• Directory of Internet terms
  • Censorship — Issues frequently arise online about censorship. When does a service provider or a mail discussion list host or a message base host have a right to delete material others have posted? When posts are clearly illegal, such as posting a copyrighted work of text or media without permission from the copyright holder, they must be deleted as soon as they are recognized. The host or provider may become liable if they don't take action. But what about the online blog or forum host who deletes a political post that he or she disagrees with? Is this censorship? Are there First Amendment rights to protect such posts? Deleting a disagreeable, but legal post is certainly a form of censorship. But it has nothing to do with First Amendment rights. The First Amendment applies to governments and their agents, not to individuals. The host who deletes material does so at his or her own risk. The risk is not a legal one, but whether such a deletion meets the needs of the community that the host represents. The online host may gain or lose membership from the community, if the community at large agrees or disagrees with the action. Censorship in such cases is more a moral and social issue than a legal one.