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I don't think it's to do with freedom of speech. What is easy to forget is that there have always been libel laws for published slurs. People forget (or don't understand) when they tweet or post on facebook, that they are publishing their thoughts to the entire world and and can be spanked for libel. Newspapers retain expensive lawyers to check their copy before they go to print, individuals don't - and I'm sure the terms and conditions cover the sites' backsides. I have no idea what Matthew Woods said to get 12 weeks inside, but libel is probably why.

Posting in forums can be awkward,too. Unless you've been a user for a while you have no sense of how others will respond to what you say. Humour is totally different online - you have no visual cues from body language to verify if what is said is meant in jest or not. Generally, if I say X is a complete and utter bastard I'm joking - but online you can't know that unless you know me personally.

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So true. Humor is so easily misunderstood, particularly across cultural divides. As Camy says, without the ability to engage in instantaneous analysis of face-to-face body language reactions (ohmigod, I really blew that one; quick, quick, how to make it right?!) it is all too easy to offend. I know from bitter online experience that my tendency to snarkiness is not at all appreciated by many, and I have had to bite my tongue (bite my pen?) very very hard to avoid giving offense.

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