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"The problem with the personalised Web is that you are only exposed to ideas that you share." This is a criticism I've heard of services such as Google. But there is also the problem of people who talk about freedom of speech and argue against censorship, but will delete comments which are willing to take opposing views.

A good example of this can be seen in the recent post from Roger Pearse entitled When libraries forget their mission ( and a followup on Suffolk libraries and political thuggery (

Ian Clark has responded in a post on A classic case of playing the victim (

These posts are worth reading.

For info, I posted the following comment:

Hi Roger
It's a pleasure to read a well-written and articulate blog.
It's also good to read posts from someone who cares about freedom of speech and censorship.
I noticed that the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Infoism blog</a> has responded to your comments. Will you be responding to the points which have been raised? I think freedom of speech is dependent on open debate and discussion.

Many thanks

This was deleted and I received the following reply:

Dear Brian,

Thank you for your kind note.

After some thought I have regretfully decided to remove your comment from my blog. You are very welcome to raise the issue on your own, of course, but the issue you raise is not a real one. Let me explain.

The reason that I removed it is that the claims about "free speech" are mendacious. I wrote a post about bad service at Suffolk Libraries; a group of thugs decided to beat me up, because of a political campaign which was unknown to me; I deleted their efforts; they're now trying to use "free speech" to 'get' me some other way.

There is no free speech issue here -- your blog and mine are private things, not official platforms, and anyone is at liberty to abuse us on their own blogs. I have no duty to post offensive material by others here, and nor do you on your own blog. A forum is another matter; an official website paid for by us all, another matter again.

The owner of infoism is just such a weasel. He started the usual game, and I banned him. He then, realising what I had done, tried to force me to engage with him using another email address; and then another one. Now he's trolling on his own blog. His purpose in all of this is harassment, to silence someone he perceives as a political foe. That is, he is himself trying to silence someone.

This sort of person is an enemy of free speech, because they engage in precisely the sort of tactics that will certainly bring policemen online. Just imagine if some young lad in Surrey, the son of a cabinet minister, was being given the treatment? Would it be long before his Dad started talking about the need to "regulate" the web? I doubt it. Already we have had a troll being sent to prison. He deserved it; but we've also had someone posting on Facebook sent to prison, for nothing worse than expressing his opinions. It's getting dark out there. Meanwhile we have gangs of cyber-thugs roughing up their foes, and yelling "free speech"? Please recognise these people as the enemies of us all.

I looked at your own blog which looked interesting, but rather too technical for me!

All the best,

Roger Pearse
Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, putting things online, freedom of speech, information access, and more
John Kirriemuir's profile photoPhil Wilson's profile photo
I've had a non-public chat with him - he refuses to comment on my blog, despite my assurance that I will not delete or edit his comments, no matter what they contain. The freedom of speech stuff is a hangover from his experiences with wikipedia, where he was investigated for sockpuppeting - it's all up there to read, and you can make your own judgement.

This is uncannily similar, possibly depressingly similar, to my neighbour in the Outer Hebrides, who had a one-man campaign online against campervans. This was done through blogs with incredibly inconsistent comment use, a fake website, and a lot of editing and sockpuppeting on Wikipedia. For legal reasons and because I don't want to draw wholly innocent people into this, it was mostly resolved without the intervention of the police, but the person did take a stance of being a bullied victim. Despite masses of evidence, captured before it was deleted, pointing the exact opposite.

The upshot of this is (a) mental health issues being at play, and (b) there's a question over whether it is an effective use of limited advocate time to try and engage with one person.
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