Terms of Service" and/or "Fair Use Policy".
For instance an ISP states in their Terms and Acceptable Use Policy:
"Customer may have access through our ISP to search engines, subscription web services, chat areas, bulletin boards, web pages, USENET, or other services that promulgate rules, guidelines or agreements to govern their use. Failure to adhere to any such rules, guidelines, or agreements shall be a violation of this AUP (acceptable use policy)." - ISP's also have the right to seek damages and any other available relief against a customer when applicable.
"Don't send messages, data, images and programs that are libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, threatening, abusive, or hateful."
The laws of Libel, Slander, and Defamation apply just as much online as in real life. If you persist in making libelous remarks by posting in chat rooms and/or forums in regards to a person or company - including a website name, you should also be certain you have a VERY good lawyer.
YOU alone are responsible for what you do, say, or post online - including abusive emails.
As people have discovered in the courts around the world recently, you alone are responsible for chat room posts, forum posts, blog comments, or anywhere your words are seen online.
Remember your ISP is required by law to keep a record of ALL your surfing habits, including email correspondence, for a period of several months. In addition nearly every chat room records a log of conversations including the post, ip address, and time stamp the post was made. These chat logs are sometimes requested by authorities investigating cyber crimes such as crimes against children and death threats.
Death threats are neither funny, acceptable, or legal
Threats against people, and in particular death threats, which are just as serious a crime online as offline, can and should, be reported to the police and if they originate from America the cyber crimes division of the FBI. Before calling or emailing be sure you have all your facts together including screenshots of the chat room with the text showing the threat or libelous remark, chat transcripts and/or witnesses who were present in the chat room at the time. Remember prank calls to the police or FBI are a serious crime.
"You may not use or attempt to use the ISP service to violate its security or the security of systems accessible through it."
If you attempt to bypass a chat room or websites security you are banned from via proxy or other means this is construed as hacking and violation may result in the termination or suspension of your Internet account. For instance most ISP's will have a clause similar to -
"Will not use our service to gain unauthorized access to, or otherwise violate the security of our or another party's server, website, network, personal computer, network access or control devices, software or data, or other system, or to attempt to do any of the foregoing. Nor attempt to attack, breach, circumvent or test the vulnerability of the user authentication or security of any host, network, server, personal computer, network access and control devices, software or data without express authorization of the owner of the system or network."
So if you think you can use a proxy server to bypass a chat ban you run the likely risk of losing your Internet service. Is it really worth it just because you are peeved at being banned? Remember should you attempt bypassing website and/or chat bans YOU are responsible for your own actions, you are the guilty party - no one else.
You may be tempted to think an ISP will not disconnect a paying customer.
An ISP "Acceptable Use Policy" is designed to protect an ISP's assets, the assets of its customers, and the Internet community, from irresponsible or illegal activities of their customers and users. To protect their name and to prevent claims of civil or criminal liability or other legal sanctions against an ISP they WILL disconnect your Internet service and in some cases seek damages. In fact should an ISP NOT act on a legitimate complaint and their service customer continues to perform illegal online activities the ISP can be in a world of trouble.
"In the event that ISP receives notice from a third party then ISP shall have the right, in its sole and exclusive option and discretion, without prior notification to Subscriber or to User(s), and without limiting any other rights or remedies ISP might have or incurring any obligation or liability to Subscriber or to User(s), to temporarily discontinue or permanently terminate, in whole or on part, furnishing of Services to Subscriber."
Would be a good time to review your ISP's Terms of Service AND Acceptable use policy. You should also be familiar with the Terms of Service of every website and/or chat room you visit as they are legal and binding contracts governing your use of them.
This is the trickster or scammer, usually they will attempt to get friendly with you and most will likely ask for your MSN or Yahoo messenger id fairly soon in the conversation, they realize that if a chat monitor is on the ball they will discover their ip doesn't match where they say they are from and be banned, hence their urgency in trying to gain your phone number or Yahoo id etc. (See article on scammers).
Monitors and chat moderators will do their best to ban and block these scammers as soon as possible, however there are always some who avoid early detection and may gain your confidence. Always be alert and NEVER send anyone any money or give out your personal details online.
This is a person, and lately quite often a bot, that spams messages in chat rooms advertising websites and soliciting sexually explicit material. Ignore them and let your chat owner or moderator handle it.
Don't click on their messages, unless you want a computer virus - or perhaps end up on some very offensive websites.
Freedom of Speech in Chat rooms and Forums
Two speech balloons. One on the left says - Live Chat.
Freedom of expression has never meant that a person could use language however she or he saw fit. Freedom of expression was defended on the grounds that rational discourse paid off immensely with respect to education, politics, and personal growth. However language as a tool can serve more than just this purpose. Language can be used in many ways, including as a tool to hurt others.
There is no such concept as absolute freedom of speech.
Life would be quite unlivable if everyone were to be encouraged or for that matter permitted to speak their mind without second thought for the consequences. Absolute freedom of speech would constitute an infringement on freedom to live. There appears to be a fairly common mis-perception that freedom equals license; that being free to do something means you possess an irrevocable license to do it. What seems to be lacking is an understanding that our "rights" also confer an irrevocable responsibility to exercise our freedoms intelligently and responsibly.
IN FACT the first amendment of the US Constitution says:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
This amendment places a limit on the U.S CONGRESS, and by association the U.S. government. There is absolutely NOTHING in there which places a limitation on a person or company to regulate speech in their chat room or forum they provide. Therefore if a website owner, presuming it isn't the U.S. government, wants to restrict speech on their sites there is nothing to prohibit them from doing so. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. constitution comes to a screaming halt at their border, and contrary to popular American belief, there is a whole world beyond their border that is certainly NOT governed by the U.S.
Laughably it seems as though most people approve of free speech, but only when they approve of the content of that speech. As soon as the speech turns to political views they dislike or sexual material that offends them, the principle of freedom of speech quickly disappears!
Chat Room Terms
Moderated Guest Speaker Chat:
When a chat room is placed in moderated mode a user is designated as an event Guest Speaker by the Room Administrator. Text submitted by a user is first forwarded to a Moderator for review prior to being answered by a Speaker. Once a screened question is received by a Speaker, the Speaker has the choice of also editing the question prior to answering it, and submitting it to the entire chat room. A user will see their submitted question in their chat window, and receive a confirmation that their question has been submitted.
Room Monitor or Moderator:
A user who has access to the administrative controls of the chat room and have the ability to ban or expel unwanted or obnoxious users from the chat room, to change the room greeting, invoke the profanity filter, and a variety of other important functions.
If you do come across an offensive user, and the chat room has an ignore button, just click on the username and the checkbox 'Ignore User' - then all messages from that users simply will not appear on your screen. If all chat users ignore the person they will soon be left talking to themselves.
Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Chat Shortcuts
Shortcut list of some of the common acronyms and abbreviations used in chat rooms, SMS messages on cell phones, and instant messengers such as Yahoo and MSN. Handy for people with disabilities, slower typers, and teenagers - See our Text Shortcuts for Chat rooms Messenger Programs and SMS Texting list.
Related Chat Rooms Documents
Full List of Chat Rooms Publications Full List of Disabled World News Updates
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Full List of Disabled World News Updates
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