For the first time in years, someone featured in a This is True story has complained about it.
It took Samuel Saraiva nine years(!) to learn about the story where he’s featured and call me on the phone with the complaint.
First, he demanded I remove the story from the archive. I told him no; he threatened to sue. As per my policy, I offered to publish any reply he’d like to make without me editing it in any way. He again demanded I remove the story from my site. I told him no again, so he cursed me and slammed the phone down.
A few hours later he emailed an “error report” which demanded that I “remove this form the internet immediatelty. If not I go to the Court againte you and your publication.” (All spellings verbatim, here and below.)
I again refused, and again offered to run a letter from him with the story.
He finally agreed to that, but said he needed time — “I need preparer my comments about, reviser and send to you for publication” first.
Sure, OK. That was more than two weeks ago; I nearly forgot about him, but his letter arrived today, by email. As promised I published it — unedited — with the story in my archive. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to reply to his letter, and that’s posted with the story too.
Mostly, I think he’s just mad that his own site doesn’t come up first in a Google search for his name. Mine does. And yes, I’m very confident that it’s the same guy.
Should I Allow Censorship?
Let me be clear about my position: I write commentary on stories that appear in the news. If I make a mistake when I summarize that story, I’m happy to correct it. But complaints about accurate summaries, or whining about obvious jokes, will fall on deaf ears.
Yet if anyone I talk about in the story by name complains, I’ll still publish their letter with the story if I’m satisfied with their identity. If they want their own site to show up in online searches of their name before mine, then they should practice proper search engine optimization. Don’t like bad publicity? Then don’t do stupid things that get you into the news.
But my answer about being censored: not just no, but hell no!
February 2014 Update
I checked, and apparently Mr. Saraiva took my advice: there are now many pages featuring his name, and this one is now way down on the second page of Google’s results when searching for his name, rather than the very first result. Nice SEO job, Sam!
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