Cyber-Property: An Apology

Note: This is not an apology for my beliefs, but rather the justification of them and my reasons for the said beliefs.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Facebook, let me briefly explain how it works: everyone on facebook has a profile and a wall. A wall is where they post updates, links, etc…and by default, everyone else who is their “friend” can see and comment on anything on their wall.

Is that all settled? Okay…let me begin…

I posted a very innocent update to my wall, announcing that I’ve started a new book and the working title is “All that is Light is Eternal.” Someone commented on that with this question about how the sovereignty of God could be compatible with human will. I was a little puzzled because I had no idea (and still don’t) how this was related to my original post. Basically, before I took the time to answer this question, another friend commented with some atheistic responses. There was some dialogue between the two, and then this friend posted a 5 paragraph diatribe declaring that anyone who believes in a deity is stupid and irrational. I emailed this person and said something like this:
“You are a libertarian like me, and so we both respect private property. I would not put religious signs on your property and would respect your beliefs. Likewise, I would expect  you to keep atheistic signs off my yard. I see Facebook like our yards. I appreciate helpful and informative dialogue about different opinions, but I do not want my Facebook wall to be used to promote your atheistic beliefs. I ask that you delete that comment.”

The person replied and said they would delete it and only wanted to encourage discussion and did not appreciate my censoring of their beliefs.

So I deleted the comment myself and wrote a comment explaining my reasons.

I don’t write this post to rehash what happened, but wanted to explain what led up to my consideration of this issue.

My basic thinking goes like this:

1) The owner of private property has the right to decide what happens on that property.

2) A facebook wall is, in a sense, private property. (Yes, the owners of Facebook ultimately control it, but none of my friends do. For all intents and purposes, it is the same as private property. It is connected to a specific person who has the power to control it.)

Therefore, the owner of a facebook wall has the right to decide to allow or prevent certain subjects from being discussed.

I was not really bothered that I was accused of being a close-minded person who refuses to participate in dialogue or discussion over beliefs. I was bothered by the accusation that I am censoring other people.

Censoring is where a book, or other form is media, is officially reviewed and banned from the public knowledge. In other words, governments censor. A facebook user doesn’t censor. If I were actually censoring the discussion, I would be able to control the participants’ ability to continue the discussion anywhere else on the web. As it was, I even suggested that they move the debate to 1) their own wall, or 2) a Facebook note. Later I thought of other options including a Facebook group, or even a blog. I would have absolutely no control over what these people say or argue in these other places and frankly, I wouldn’t even care.

Jeff Tucker, over at Mises.org, recently compared Facebook to a dinner party where you invite your coworkers, friends, acquaintances, family members, and college roommates. Yes, as you can imagine, it can get awkward. As the host of the dinner party on my wall that is made up of all my “friends” I have the right to choose what subjects are discussed. If I refuse to let anyone else speak, but just keep spouting off on my own ideas, everyone will just ignore me and eventually unfriend me. It isn’t that hard to ignore someone who is disagreeing with you in an offensive way…as long as they aren’t doing it on your own wall.

And just to make it clear, I also practice my own advice. I rarely comment on posts on Facebook and if I do, it is to agree with a person or say something positive. I never use another person’s post as a reason to argue my own beliefs. Maybe I’m going a little bit overboard in the other direction, but I have a very limited time on Facebook every day, so I just try to avoid any controversial posts.

When this whole “drama” on my wall started, I was trying to decide what to do as a Christian and as a libertarian. As a Christian, I want to be polite and kind to everyone. As a libertarian, I have the right to decide what happens on my wall. I feel that I took appropriate action before actually deleting the comment and as the person did not respond in an understanding way, deletion was my only alternative unless I wanted this debate to rage for 50+ comments…all because I said my next book’s title is “That which is Light is Eternal.” I’m just saying this because I think it is an example of how conflicts can be resolved not only online but also in a free society.

Leave a Reply