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Back in August, Kentucky’s Attorney General, Jack Conway along with AG’s from 34 other states, reached an agreementwith the website Topix regarding the sites practice of charging a $19.99 fee to expedite the review and removal of slanderous comments posted by its users. You can read the full agreement by clicking here.
Now I could get easily get side tracked on the definitions of slander and libel but that wouldn’t get us anywhere. What is important are the negative, inappropriate, ugly and down-right vicious things that are posted in the local forums on the site. While I applaud Conway’s efforts, unfortunately the agreement seems to have done little to actually eliminate the specific problem of defamation of character and what one could easily view as cyber-bullying.
In a county that not so long ago saw national attention in a bullying case, you would think people would be more careful about what they said about others. I guess history hasn’t taught us as much in that department as you might expect. I don’t blame Topix specifically and they have a right to do business as long as they are not harmful to society. In fact the straight news side of their site is very helpful and informative. Ironically, if you Google “liberty ky bullying case” the first links you are given are to Topix.
My issue has more to do with the local forums and the people that hide behind screen names to post malicious comments. As a journalist I’m all for freedom of speech and protecting sources but we’re not talking Woodward and Bernstein here. We’re not even talking about whistle blowers or Wikileaks for that matter. We’re talking about accusations of immorality, infidelity and lifestyle choices that in most cases are no one’s business if true and should be criminal if false.
Jesus said in John 8:6, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. (NIV) The way I see it, a person is entitled to their opinion but should have the courage to stand by their comments and write their name on the stones they throw.
I’m Chris Zollner.