Monday, February 9, 2009

Juicy loses its ju-ju

The SF Chronicle (and others) reports that as of last Thursday, Juicy Campus has gone dark. Hooray for that. I guess....

The college gossip site allowed anonymous posts on, among other things, who did what with whom and lists of "the biggest sluts on campus". While the posters were anonymous, the posts themselves named names.

Acccording to founder Matt Ivester, the blog was losing ads because of the economy, but possibly the real reason, according to another piece in the Chron, was that the site -- the cyber equivalent of a bathroom wall at a dive bar -- was the subject of a growing number of investigations and defamation lawsuits.

As I posted here back in October, the site was protected by the Communications Decency Act, which shields "Web publishers from liability for libelous comments posted by third parties." But as the Chron piece notes, legalistas are starting to ask whether the law needs rethinking on the grounds that it allowed far too much "irresponsible speech."

And yet. I find every possible thing about Juicy Campus to have been reprehensible in every possible way. Still, its demise brings us some interesting questions about both the web and First Amendment protections. What constitutes protected speech on the web? Does restricting the free speech protections of such sites as Juicy Campus (or Yelp!, which is facing its share of legal problems as well, as the Chron reports) hurt us all in the long run?

And, as the Chron's piece questions: is the so-called "wisdom of the crowds", which is the backbone of Web 2.0, wise enough to be truly a corrective to either erroneous, irresponsible or defamatory speech? Stay tuned. bk

1 comment:

Jack said...

I tend to be a near-absolutist when it comes to the First Amendment, and this might be no exception for me. Call the site what you want, but drawing a line in the sand only gives someone a chance to say, "Hey, it really should be over here." And so on. If we had to start censoring ourselves because people would get offended, then we're all in big trouble. (Besides, it looks like a new site has already replaced Juicy when you go to its URL.)

The key is to let people respond and excoriate their accusers. To be sure, most of what people post -- behind the cloak of wimpy anonymity of a keyboard -- should never be taken seriously.