A website, RateMyCop, was taken off the internet after the site received criticism from police organizations. The site, whose stated purpose was to allow the public (including the police) to post information and opinions on individual police officers, was taken down by their ISP GoDaddy, and and has remained unavailable since (more than 1 week so far). The site apparently used only public information, and violated no laws. The main objection by the police is that posting their names would “put law enforcement in danger.” Given their names are already public information, I have no idea how it would put them in further danger. I think these police organizations are making incorrect assumptions, and the website would actually be beneficial to the police officers.
The police would be able to post direct responses to any potential criticism on the site, which is more difficult when that speech is not open or organized. Many people in America believe the police do not protect and serve them; that they protect and serve the very elite and rich and view all others as dangerous potential criminals. If this assumption is not true, the police would be able to use this site to smooth over bad feelings, making them in fact safer. If it is true, they can work with the public to help move the discussion forward, making the police safer. Either way benefits society greatly. With America having over 1% of adults in prison, the relationship between the police and the people needs all the help it can get.
The police organizations are assuming the feedback will all be negative, but that can’t be the right assumption. The police work for the public, and some of the police do know it and try their best. I know someone who lost their husband, and was helped by an officer during that rough time. They would have shared that information to everybody if RateMyCop were available. I have known cops who were great people, pleasant and fun to hang out with at a barbecue. One personal ‘cop saved my life’ story is worth a lot more than 10 ‘jerk gave me a ticket’ story.
Of course, the police have the right to voice their concerns, accurately or not, about having their names posted on a website, and the website has the right to have this online forum. The concern I have is that the website was quickly and efficiently censored, in a country that claims ‘freedom’ on its brochures. This censorship was done in the typical American way, which is more subtle than force, but quite effective. The people who run the website lost their large audience.
RateMyCop’s original ISP quickly took the site offline without notice – initially claiming they didn’t like the content, then due to the high traffic. The site was even willing to pay the extra fees requested, and did prepay for another ISP – who nonetheless withdrew the option. The effect is that ISPs, as large corporate entities, can control and censor web content – by first raising the cost of exercising your freedom of speech online to a level that restricts it to only the rich and powerful; and second by simply refusing to host your site. This case shows the ISPs will enact this extreme censoring action in collusion with other ISPs, and for the benefit of the official U.S. government. The resulting self-censorship is gigantic. People will hesitate to speek freely about the government, police, and the corporations they work for, in fear of potential harassment. That is the complete opposite of America’s original way of life.
If the United States is to regain its reign as greatest and most free country in the world, we have to prevent large companies from this type of control. When large companies use their power to abuse people’s constitutional rights, it is the government’s ability and responsibility to fine, restrict, dissolve, or criminally punish the offending company. In the United States, corporations were for many years restricted to only temporary limited entities due to the fundamental belief that they would become too large and powerful, abusing American way of life. Shame on the ISPs for censoring their user, and shame on Congress for not taking appropriate actions to protect their constituents. If Congress wants to know why they are so disliked (latest 19% approval rating) they need not look any further than their refusals to do their job upholding the constitution, just so a handful of large companies can make even more obscene short-term profits. Shame on congressional Republicans and Democrats alike.