I am still struggling with the truthfulness of the promoted concept that "everybody owns his own posts". How can that have any validity, if nobody can control the post's burial place, the public web archives ? To retain publicly archived posts irrevocably is not compatible with that statement.
Coments are nothing but your thoughts. They should be free and remain your own. Therefore I believe a public web forum has to offer the option to its users to delete his own posts.
Even if well educated writers, used to the art of debate, posting and trolling, may not need this option or do not want to allow it, I do believe that the general public, who is invited, lured and seduced to participate in the discussion, needs to have control over its thoughts and comments.
The web site's interest to demonstrate honesty and truth through retaining the spontaneous thought process of its commentators for unlimited times, is not enough of a reason to justify the denial of the user's editorial empowerment.
There is no other medium, which allows to reveal spontaneity of an individual with all its fallacies and vulnerabilities to a worldwide public and keep it irrevocably archived without consent of the poster.
The argument that the user *should know* what he is doing and is responsible for what he posts is pretty hypocritical. The famous request to get out of the kitchen, if one can't stand the heat, is only acceptable, if the person, asked to leave the kitchen, can take its own spoiled food and throw it into the trash can.
The discussion in a forum and the demonstration of truth is dependent on revealing spontaneous thoughts and emotional reactions with subsequent rebuttal and/or sarcastic ridicule.
One can not, on the one hand, want to trigger and support that spontaneity, and on the other hand punish the commentator in the very moment his own post starts hurting him and say: "Gotcha, idiot, you should know what you are saying. Now we will gladly keep your nonsense for everybody to read for the next ten years and you have to live with it". That is a power an archive provider and site maintainer should not have, IMHO.
So far the only reason why this isn't a legal issue yet, I think, is due to the fact that people still feel safe behind their anonymity. They believe to be untraceable, unidentifiable and hidden in the mass of archived content. Yet, I don't believe that's a reasonable assumption.
Even if a poster's anonymity and privacy were hundred percent secure, there is no protection for that individual poster's feeling of being compromised in his dignity and being denied the possibility of personal growth. The archives prove your ignorance for decades to come to anybody who wants to listen.
Though this may only nag and hurt a commentator personally and not hurt him outside of the realm of his own mind, it still is hurtful to his mental well-being. I do believe that worldwide readable and retrievable comments, which reveal these psychological motivations of a poster, can cause addiction or a negative attachment to the forum or mailing list site and trigger depression :
- the desire to search for truth -
- the desire to keep face when trapped publicly by having revealed personal motivations -
- the desire to correct above situation, but not being empowered to do so -
- the desire to present counterarguments, when one's fallacious logic is torn in pieces -
- the desire to give in to his demons and allow the audience to dwell in Schadenfreude -
- the desire to ridicule others merciless under the protection of your own anonymity -
- the desire to defend oneself when attacked, knowing you can't win -
One of the strongest modifiers of social behaviour is the feeling of shame about a publicly revealed weakness, mistake or intention a person wanted to keep to himself. In real life such a revelation is a local affair between a couple of people, remembered by few for a limited time. That's human and it's working to civilize human behaviour.
In the world of web archived forums and mailing lists it's a permanent, annoying reminder of an individual "emperor stripped off his clothes" and seed to abusive behaviour by the mob, who dwells on its feeling of "Schadenfreude" and happily tears the poster's thoughts and feelings in pieces years after they have occured. That, anonymous or not, is damaging for a long time to come to the original poster's mind. One should allow for the opportunity to correct this situation.