By "arbitrary censorship," I mean censorship of a comment or commenter merely because the blogger disagrees with the opinions and/or arguments of that comment or commenter.
Of course, there are many existing organizations that are dedicated to opposing censorship in general and Internet censorship in particular. However, I suppose that arbitrary censorship of blog comments and commenters is not a priority or even a concern to most or many of these organizations. The reason for that is that blogs are relatively new and are mainly regarded as just personal or private websites and therefore it is widely felt that bloggers should be completely free to censor as they wish and should not even be discouraged from practicing arbitrary censorship. However, the status of blogs is rapidly changing:
(1) Some blogs have become major public forums, with thousands of visits and hundreds of comments per day and sometimes several bloggers.
(2) Some blogs are being quoted, cited, and listed for some very important and very serious purposes. For example, Panda's Thumb is listed in a scholarly scientific database and I have seen two instances where blogs have been cited by law journal papers, here and here. Blogs are now even being cited in court opinions. Blogs where there is arbitrary censorship are not reliable sources because the bloggers on those blogs have shown an intention to present just one side of controversial issues. Also, it is ironical that highly persuasive opposing comments are among the kinds of comments most likely to be censored. It is either very naive or very dishonest to pretend that arbitrary censorship on blogs does not exist.
(3) Bloggers are under assault by the government and in the courts: (a) bloggers are being sued because of comments left on their blogs by others, (b) bloggers are being subpoenaed for information about confidential sources, etc..
IMO this issue of arbitrary censorship on blogs needs to be squarely faced right now, rather than when some crucial citation of a blog is discredited when it is discovered that the blogger(s) on that blog practiced arbitrary censorship.
Finally, it just makes good sense for bloggers to have policies against arbitrary censorship:
(1) Arbitrary censorship discourages people from submitting comments to a blog and even visiting a blog.
(2) Commenters often spend a lot of time writing comments and/or doing research for them and arbitrarily censoring all that work is extremely discourteous.
(3) Arbitrary censorship undermines one of the great potential advances of the Internet: a potential quantum leap in our ability to disseminate and discuss ideas.
(4) Hearing and debating opposing arguments on an issue -- as opposed to just hiding one's head in the sand -- greatly enhance one's ability to debate that issue.
(5) Arbitrary censorship is just plain unscholarly and anti-intellectual.
The Internet culture needs to be changed so that arbitrary censorship on blogs is widely frowned upon.
My main blog, "I'm from Missouri," has two collections of articles about Internet censorship -- here and here.
The freedom of expression that you save may be your own. If you wait until you yourself are a victim of commenter censorship on a blog, it will be too late to do anything about it. Actually, I think that most people who do a lot of commenting on blogs have been victims of arbitrary censorship at one time or another.
General rules, principles and recommendations for members of this organization
(1) As of now, there is no formal registration of members. Following the rules is entirely based on an honor system. I will try to list active members.
(2) Allowed censorship --
Avoid arbitrary censorship, i.e., never delete or not post a comment merely because you disagree with the opinions or arguments in the comment. Censorship is of course OK for things like repeated obscenities, threats, invasions of privacy, unintelligible garbage, etc.. Give commenters the opportunity to re-submit comments with offensive material removed.
(3) IP addresses and other confidential information about commenters:
(a) Never ever use IP address blocking of commenters. For one thing, IP addresses of ISP proxies are shared by many people.
(b) Treat commenters' IP addresses and other information about commenters (e.g., email addresses) as confidential -- do not post this information on the Internet or otherwise share this information with anyone, and do not save this information if you can avoid it. Discourage blog services from giving bloggers access to confidential information about commenters. Leaking confidential information about commenters is illegal or contrary to official policy in European countries.
(4) Comment "moderation": In comment moderation, comments are not posted immediately but are held up pending approval by the blogger. The use of comment moderation is strongly discouraged, even when there is no arbitrary censorship. Comments are sometimes held up for days, confusing commenters and greatly slowing down the speed of dialogue. Comment moderation in combination with arbitrary censorship is especially bad because commenters are often left up in the air wondering whether their comments are going to be posted or not.
(5) You should not practice arbitrary censorship in any case, but you should not automatically censor the comments of particular commenters because of their past comments -- each new comment should be evaluated on its own merits.
(6) Discourage abuse of your no-censorship policy. Discourage comments that do not present arguments and/or facts related to the issues but just contain insults, ad hominem attacks, just say that someone is "wrong" without saying why, etc.. You could post -- as I did -- a statement saying that your non-response to a comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.
(7) Whenever possible, promote the principle of no arbitrary censorship by bloggers. Mention this association when appropriate and encourage other bloggers to join this association. Promote laws, policies and attitudes opposing arbitrary censorship. Discourage the quotation, citation, and listing of blogs that practice arbitrary censorship, particularly where such a quotation, citation, or listing is for a purpose that is formal, official, scholarly, or otherwise very important or serious, e.g., (1) listing in scholarly databases, (2) citation in scholarly journals, and (3) citation in court briefs and opinions. If you feel that you must quote a blog that practices arbitrary censorship, try to avoid citing that blog as your source. Give support to groups that oppose Internet censorship in general.
(8)Blogs -- particularly blogs that are cited for particularly important purposes -- should be encouraged to prominently post pledges that they do not practice arbitrary censorship.
(9) Blog services' support for this new organization is especially encouraged.
Larry Fafarman, Founder and President
Association of Non-Censoring Bloggers
There is no official logo for this association. I used the "Paint" program to create the simple logo shown in this blog's sidebar. I have reproduced the logo below. Depending on your blog software, you may be able to directly copy the logo below into your own pictures file and then into your blog's sidebar (the logo cannot be copied from the sidebar) -- however, I tried to do that from the logo image below and was not able to do it (I tried both copying the picture into my computer's picture file and copying the picture directly from its URL link). If you want to use the "Paint" program to create your own logo, this program may be found in Microsoft Windows by clicking on the "start" icon in the lower left corner, then clicking on "All programs" and then clicking on "Accessories." Of course, the logo image should be copied or later converted into a format that is compatible with your blog software -- jpg or jpeg files are compatible with Blogger.com software.
If you use Blogger.com software (the software used by this blog), then your blog must be in the "layout" mode to easily paste a graphic logo into your sidebar. When you log onto www.blogger.com, there are two categories of users, "New Blogger" and "Old Blogger" ( I think that the "Old Blogger" category is being phased out). In the "New Blogger" category, there is a choice between the old "template" mode and the new "layout" mode. I decided to stay in the "template" mode on my own main blog "I'm from Missouri" (in order to keep my Site Meter and have a good format for link lists) and therefore I cannot easily paste a graphic logo into my sidebar on that blog.
If you use Microsoft Windows and your blogger.com blog is in the "layout" format for "New Bloggers," then go to the "layout" page, select a sidebar block that says "Add a picture element" (you will be able to change the top-to-bottom order of the blocks later by dragging and dropping them), then select "Add to blog" in the "picture" option. You might need to select the "shrink to fit" option -- I don't know. Choosing the "browse" option will enable you to select your picture file and browse the images in it. Placing your cursor over the logo image will show what kind of file it is -- jpg and jpeg files are compatible with blogger.com but I don't know what other kinds of files are compatible. Then select the logo image by clicking on it and then click on "Open." The image will then be automatically downloaded into your blog. You may then save the change and return to the layout page and then re-arrange the sidebar blocks by dragging and dropping if desired. I did not find it necessary to hit the "save" option on the layout page before exiting the page -- I think that the save option is there just to save intermediate versions to revert to if desired during an editing session on the layout page.
Caution -- you may find it difficult or impossible to copy the image below into your sidebar. You may find it easier to create your own logo by means of the "Paint" program or some other graphics program: