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Posted: August 14, 2012 7:12 p.m.

Freedom of speech

We have reached a point in this country where certain people feel their "rights" have been violated any time they aren't allowed to do whatever they want.

Those with little clue as to how our nation was formed or the foundation upon which our government is built are quick to announce to the world that their "Constitutional rights" are being violated.

And more often than not, they don't know what they are talking about.

Case in point: Some in and out of our community would like to go to the online websites hosted by The Covington News and the Newton Citizen and post anything they like - regardless of accuracy, taste or credibility. When this newspaper refuses to allow such posts, its critics are quick to raise the cry that their right to freedom of speech has been violated.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Constitution of the United States says that the government cannot infringe upon the citizenry's right to free speech. It does not say, nor should it say, that a private business must provide a forum for moronic comments by those who too often put their keyboards in action before engaging their brains.

The Covington News reveres the right to free speech, just as it does the other freedoms and liberties guaranteed to American citizens by the nation's Constitution. We just happen to understand what the concept means.

The First Amendment protects citizens from their government, and the freedom to express ideas without fear of reprisal is a fundamental part of this country's fabric. Private citizens and businesses are not bound by the First Amendment, nor does the amendment offer civil liability protection to those who slander or libel others.

Newspapers, as public forums and purveyors of fact and educated opinion, have a responsibility to ensure that the content found in their pages or on their online sites do not knowingly spread lies, promote half-truths or aid in unwarranted character assassination.

We may miss the mark at times, but we hope that's only out of occasional ignorance or honest error. And when we do make mistakes, we correct ourselves.

Nothing in the constitutional guarantee of speech freedom suggests that as a private business, we have an obligation to allow anyone to post anything they choose to our website or Facebook page. In fact, in order to be responsible citizens of our community, we think just the opposite is true. We have an obligation and responsibility to curate those sites just as we do with the printed page.

Some of our critics may recall a prior editorial stance decrying the use of online blogs to publicly lob accusations and insinuations against officials without proof.

As a newspaper, one of our most important responsibilities is to probe and investigate such accusations, but we don't make public findings we can't support with proof, which is the part of the equation our critics fail to grasp.

If you ever have reason to believe a public official has done something wrong, we ask you to bring your concerns to the newspaper, so that we can investigate and see what's going on. We may not always be able to find proof to support your contention, but doing so is much more likely to accomplish something rather than hurling anonymous unfounded accusations into the online ether.

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