Sunday, May 18, 2008

blogging's evil twin


I thought I would share my musings on an epidemic that has recently snuck its way onto the homepage of many a college student’s Firefox Mozilla: Juicycampus.com. This site takes blogging and turns it into the mean girl that snickered at your haircut in middle school: it hosts hundreds of college campus’ homepages on which students may anonymously post gossip, rumors, and other not-so-legitimate forms of information about their peers.

Other students have the chance to respond to the statements and rate them on their “juiciness.” This would be all be just dandy if students stuck to valid topics of virtual conversation à la “What did you think of Professor X in class Z?” or “Can someone tell me how to get involved in club Q?” However, the actual posts look a little more like this: “Which girls have gained the most weight since freshman year?” and “Doesn’t X look like she got hit in the face with a shovel?”

As admittedly intriguing and, well, juicy as the website can be, there’s a serious question at hand regarding the definition of online publishing. Though some posts are truthful, at least half of the stuff on JuicyCampus is certainly fabricated information about people. While written defamation of character, libel, is illegal when it comes to magazines and newspapers, can this be said of online publications? Where are the boundaries of “legitimate” virtual publication: can you be sued for something you write on your Facebook profile?

JuicyCampus has issued terms and conditions that state that users may not post content that “is unlawful, threatening, abusive, defamatory, obscene, libelous, or invasive of another's privacy.”

The problem with this statement is that there is no guarantee that the thousands of students posting on the site will follow the rules, especially since the point of JuicyCampus is to gossip. It’s not as though these students are trying to gain literary prestige through their compelling posts regarding so-and-so’s sexual activities in the library; they are simply trying to evoke amused or horrified reactions out of their contemporaries. And because blog-like websites foster any and all text, it is difficult to patrol every single word that is posted online.

Freedom of speech and the limits of appropriateness have always butted heads, but the Internet gives these two tenets a new battleground on which to fight.

6 comments:

auntie mich said...

thanks for the great insight. this is my first time blogging????????? i only had to call your mom like ten times to figure how to do this.(you know little sisters). you are like our own carrie bradshaw. love you

dgold911 said...

you are right- libelous comments made online are actionable, but how to enforce? its unlikely that college students who are libeled on facebook or websites are going to sue. juicycampus.com is like writing nasty things on a bathroom stall (the way people did in "the old days") except that potentially millions of people can read the vicious gossip. bad, bad bad!

drevno88 said...

Juicy Campus seems like something middle school or high schoolers would be more into than college students. i don't understand why these individuals would rather take the time to gossip about their peers over the internet than to friends around them, then again i'm not a huge gossiper. my school doesn't even show up in 'search' on the website!! no wonder i love CO so much..

i love you!! you inspire me. post more!!

Amy C said...

Great insights into Juicy Campus. I find these catty sights quite upsetting especially since I have a teen daughter. Libel is a tricky thing-esp b/c someone may not want to draw more attention to themselves. Never blogged before but am so excited to read yours.
amy

mag said...

Do you think the sponsor of the blog should be held responsible for enabling libel? They provide the means to publicly disseminate defamatory comments and, in spite of their warning to users about defamation, encourage or entice (and certainly profit) from the art of hurtful gossip. Would a written media publication get away with the same thing? I don't think so.

mag said...
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