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MySpace, My Slander
Mom with a View

MySpace, My Slander

Today's perpetrator could be tomorrow's victim.


It's a new challenge to the First Amendment, at least in the secular world. The Jewish world has mounted this attack for a few thousand years. It's not about censorship or even morality in its broadest terms. But it is about freedom of speech.

It's about the freedom to say whatever's on your mind at any time about anyone else. And it's about good old-fashioned human decency. It's about sensitivity. And kindness.

The web is the greatest opportunity for the dissemination of information that has ever existed for mankind. It offers the broadest range of communication. It is also the place where gossip reigns most freely. Never before in history could lives destroyed with the mere click of a button -- with words. Never before could malicious slander be spread so widely and so easily. Teenagers are forced to switch schools because of cruel remarks posted on MySpace.

And in the latest twist, women at Yale Law School are hampered in their job searches and personal lives because of unpleasant postings on AutoAdmit. (which goes to show you that there is no connection between brains and character -- but that's for another time).

What's particularly appalling about these latest outrages is, to quote Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the piece Trash Talk (Wall Street Journal, 03/19/2007) that most of the comments are "mean-spirited."

This isn't two sides of the debate over a worthy yet controversial cause. This is purely personal. It's vindictive. It's one-upmanship. It makes the writer feel better about him/herself. All the traditional reasons for gossip apply.

The only thing that isn't traditional is the method, and therefore, the far-reaching consequences. Someone called me recently because they'd heard some slander about a third party. I was able to easily disprove the story and the caller was able to reassure the initial concerned individuals, thereby preventing any further spread of this rumor.

This is, unfortunately, not true for what goes up on the Internet. It is much more difficult to get something removed once it is online. And even if you are successful in this first step, how can you possibly do damage control? There could have been hundreds, thousands, even millions of viewers.

We live in fear of a madman being able to set off a nuclear bomb with the push of a button. Are we any less mad to press the send key that can also destroy lives?

Who will stop us? Only a strong sense of compassion and the recognition that the Almighty is always watching our behavior can keep our itchy fingers still. And perhaps the realization that today's perpetrator could be tomorrow's victim.

March 24, 2007

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Kim, April 9, 2008 12:35 AM

Slander My Space

It seems to me that My Space and Face Book etc... should monitor what is written on their websites. My husband has been called a alcholic on here by my daughters boyfriends ex girlfriend. She doesn't even know us and this is NOT true. But, Nothing we can do about it. I just don't understand how this is legal.??????

(3) the Oracle, March 26, 2007 10:44 AM

What It Is Not

I understand the First Amendment to guarantee freedom of speech about ideas, behaviour and government action. I have never understood it to be freedom of speech about persons, except as listed above. Slander and libel laws cover this.

It seems that crossing the line on MySpace is done by those who, in the words of Harry Truman, never read the Constitution, and if they did, they didn't understand it.


(2) Aviah, March 25, 2007 6:04 PM


I will be sharing this article with many of my friends and colleagues.


(1) C. Siegel, March 25, 2007 1:32 PM

Confirms All the Worst Prejudices About Law Students

My cousin, Stephen Clowney, is the subject of a Yale Law School AutoAdmit blog. There was a hot controversy whether or not Stephen is "really black" or not, although the YLS students put it in far more vulgar terms. The fact that my brilliant and hardworking cousin is a very light-skinned black drives these students into a frenzy of rage lest Stephen get more than his share of affirmative action.

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