Does Your Right to Free Speech Extend to My Blog? Let’s Discuss.

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Okay, so Shannon and I have run into a little situation lately with our link-ups, and and now it’s turned into a full-on mess that’s made me start questioning some things. So I thought I’d write something here, both to address the situation and to get my fellow bloggers’ honest opinions about what it means to host a link-up on my blog. Do I give up some level of control by doing so? Do I have the right to decide what gets linked up?

First off, let me say that I have no desire to call someone out publically, so I’m not going to name names here. In fact, I would prefer to have handled everything privately, but the person has been commenting about it on my blog, her own blog, and in other bloggers’ comments sections, so I’ve realized that’s not going to happen.

It all started when someone linked up a post to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up last June that contained a rant about Pride month. To me, the post felt especially nasty in its tone (including comparisons between LGBTQA people and predators and a declaration that she didn’t f’ing care about others’ feelings).  Shannon and I talked it over and agreed we didn’t want this post linked to our blogs, so we deleted it from the link-up. When the blogger linked it up again, I wrote a brief email stating that, while I can’t tell anyone what to post on their own blog, we ask that posts that disparage the LGBTQA community not be added to the link-up. Posts like that would be deleted. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did first comment on the post itself because I couldn’t find contact info—but it was only up for ten minutes before Shannon remembered the link-up includes an email address. I immediately deleted the comment and emailed privately.)

The blogger replied and said she wanted to discuss further. There were a few more back-and-forths before I said it might be time to just agree to disagree and move on. I actually still have the email thread, and while I’m not planning on sharing it, I would feel confident in showing it to anyone to judge both my words and my tone. I never resorted to any sort of personal attack or infringed on her right to write whatever she wants on her blog; I only pointed out why I felt the post promoted hate toward the LGBTQA community and asked her not to link it to my blog. (Or Shannon’s—Shannon and I were in complete agreement throughout all this, even though I was the one emailing.)

She ended up deleting that part of her post completely, and Shannon and I agreed to just live and let live and allow her to link the post back up, since that seemed important to her. Honestly, I thought at that point it was done and over, and I put it out of my mind.

Fast forward almost a year.

A couple of weeks ago, I left a run-of-the-mill comment on a post linked up to the Discussion Challenge and was shocked when I got a hostile reply in my email—it was this same blogger, who had closed down her old blog and started a new one (and changed her pen name). And, apparently, she was still holding a grudge.

Then I happened upon a handful of posts from back in February that I’d apparently missed in the link-up—one of them was a post from her about cancel culture. In her reply to a comment, she specifically named me and told the commenter I had bullied and harassed her. (This was news to me!) She also implied that I’d sent people from Twitter to her blog and that the harassment had caused her to shut down her old blog and have to start a whole new one. Again, all news to me, since I had literally never talked about the situation at all publically except for one mention where I said I’d deleted a post from the link-up and said we wouldn’t leave posts like this. I never mentioned her name or her blog or even the specific contents of her post. But apparently, in her mind, I’d bullied and harassed her.

I talked to Shannon about it, and we decided to delete all her posts from the link-ups. Was this extreme? I suppose you could argue so. (She certainly has.) But the link-ups are our way of promoting other bloggers. This is the reason I created the giveaways with special entries for commenting on linked posts—my goal was always to encourage as much interaction as possible. And Shannon and I don’t think it’s reasonable for someone to expect us to promote their posts if they’re bad-mouthing me in their comments section (of a linked post, no less!).

After we removed her posts from the link-up, we noticed she deleted the post about cancel culture from her blog completely, along with her comment about me. Then she started an exchange of emails that honestly got more and more bizarre as they went on. I ended communication completely when she reminded me of a comment I’d “forgotten” I left on her blog. She claimed it had never been posted, but she’d “saved it.” The comment was so laughably made-up that I have one million percent confidence no one who’s ever interacted with me would believe I wrote it (both because it resorts to name-calling and because of the glaringly horrible grammar).

But she still just won’t let things go. She posted multiple comments on my blog saying I banned her from the link-up. (I deleted a few repeats and left one, to which I responded by saying it’s true and anyone could feel free to contact me privately if they had concerns). She also posted one saying I support censorship and don’t believe in free speech unless it aligns with my views. (Untrue. People have linked up things I disagree with. There are plenty of people with differing political and worldviews out there, and they have a right to their opinion. But I draw the line at a post that I feel promotes hate toward a particular group of people.)

And then yesterday, I saw that she’s posted comments on other at least two other blogger’s posts in the link-ups (two that I’ve seen—I’m guessing there are more), telling them that I banned her for no reason. Or because I claim she’s “actively bad mouthing [me] in everyone of [her] blog post.” She goes on to say you can check her blog and see it’s not true (which is convenient since she’s deleted things, but that’s beyond the point.) So, at that point, I knew I couldn’t just ignore the situation. And thus, this post was born.

But, in the end, I’m left with some real questions. I’ve started to think about what it means to host a link-up. Am I, by nature of inviting others to link, creating a public space on my private blog? And, if that’s true, how much control should I have over it? I mean, obviously, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with me deleting a post that’s outright spam (those annoying giveaway posts that end up in the Discussion Challenge link-up) or had weird adult content or something (never happened), but where is the line? And do Shannon and I have full freedom to set it?

Other people who host link-ups probably don’t read every post—if I were hosting one of those weekly link-ups that gets a ton of links (like the Sunday Post or Top Ten Tuesday) it would be impossible, and I’d probably have to accept that things might be posted that I would find harmful and I might never know. But I do try to read every post in my link-ups.

I feel like, if I’m directly linking to a post, I’m promoting it, at least in some small way. So, if there’s a post Shannon and I really don’t feel comfortable promoting, should we feel free to remove it? If someone is calling me out in their comments, should I still feel obligated to promote their posts by leaving them in the link-up? And if they delete the offending posts or comments from their blog, am I wrong for continuing to ban the person? Does the link-up “belong” to me and Shannon since it’s hosted on our blogs?

One moment, I think I know my own answers to these questions, but then I’ve also felt conflicted. Maybe by hosting a link-up, I’m automatically giving away control in some ways, and I have to just decide if I’m okay with that or if I want to stop hosting altogether. But, then that feels extreme, so… yeah, conflicted.

I honestly and sincerely want to know people’s opinions about this. Let me know in the comments what you think.

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