Are you practicing censorship? Yes. Just ask Caesar.

Interesting debate going on at one of our websites about how to handle advertising coming in from Google adsense with themes that are presented in misleading, stupid, sensational ways.     Often these ads are political and tend to be from the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing websites like NewsMax, where they routinely parody Obama.

Since we’ve had complaints about these ads (ie they offend some people and often annoy us), the question arises about what to do.     This question is complicated by the fact that it was a *prospective advertiser* who complained to us, so I’m a bit concerned that our incentives in this case are getting aligned with one point of view over another.    We don’t want political advertisers having a say in what their political opponents can or can’t  say at our site.

I think my partner has come to a good compromise position which is to shut off the images and use the text only ads.   He thinks this is NOT a form of censorship but I’d say it is – albeit an acceptable kind of censorship in cases like ours:

I also would say that if one narrows things to the censorship protections defined by free speech provisions of US Constitution the game changes since the supreme court generally argues that for legal purposes we are generally concerned with political censorship and not commercial speech or “hate” speech. Both of those are legally (and I think usually appropriately) censored.

Your definition of censorship is too narrow, a common frustration of mine.   This lets people argue – totally speciously – that THEY don’t ever censor but OTHER people do.

Virtually everybody believes in some censorship – in fact I would argue emphatically that “zero censorship” is a sociopathic condition   (e.g. child pornographers should be shot or imprisoned, people who routinely shout loud obscenities in public should generally be stifled).

So, is it censorship to limit the choices of people practicing free speech *in any way whatsoever* ?  Of course it is!
Why?   I direct you to the origins of the word “censor”.

Etymology: Latin, Roman magistrate, from censēre to give as one’s opinion, assess; perhaps akin to Sanskrit śaṁsati he praises
Date: 1526

1 : a person who supervises conduct and morals: as a : an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful
2 : one of two magistrates of early Rome acting as census takers, assessors, and inspectors of morals and conduct