A variety of websites are deleting postings that could offend, and with full legal protection—sparking debate about whether free speech exists online. Case in point: an image of a young smoker posted on Yahoo's photo service. It was cut for promoting underage smoking, but the photographer calls it a comment on Romanian street life. "I never thought of it as a photo of a smoking kid," he said.
"You can never make a serious documentary if you always have to think about what Flickr will delete," he added. But sites are "caught in the middle between a rock and a hard place," one service provider rep said. With brands to protect and minors online, "we want to be good corporate citizens." Yet abortion group texts, fiction blogs, and anti-Bush remarks have all been cut in the process.