At some point, you’re likely to see someone else complaining about their right to free speech when a member of network staff asks them to quit talking about something. You may even see someone protesting about a channel’s moderators violating their right to free speech. What these people do not understand is that there is no right to free speech on a private network, like GeekShed IRC.
Why can’t I say whatever I want on GeekShed?
We want GeekShed to be a fun, family-friendly place where everyone feels safe and welcome. To help provide that environment, the staff of GeekShed believe that certain topics and ways of talking are not acceptable. The Terms of Service, linked in the footer on every page, explains that you are not allowed to use hate speech, harass anyone else on GeekShed, create a hostile environment for minors, or spam. If you say anything that violates these rules, you will be removed from the network. Read the Terms of Service for full details on the restrictions on your discussion.
Why can the network staff make rules about what people can talk about?
GeekShed is a private network. In such a private place, the right to free speech does not apply. A person’s right to free speech is only guaranteed in public spaces and from restrictions by the government.
First, recognize that GeekShed is not governed by the U.S. Constitution. Instead, GeekShed complies with the laws of the United Kingdom since the GeekShed IRC network is owned by GeekShed Ltd., a company registered in the United Kingdom. Personal rights in the United Kingdom are outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In relationship to discussion on GeekShed, here’s the important passage:
Article 11. Freedom of expression and information
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights only guarantees freedom of expression “without interference by public authority.” Your freedom of expression and information applies only to freedom from government censorship. Private authorities, like a private company and IRC network, are free to set whatever guidelines for speech and expression that they wish.
What about discussion in my channel?
The Terms of Service apply in your channel, but you can make additional rules for discussion if you want. Some channels on GeekShed have rules against discussing topics like politics, religion, or torrenting. Additionally, some channels do not allow “bad words”—rude or explicit language. As the owner of a channel, you are free to make and enforce such rules.