PrisonTalk.com Censors MIM(Prisons)

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 44]
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PrisonTalk.com Censors MIM(Prisons)

Prison Talk Online censors political posts
For a few years MIM(Prisons) has been participating in the on-line forum Prison Talk (www.prisontalk.com). This website advertises itself as a "prison information and family support community." The forums on Prison Talk are primarily used by family members of prisoners, looking for information and support. From their home page description, Prison Talk (also known as PTO) explains:

"There is no worse feeling than that of being alone and helpless. This applies to the families of those who are incarcerated just as much as it does to those behind the walls. PTO's goal is to bridge the communication barrier that exists in and around the criminal 'justice' system today and bring everyone in the prisoner support community closer together to effect change in policy, prisoner rights, sentencing and so much more."

Occasionally MIM(Prisons) attempts to post information in PTO forums for the benefit of the PTO audience, who may not regularly visit our website for news from Amerikan prisons. For instance, during the statewide hunger strike in California's prisons, we provided several articles and updates on the situation that were appreciated by the California forum users (users can indicate appreciation of a post within the forums by “thanking” the author).

We try to be careful to follow the rules of the forums. For instance, a few years ago Prison Talk staff made some policy changes to bring the forums into compliance with copyright laws. Because the content on our website is not copyrighted, these laws don't apply to posts of content from prisoncensorship.info. But we understand that the Prison Talk staff have decided to apply their policies to all news articles posted on the site rather than research each individual source, and so we modified our participation to include only a small summary of an article and then a link to the full article for those who want to read it, as their policy requires.(1)

In spite of this practice, our posts over the past year were often deleted for "copyright violation" without any indication of how we were violating the policy. Perhaps in recognition that we are not violating the copyright policy, Prison Talk staff recently started making up new reasons to delete our posts. One reason given was "We cannot allow you to link to that site. It asks for donations, and as such is not allowed on PTO." This one is interesting since it took only about 5 minutes of looking through recent posts on PTO to find examples of uncensored posts linking to sites that request donations, such as this one which links to truth-out.org, a site that has a prominently-featured button requesting donations (far more aggressive than prisoncensorship.info). In fact the only sites that are unlikely to request donations are commercial sites, so if this is actually a PTO policy, they are effectively banning links to most non-profit and independent websites.

Another post was deleted with the reason given as "You have been told multiple times you CANNOT post as someone else." This is an odd reason since we have never concealed the identity of the persyn posting on PTO for MIM(Prisons). In fact a few years ago we were asked to take down the link to the MIM(Prisons) website in that persyn's PTO user profile. So on the one hand they want us to disguise who we work with, and on the other hand they accuse us of posting as someone else. And for the record, this was the first time PTO made this accusation, it was not "multiple times."

It seems that the PTO staff want to prevent MIM(Prisons) from participating in the forums, but they don't want to do so openly. They have pursued an ongoing practice of making it as difficult as possible for us to share information about the fight against the criminal injustice system being waged by United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). We have asked the PTO administrators to be honest with us and just tell us to stop participating if they want to kick us off. But they ignore this request and continue to pretend that the problem is our lack of compliance with policies. We do consistently see our posts censored within a few hours of posting, and so given the volume of posts in a day (there were 1885 new posts over one random 12-hour period this month) we assume at least one administrator has set a flag notifying themselves to review every single post we attempt to make.

It is unfortunate that the organizers of this forum serving a population that desperately needs access to information about battles being waged in the prison system are censoring participants in such an underhanded way. This is eerily similar to the games played by prison administrators who throw out prisoners' mail and pretend it just never arrived, or who deny material as "a threat to the security of the institution" when they just don't like the material. Unlike prison staff, PTO is legally allowed to remove material they find politically disagreeable from their website, but they probably know that openly doing so would lose them support from many of their users.

MIM(Prisons) is honest about our selective publication of articles and information in both Under Lock & Key and on our website. We are clear about our political line and the goals of our work. Liberal organizations like PTO, who pretend to be open to all views but in fact secretly promote their own agenda, are harming the fight against injustice.


Notes:
1. The policy reads: "To stay within 'fair use' copyright you are allowed a brief summary and a link back to the site which the article is located...You are also not allowed to edit the summary or paragraph that you are using that came from the copyright holder." Further, the PTO Admin who authored the policy wrote: "The moderators have been instructed from this point forward to edit any copyrighted news article that do not fit the 'fair use' criteria and contact the members who post them." While none of the material posted from MIM(Prisons) violates any copyright laws, we have also complied fully with this policy as requested by Prison Talk staff. In spite of this, our posts are now consistently deleted and frequently the reason given is just that we need to read the copyright policy. There are plenty of other posts that quote news articles that are not censored. For instance, here's a post that quotes an Associated Press story. And we've never been given an explanation for how we are violating the copyright policy.

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