• Flattr FoI: 
Falkvinge &Co. on Infopolicy
BEFORE-FALKVINGE-IF-ANY FALKVINGE &CO. ON
INFOPOLICY
Falkvinge on Infopolicy - Home
»
"God Hates Signs" next to "God Hates Fags" protesters

“Free” Does Not Mean “Exempt From Criticism”

8

Freedom of Speech – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Freedom of Speech – Zacqary Adam Xeper

“What is everyone complaining about? This is a free service, and [large corporation] can do whatever they want with it!” That’s true. Also wrong. Please stop saying it.

There’s always outrage whenever a popular online service like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, or Whatevr makes some kind of unpopular change, or when unscrupulous business practices come to light. And in return, there’s always outrage at the outrage. “The service is free,” they say, “and it’s owned by a private company. Go use something else if you don’t like it.”

This is usually code for “I disagree with your complaint, and I get insecure and anxious when people have opinions that aren’t mine, because it reminds me of how alone I am in the universe. Therefore I am lashing out rather than attempting to explore my capacity for empathy.” It’s also a pretty weak argument.

On the one hand, yes: private companies can do whatever they want with their websites, and nobody can stop them. On the other hand, free speech allows people to be assholes, and say asshole things like, “This is a free service, and the parent company can do whatever they want with it,” and nobody can stop them. But we can sure try to stop them by criticizing the hell out of it.

This is how freedom works. It means nobody can kill you, imprison you, or fine you for doing whatever you want; not that nobody can yell at you. You are perfectly free to be an asshole. I am free to tell you you’re being an asshole. Then, you’re free to stop being an asshole. Or not. Or you could keep being an asshole. But if you did that, you’d be such an asshole.

That’s the crux of the issue. If you’re interested in exploring your capacity for empathy, here are a few reasons why it might be okay for people to complain about a free service.

“Go use something else if you don’t like it,” reminds me of, “If you don’t like ‘merica, you can get out!” Like, have you seen Canadian visa requirements? It’s not that easy. Switching away from a free service is a lot easier than emigration, but with the amount of lock-in and monopolization going on in the tech industry, it’s still often a challenge. Other services might not integrate with your OS or your other services the way that a badly-behaving market leader does.

Social networks make this even worse: if nobody else is using an alternative, then you’re effectively cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. In this day and age, Facebook, for example, has come to define the way billions of people communicate every day; it’s nearly impossible to switch away from. If Facebook were an open-air plaza in a city, the government would have reasonable cause to invoke eminent domain and seize it for the public. When something privately-owned grows big enough, and starts to affect enough people’s lives, it’s no longer okay for the private owner to do “whatever they want.” The public has become a stakeholder.

This is also true, by the way, for smaller niche networks besides Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Size doesn’t always matter relative to the whole world; impact on a community is what matters.

If you, a private individual or company, aren’t prepared to hear your users’ concerns and deal with them, then please don’t start an online service, and especially not a social network. Even if only 10% of people are upset about something, they still matter. “You can’t please everybody” isn’t an excuse when you’re running something as infinitely personalizable as a web service. You still can’t please everybody, but you can come pretty close if you care enough.

If those last four paragraphs don’t do anything for you, that’s fine. You’re not required to agree with anything. But please just stop trying to shut down or dismiss criticism of anything just because it’s “free,” and because people “don’t have to” see it or use it. If their complaints are ridiculous, go right ahead and point that out, but if you try to deny someone’s inalienable right to complain, you’re kind of being an asshole. So don’t do it anymore.

DISCLAIMER
Freedom of speech dictates that you are not in any way, shape, or form required to comply with the request not to be an asshole anymore. Just in case you’re one of those assholes who constantly needs to be reminded of that. Asshole.
You've read the whole article. Why not subscribe to the RSS flow using your favorite reader, or even have articles delivered by mail?

About The Author: Zacqary Adam Xeper

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

Liked This?

TRANSLATIONS AVAILABLE
This article is also available in other languages: Italian.

By participating in the discussion and posting here, you are placing your contribution in the public domain (CC0). If you are quoting somebody else, credit them.

Contributors take own responsibility for their comments.

8

  1. 1
    Jennifer

    Thank you. I hate what Google has done to the gmail interface, but when I looked around for an alternative (like, an NSA-proof alternative), well… :\

    • 1.1
      Autolykos

      There’s still mail.ru if you can parse the Russian interface and would rather have the FSB listen in (which might actually be an advantage, since you’re less likely to be V& by them, and probably couldn’t care less whether you can get visa for Russia…). Ironically, Google Translate is a good help with the interface.

      • 1.1.1
        Anonymous

        Mail.ru is problematic because of spam and many websites just block it outright for that. I’d say Yandex.Mail, but that again it’s not /really/ here.

    • 1.2
      Alex Heartnet

      I will suggest hushmail.com – although I am not convinced that they won’t hand over email records if asked by the NSA, they are most certainly not Google and has a clean, completely ad-free interface.

  2. 2
    TTime

    I read don’ts but miss the because’s.

    If you lack empathy, and doing an asshole thing would be benificial to you, why wouldn’t you do it?

    Corporations lack empathy.

    Watch the documentary The Corporation!

  3. 3
    Anonymous

    This applies to many a thing, free and not. If you’re not going to do something right, why would you do it at all?

    “Oh, the developers are doing this for free. If you don’t like it, don’t use the software.”
    “Oh, the media companies already offer it for purchase. if you don’t like it, don’t use the media.”

  4. 4
    Critical thinking skills

    “Social networks make this even worse: if nobody else is using an alternative, then you’re effectively cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. In this day and age, Facebook, for example, has come to define the way billions of people communicate every day; it’s nearly impossible to switch away from.”

    ^^^This is an absurd statement. Billions of people? Really? Cutting yourself off from the rest of the world? That’s not true, at all, if you believe it is then you might want to look into severing your web based memberships (facebook, etc.) and see how the majority of the world gets along without them. Pretty well , in fact better in many cases. In fact, facebook is rarely used for effective communication in my experience. Twitter even less so. Websites like facebook are not the best or most effective forms of communication, and millions are abandoning those sites everyday because of its myriad shortcomings. Mobile phones, land lines, voip like skype…. voice communication is still the default and preferred form of communication for the vast majority of us and always will be when it comes to stuff that matters. Texting is also better for communication than relying on social networking sites for real communication.

    So I still believe “if you don’t like it , don’t use it” is a perfectly valid solution. I don’t think it shows a lack of empathy or has any hidden meaning or is code for anything either. That really silly. Facebook etc are lifestyle choices, not services we rely on. Similarly, if you dont like clothes from wal-mart, then don’t buy them. Same thing. Facebook is not required to be a citizen of the US, or advance in a career or get a drivers license, etc…

    “If Facebook were an open-air plaza in a city, the government would have reasonable cause to invoke eminent domain and seize it for the public. When something privately-owned grows big enough, and starts to affect enough people’s lives, it’s no longer okay for the private owner to do “whatever they want.” The public has become a stakeholder.”

    ^^ You’re really reaching here. Get a grip, its a private corporation. If the government wants to start a US government run version of Facebook then they can. To suggest that they should seize it “for the people” is just beyond absurd. Facebook could go extinct tomorrow and within 24 hours the world would adapt and be fine. In 5 years, no one would even think about.

    Lastly, if you want an effective, self-regulated email service set one up. For the cost of a few lattes you can setup a private email server with your own domain name. Even a computer illiterate could setup a private email server over the phone with any web host for maybe $3 a month.

Add a Comment

+ 5 = 11  

On Facebook

Popular Articles

PyramidCapital
25

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Bitcoin concept
13

Cryptocurrency – Nozomi Hayase

Cryptocurrency – Nozomi Hayase

More in Freedom of Speech

Valve mechanism
95

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech

Dandelion seed
17

Freedom of Speech – Christian Engström

Freedom of Speech – Christian Engström

Gagged Person, CC-BY-SA, ashleyrosex at Flickr
16

Freedom of Speech – Andrew Lee

Freedom of Speech – Andrew Lee

Group of college students studying at campus
26

Freedom of Speech – Piotr Czerski

Freedom of Speech – Piotr Czerski

A poster of Joe Arpaio proud of being associated with the KKK. CC-BY-NC-ND by katerkate
6

Freedom of Speech – Andrew "K`Tetch" Norton

Freedom of Speech – Andrew "K`Tetch" Norton

Other Recent Headlines

Screenshot from Librep-2014-08-10-take1.mp4
9

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Librep July 12 frame
32

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Money cut into pieces - Photo by Flickr user Tax Credits
78

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

colorblindflag
22

United States – Zacqary Adam Xeper

United States – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Adobe the leech - original photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr
168

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

peter_sunde_0237
13

Swarm Economy – Lionel Dricot

Swarm Economy – Lionel Dricot

solarroad
16

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

European Parliament
70

Pirate Parties

Pirate Parties

About The Author

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

More On Infopolicy

NSA Seal Holding the Heartbleed Logo
40

Infrastructure – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Infrastructure – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Bitcoin concept by Antanacoins. CC-By-SA, Flickr.
42

Cryptocurrency – Charlie Shrem

Cryptocurrency – Charlie Shrem

Bottles of Snake Oil - Photo by Jagrap on Flickr
29

Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

facebook
12

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

523377_63619557
4

Infopolicy – Henrik Brändén

Infopolicy – Henrik Brändén

photo_10071_20090418-646x363
71

Copyright Monopoly – David Collier-Brown

Copyright Monopoly – David Collier-Brown

National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_Maryland_public_domain_image
154

Infopolicy – Christian Engström

Infopolicy – Christian Engström

Many different currencies - CC photo by epSos.de
45

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

le_tresor_rackham_le_rouge_1280x1024
11

Copyright Monopoly – Lionel Dricot

Copyright Monopoly – Lionel Dricot

Books before copyright
99

Copyright Monopoly – Johnny Olsson

Copyright Monopoly – Johnny Olsson

Collaborative whiteboard at OuiShare 2012, full of wonderful ideas for venture capitalists to ruin - photo by Natalie Ortiz
15

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Border Patrol In Montana
25

Activism – Travis McCrea

Activism – Travis McCrea

Spices - Marrakech 09 Souks
58

Swarm Economy

Swarm Economy

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 7.23.12 PM
33

Copyright Monopoly – Travis McCrea

Copyright Monopoly – Travis McCrea

This publication is protected under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Sweden. Any problem you have with this publication remains exclusively yours. Accountable publisher: Rick Falkvinge.
All text on this site is Public Domain / CC0 unless specifically noted and credited otherwise. Copy, remix, and inspire. (Troll policy.)
Log in | Original theme design by Gabfire themes (heavily modified)