The very definition of a 'chilling effect' on free speech is when legislation or enforcement of new laws are so potentially onerous that people and organization self-censor out of fear and potential liability. Today, the users of were one of the first groups on the internet to feel that cool breeze, as Tribe have instituted their new Terms of Use with amendments to the provisions regarding mature public content, and presumably, any content deemed offensive by a Tribe user.

Of course, you know who to thank, ultimately. The changes to the obscenity code recommend by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and recently passed into law have jurisdiction over a wide range of potential content, as the Supreme Court has defined 'community standards of decency' the ultimate standard in an obscenity hearing. While has a strong local user base, and naturally our standards of decency here in the Bay Area are rather tolerant, this opens up the potential for a user in the flyover states to deem content produced here obscene, since they can access it from anywhere in the world. Blogger and EFF attorney Jason Schultz explains:

What happened at Tribe is what we can expect in a world where the FBI dictates the terms of what freedom of expression means. It's disappointing that Tribe overreacted like it did and banned far more speech than necessary, but one also has to realize, in a world where you can go to jail for what you help publish on the Internet, there's a serious chilling effect from laws like 2257.
Our own SFist Violet has been all over this story, posting on her own blog after a conference call with Tribe. She explained her own point of view as a producer and moderator of mature content on Tribe to Irina Slutsky of GETV in this video interview, and more recently discussed the changes with She's rather distraught over the change, and has asserted that she'll be removing links to Tribe content from her own blog.

After the jump, we asked some questions of Tribe's CEO, and have the official response. We also culled some comments from Tribe users around the web on the changes, one of whom suggests that the move may be related to the pending sale of Knight-Ridder, an investor in Tribe (along with the Washington Post). If you're a Tribe user and want to check ot the new rules, refer to Tribe's updated FAQ. As Violet's stressed to us, when someone wants to attack free speech, they generally go after porn first and politics next.