WordPress — True Champions of Free Speech

WWP 2014I am a black, bisexual woman who moonlights as an erotic animator. I’m also a politically active atheist who is not prone to backing down when my freedom is being challenged.

Which it is — quite often.

Seeing the world from a multi-layered perspective as I do, I can tell you that there are those who claim to fight for freedom but merely give it lip service. Their true mantra shouldn’t be “Freedom for all” but “freedom for everyone who thinks, acts, looks like I do”.

As an atheist, I simply see no real value in the belief of gods or the practice of religions. That being the case, I would never stifle religion’s voice. I understand that in this diverse world of ours, it truly takes all kinds. Some of the most passionate and insightful humans have been individuals of faith. The flipside also exists, as there have been non believers who have brought humanity to great heights via science or technology.

I wouldn’t seek to upset this delicate balance, but to vehemently uphold it. You don’t have to agree with my point of view, in fact, I welcome spirited discourse on a great number of topics. Expressive by nature, I can bow towards a well argued position. All I ask in return is that I get to have a say in this exchange of ideas.

I’d also like to be afforded the opportunity to live free without someone else imposing their personal ideologies on me via the law. I should, for example, be able to go to any store I desire to on a Sunday. Why would anyone make a law that restricts my activity in this regard, when I don’t personally subscribe to any religious practices that would prohibit my ability to do so? Those who wish to abstain from visiting a store can happily do so without creating any laws.

In a world of supposed freedom fighters, there are those who would seek preferential treatment at the expense of others. Such self serving, cavalier attitudes has left me feeling as if no one truly understands what freedom entails. In a modern era, the concept has been demoted to a meaningless buzzword used to fuel political agendas and rob disenfranchised groups of rights.

WordPress would seek to challenge the status quo.

Yet, with this bitter perspective in mind, you could then understand my skepticism when I learned from a friend that WordPress was among one of a handful of companies that claimed to be the last bastion of true liberty. Companies’ like Google, who owns YouTube, claims to be anti censorship and yet they will allow the entire world to DCMA videos at the drop of a hat.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was created with saintly purpose. I mean, just because an intellectual property is housed online doesn’t mean it is not owned by the person who created it. As an artist, I can appreciate the “why” that made DCMA’s a necessity. It takes years for someone like me to create a full feature film. Effort is married with time and money as well, making it a costly labor of love. To that end, I don’t want someone to be able to cash in on my hard work with the click of mouse.

However, the types of piracy and copyright infringement that DCMA’s seek to protect creatives from are largely perpetrated offline. Most professional “pirates” create mock DVD’s that they sell on street corners. The few outlets that try to hawk illegal materials online are quickly ferreted out and shut down. One also has to bear in mind that in a technological age, intellectual property theft is sadly easier and bound to occur.

None of these scenarios are applicable to YouTube content creators. If some eight year old kid is singing to Justin Bieber’s “Baby” in a video, he is hardly infringing on the record label’s copyrights. If that were the case, any woman or man singing loudly to a CD in their car can be held in violation of copyright laws. Songs are digitally stamped anyway, and when used, can be linked to the video. I don’t know how many times I ran across a vid on YouTube only to find it contained a long lost song I hadn’t heard in years. In such instances, I’d quickly rush off to iTunes to purchase the track.

Besides, under the Fair Use Act, films, documentaries and videos can be dissected and utilized by Vloggers and common users for the purpose of education or critique. Yet YouTube is a veritable minefield of falsely filed DCMA’s which are often leveled because someone had an axe to grind. In such cases, the Vlogger or content creator is left at a loss with very little recourse. They often must wait around until the situation is reviewed, meanwhile, their hard work goes down the drain, unnoticed and unranked, all because someone didn’t like what they had to say.

In its current incarnation, DCMA filing systems place a lot of power in the hands of supposed copyright holders. Knowing humans all too well, I’d realized long ago that this kind of power would be abused.

Case in point.

I created an innocent video of two animated characters kissing. It was the kind of kiss one would see in a Disney film — they were clothed — in an office setting — standing face to face. I wanted to share this with my YouTube fan base, who had been following my erotica storyline at the time.

To my surprise, the video gained a lot of traction. In a matter of a couple of months, the video had nearly reached 300, 000 views. It was my most popular video to date and I was beyond ecstatic.

Incidentally, I was at war with a racial realist group at the time, who decided to lash out at me by falsely flagging my work. Without warning, my video was taken down. I frantically tried to learn what I could do in such a situation and found that my only recourse was to surf through hundreds of forums to get my simple question answered. By the time I finally learned I had an option to appeal, I was so dispirited that I simply deleted my video, certain they weren’t going to rule in my favor anyway. To my chagrin, a month later, they actually did.

As a filmmaker and activist, my work becomes my voice. The fact that anyone with a grudge or agenda can silence it is a frightening prospect. Adding insult to current injury are the new Content ID measures being put into place by YouTube. Under the provisions set forth Google/YouTube, content providers can penalize those who use their clips in video debates or in ways already protected by the Fair Use Act.

Yet Google claims to be all about protecting Freedom of Speech. Pffft!

With these facts in mind, I could only view WordPress’ claims as freedom fighter’s askance. That is, until I did some actual research.

I soon learned that WordPress was one of the few blogging platforms that allowed you to post and write erotic content unfettered.

Hummm….

Furthermore, I learned that their anti-censorship stance has caused them to be blocked by several repressive countries and regimes. WordPress developer Matt Mullenweg went on record to say this, “WordPress.com supports free speech and doesn’t shut people down for ‘uncomfortable thoughts and ideas, in fact, we’re blocked in several countries because of that.”

Double hummmm…

Most interesting however, was the fact that the company behind one of the most respected blogging platforms in the world, was willing to put their money where their mouths were. In November of 2013, Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, filed two separate lawsuits against individuals who tried to silence opposing voices via falsely filed DCMA’s.

They finally had me at “hello.”

The lawsuits addressed two situations where DCMA filings were utilized to infringe on the free speech of an opponent. In one case, Retraction Watch had been reportedly targeted by researcher Anil Potti, whom the group had been critical of. Co-Edited by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, the blog focuses on the retractions of scientific papers. Anil Potti has since came out to say that the DCMA wasn’t filed by him. The second case involved an interview conducted by student journalist Oliver Hotham. A UK Straight Pride group consented to the interview but when their own words came back to haunt them, they decided to file a false DCMA to get Hotham’s blog post removed.

Automattic’s official position on the matter was simple. They didn’t like the fact that people could easily silence their opposition in such an underhanded manner. Those who have such claims filed against them hardly have the means to defend themselves and must jump through a bevy of hoops and/or face potential prosecution for their efforts.

Having the money and inclination, Automattic decided to roll up its sleeves in defense of the little guy.

Brings a tear to the eye it does.

Indeed, the term gratitude just isn’t strong enough. I am a minority within a minority. If the bullies get their way, I can easily get shut out and shut down. Were it not for true champions of freedom like WordPress.com, I’d have no recourse but to sit on the sidelines and hope not to be squashed by the powerful elites who take their own freedoms for granted.

The internet gives folks like me a voice and a say. WordPress knows this, which is why they refuse to change their anti-censorship policies even when countries like China, Turkey and Russia boycott them.

Like Automattic, I would never silence those who disagree with me, no matter how loudly they scream. In fact, I never once falsely flagged or DCMA’s the racial realists who attacked me. I gave my counter opinion. I raised my voice against theirs. I said my piece.

Yet they and others like them would not only seek to silence me but would see me stripped of my rights based on some misguided interpretation of freedom.

Whatever flaws may exist within their system, WordPress truly understands what Freedom entails and will fight to keep the concept alive.

This is why I have to regard WordPress and its counterparts as true champions of freedom, now, if only everyone would follow their exemplary lead.

photo by Alicia R. Norman
by # WordPress — https://twitter.com/AliciaN24666551

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