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Gossip not covered under First Amendment

Imagine you’re surfing the Internet, and you find your name on a Web site. It’s not a good Web site, but a site that allows people to gossip freely, and your name is found under the topic “Biggest B——.”
How would that make you feel?
This is what’s happening with JuicyCampus.com.
The site touts itself as an enabler of free speech, but it’s more of a way for people to gossip about others without fear of repercussions.
Without consequences, people can bring to light not only true, hurtful comments, but they also can make completely false accusations that can ruin reputations and self-esteem.
People who post on the site may not realize how much of an effect they can have – on themselves and others.
A 13-year-old suburban St. Louis girl committed suicide in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages from a fake online identity on her MySpace page.
The online harassment was a hoax, but a young girl’s life ended because of the cruel comments of others.
No one has committed suicide because of a JuicyCampus post yet, but a student was arrested for making a threat on the site. And it’s only a matter of time before something worse happens.
If students want to exercise their right to free speech, there are other, more productive methods.
When the Founding Fathers added free speech to the Constitution, we don’t think this is what they had in mind. They were more concerned with citizens having the right to speak out against the government, not who the biggest whore on a college campus is.
The media are protected under the First Amendment, but any legitimate media outlet would never publish the kind of obscene comments found on JuicyCampus.
If a real news outlet reported this type of gossip, would it be exercising its First Amendment rights or would it be considered defamation?
And while the Internet is one of the most influential inventions in history, it has made application of the First Amendment difficult.
The Internet has improved communication and it has put a wealth of information at our fingertips, but not all this information is useful and valid.
A site such as JuicyCampus can be dangerous not only because of the hurtful comments, but its potential effect on society.
The more time students spend on this site, the less time they will be spending on more important topics.
Gossiping about others has no positive outcome – it can only end in hurt feelings and defamed reputations.
We encourage students to exercise their right to free speech. Write a letter to the editor of a paper. Protest a worthwhile cause. Blog responsibly about an important issue. But don’t waste time reading and posting about who the tannest girl on campus is.
We can blame JuicyCampus for the content on its site, but it comes down to us because its content is student-driven. Even if you don’t post on the site, just by visiting you’re contributing to the spread of anonymous, hurtful gossip.