We are often asked by advertisers to remove posts made by members in our discussion forum because the posts are objectionable to the advertiser. One might imagine that the decision to remove a post would be an easy one for a publisher that depends upon its advertisers for revenue. In point of fact that is not the case. Because the issue of censorship is such a complex one, we have created a policy which we believe is fair to both advertisers and members, who desire their words to be heard without interference by commercial interests.
In an area colored mostly in shades of gray, there are certain black and white rules we can apply:
In his works defending free speech, Ben Franklin wrote;
- All patently false or defamatory statements will be removed as soon as possible after we become aware of them.
- All other posts which are challenged by any party (commercial or not) will be examined to determine whether they make false or defamatory statements. If the posts do not contain such statements, those posts will be permitted, regardless of whether the objecting party believes they are damaging.
"The opinions people have are almost as various as their faces. The job of printers is to allow people to express these differing opinions. There would be very little printed if publishers produced only things that offended nobody. Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.
It is unreasonable to imagine that printers approve of everything they print. It is likewise unreasonable what some assert, that printers ought not to print anything but what they approve; since ... an end would thereby be put to free writing, and the world would afterwards have nothing to read but what happened to be the opinions of printers."
As a publisher of other peoples' opinions, we are quite similar to printers in Ben Franklin's day. We also believe that the underlying wisdom in his words provides a sound foundation for our policies. The very fact that we DO NOT interfere with the free expression of our members is what makes RCUniverse a desireable place to post such expressions. Without that activity, there would be nobody to which our vendors' advertisements could be directed.
The opportunity to present one's products to a large and interested audience comes with the risk that a member of that audience will be dissatisified with the product. Whether right or wrong, that person has a right (on RCU) to express their opinion and experiences, provided their account is truthful. Likewise, any party disagreeing with that person has the right to voice their opinions. In the end, we have found that the truth about good products is always "an overmatch" for the negative posts.
The policy we keep is by no means one-sided. To the contrary, it fosters many benefits for commercial advertisers. In our experience, a manufacturer who professionally and politely engages a dissatisfied customer can often turn that customer into a lifelong spokesperson for the company. Moreover, astute manufacturers and retailers often use feedback they find on RCUniverse as a barometer of their performance in the market. Before the Internet, vendors had to rely on letters and word of mouth to determine whether their products and services were meeting the mark. Today, the Internet provides a powerful and immediate source of valuable feedback for those willing to listen.
It is with these views in mind that RCUniverse maintains its policies toward potentially upsetting posts in the forum and looks forward to maintaining its status as the largest online RC community in the world.