My Fellow Americans: There is no Free Speech on the Internet   Leave a comment

…Unless you own the domain that is.

This is something I feel the need to point out since some people really do believe because they are Americans using an American owned or based website the standard rules of ediquette and common sense don’t apply. This is a broad subject to talk about so what I will do here is hopefully break through the surface.

Let’s start with when you register to a site or message board for the first time. How many of you actually bother to read a website’s Terms of Use? Usually looks something like this:

Definitions:

User: A registered or unregistered person accessing a page on ZetaBoards.
Account: A set of data tied to a username created after a user has registered on a forum.
Content: Posts, messages, links, email, uploaded files, usernames, or any other user created data.
Service: A message board (forum) provided by ZetaBoards.

All references to “you” or “your” refer to the person who accepts these Terms of Use.

1 Accepting the Terms of Use:

By visiting or using any page on ZetaBoards, you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions at all times and to any changes made to these terms thereafter. Unauthorized users under the age of thirteen (13) will have their accounts deleted without notice upon discovery.

2 The Service:

ZetaBoards is provided as-is with no guarantees for fitness for a particular use, usability, or availability. You agree that ZetaBoards may add or change service limitations at any time, with or without notice.

3 Content:

Users are responsible for any Content transmitted to an ZetaBoards server. ZetaBoards does not guarantee the accuracy, legitimacy, quality, or integrity of any Content. ZetaBoards does not guarantee that Content will be protected from loss, deletion, removal, or damage. The Service is not intended to store vital or irreplaceable data.

3.1 Prohibited Content:

Users may not post, upload, link to, or email any Content that contains, promotes, gives instruction about, or provides prohibited Content. Prohibited Content includes any Content that breaks any local, state, county, national or international law. Prohibited Content also includes:

  1. Content that infringes upon any rights (including, but not limited to, copyrights and trademarks)
  2. Abusive, threatening, defamatory, racist, or obscene Content
  3. Viruses or any other harmful computer software
  4. False information or libel
  5. Spam, chain letters, or pyramid schemes
  6. Gambling or Illicit drugs
  7. Terrorism
  8. Hacking or cheating for internet/online games
  9. Warez, Roms, CD-Keys, Cracks, Passwords, or Serial Numbers
  10. Pornography, nudity, or sexual material of any kind
  11. Excessive profanity
  12. Content that is invasive of privacy or impersonation of any person/entity
  13. Hacking materials or information.

Repeat copyright infringers will have access to ZetaBoards terminated.

3.2 Limited Content:

  1. Prohibited Content may not be transmitted to an ZetaBoards server
  2. The format, quantity, and size of uploaded files and posts may be limited.

3.3 Content Screening:

ZetaBoards does not preview any Content transmitted but reserves the right to check any forum for prohibited content ZetaBoards has the right to access any forum and its related Content and delete, edit, or restrict access to any Content. You agree that ZetaBoards may disclose any Content to:

  1. Fulfill what is required by law or is needed to comply with legal processes
  2. To prove a violation of these terms
  3. To protect the rights (including copyrights), property, or personal safety of anyone

You understand and agree that any Content posted on ZetaBoards is the responsibility of the person who posted the Content and the forum creator. You agree that ZetaBoards is not responsible for and does not control or endorse Content posted to the Service or available through the Service. You agree that you will bear any and all risk of reliance on the accuracy, validity or legitimacy of Content viewed on ZetaBoards. ZetaBoards is not responsible for any problems that may occur from reading, distributing, acting on, or using Content posted on ZetaBoards.

3.4 Rights to Posted Content:

Any content uploaded or posted to ZetaBoards may be displayed on a forum by ZetaBoards. You grant ZetaBoards the right to display and store the Content you provide.

4 Prohibited Behavior:

  • Users may not interfere with ZetaBoards’ servers or software.
  • Users may not attempt to access any restricted area that they do not have access to: this includes private forums, password protected forums, accounts of ZetaBoards staff or other members, Control Panels, or any forum’s Admin CP.
  • Users may not post harmful or disruptive html/javascript.
  • Users may not reproduce, distribute, or publish Content posted by other users without the prior permission of the owner.
  • Excessive hotlinking by sites not located on an ZetaBoards server of images hosted by ZetaBoards is prohibited.
  • Users may not hotlink images from other websites without proper permission.
  • You may not abuse the report system by sending in false reports or flooding the system with duplicate reports.
  • You may not abuse the support ticket system by flooding the system with tickets.

5 Enforcement of Terms of Use:

ZetaBoards may edit, delete, or restrict access to any Content/account/forum or services as enforcement of the Terms of Use.

6 Termination of the Service:

You agree that ZetaBoards may delete any forum owned by you and/or your account or content on any ZetaBoards forum. ZetaBoards may ban your email address, username, IP Address or remove/change any Content from any forum or from your account, without notice or compensation. Your account or forum may be deleted for any violation of the ZetaBoards Terms of Use or for any reason deemed necessary. ZetaBoards may not explain why your account/forum/Content was deleted or edited.

7 Disclaimer of Warranties:

You agree and understand that:

  1. Your use of any ZetaBoards service is at your own risk. ZetaBoards is provided as-is. ZetaBoards disclaims all warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, including, but not limited to, fitness for a particular purpose
  2. ZetaBoards makes no warranty that:Any Content obtained through the use of ZetaBoards is used solely at your own risk and only you will be responsible for any damage that results from obtaining, following, or using any Content.
    1. The Service will fit your needs and requirements
    2. The Service will be secure, error-free or uninterrupted
    3. The information acquired by using ZetaBoards will be accurate

8 Limitation of Liability:

You understand and agree that ZetaBoards will not be liable for any damages, direct or indirect, resulting from use and/or inability to use the Service.

9 Exclusions And Limitations:

Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion of certain warranties or liability for damages so some of Section eight (8) may not apply to you. However, you use ZetaBoards’ Service at your own risk.

10 Legal Disputes:

These Terms of Use and your account with ZetaBoards will be over-seen by the laws of The United States of America. You agree that these Terms of Use are under the jurisdiction of the State of Maryland. You agree any legal filings or lawsuits must be filed in the State of Maryland.

11 Modification of the Terms of Use:

ZetaBoards reserves the right to change these terms at any time. All changes will be effective at the time they are posted. Your continued use of ZetaBoards will constitute your acceptance of any modifications made.

12 Enforcing the Terms of Use:

ZetaBoards’ failure to enforce any part of these Terms of Use will not be seen as a waiver of any term or condition for any user.

13 User Disputes:

You alone are responsible for your interactions with other users of the Service. ZetaBoards reserves the right but is not obligated to mediate or solve disputes between you and other users of the Service.

ZETABOARDS GIVES NO WARRANTY, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, FOR THE SERVICES PROVIDED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY AND WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR USE.

You agree to indemnify and hold ZetaBoards and its subsidiaries, affiliates, volunteers, and employees harmless from any demand made by anyone due to the Content you post to the Service, your use of the Service, or your violation of any law or these Terms of Use. Any claim arising out of or related to use of the Service or the Terms of Use must be filed within one (1) year after the cause arose or be forever barred.

These terms were last modified on January 25th, 2010.

…Alot of jargon, yes?

You DO know this is a contract, right? A binding one, too. Basically when you click “I AGREE” you’re agreeing to give up certain aspects of free speech. Note the parts I underlined in particular. Even though I’m the one who created the forum I am held to the same standard as everyone else. While yeah Zetaboards and its parent company Invisionfree give Admins ALOT of freedom in terms of the types of content they can get away with, we have non-negotiables of our own we agreed to when we made our boards.

You might be annoyed with some websites that don’t post user-submitted content right away but there are reasons for that. In most cases it’s to ensure the content doesn’t violate the site’s terms of use. If the human moderator reviewing the content finds a violation it will never see the light of day.

The trend of social media is giving users the ability to decide what they want to be exposed to. What most people don’t realize is this works both ways. While Facebook, Xanga, MySpace, WordPress and Live Journal (and other sites) work hard to keep hate and terrorist groups and like-minded people off their sites some do slip through their filters.  Almost 24 hours ago I saw a message I considered offensive to Jews and Christians posted on my Facebook Timeline. I not only deleted the message but I blocked and de-friended the person who posted it. In this way I do not violate his right to post things people on his friends list might agree with while not exposing myself to information I deem harmful.

So don’t go posting online thinking it’s the Wild Wild West of 20 years ago. Times have changed.

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