On the Privatization of Censorship

A couple of days ago, Kat Meyer sent me a link to a Mashable post about the sailing ship “Blueseed, a brave new utopia for startups that will be anchored in international waters.” Written by Chris Taylor, the article describes plans to create a place where startups are not subject to any laws.

The concept is funded by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal (he sold it to eBay in 2002). According to Taylor, Thiel is “famous for his libertarian views.” In publishing, Paypal is now famous for something else: its efforts to shut down Smashwords’ ability to sell erotica.

It can be easy to dismiss the value of erotica, but Taylor’s invocation of a book (Brave New World) offers a timely reminder. Aldous Huxley’s widely praised work is also listed by the American Library Association as its 52nd highest most-challenged book.

There are lots of definitions for libertarianism, including one that says it emphasizes “freedom, individual liberty and voluntary association.” In that spirit, I guess an iconic offshore boat makes sense.

Still, I struggle with the idea that solving problems starts by picking up our marbles and heading elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t the government that tried to censor Smashwords. It was a company.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.