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  • Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

Contact Your Attorney General Today!
February 2, 2011 - 8:45am

Most readers know what collegeACB is: a gossip or rumor site that targets college campuses. I have written about it before. I am writing about it again because I have my suspicions that site owners and/or their personnel seed the site. What else would account for such obviously inflammatory and sickening statements made against minorities the first day of the semester? As I listen to parents describe the awful, demeaning and defamatory remarks made about their daughters, it occurred to me that information and photographs of those young women might well have been culled from other sites, Facebook for example, and then used to make it seem as if from another student in the campus community. The comments (which I will not reproduce here) seem more bait than personal hate. Something is rotten in Denmark. The site already reeks to high heaven, but now I smell a rat.

The damage that this site and others like it, past or future, render upon the lives of vulnerable students for no other reason than the sadistic profit prompts me to make a plea: report it to your attorney general today. It has no social value. It may be protected by law as a site, but individuals who make defamatory remarks are almost certainly liable to have actions brought against them.

Perhaps there is an family of a student who has the time and resources to bring a John/Jane Doe suit. The claim would create subpoena power sufficient to request network logs, but my guess is that the site owners destroy those logs as a matter of policy. Consumers -- our students -- need the assistance of the government to do the kind of investigation required.

Anonymity should not be allowed to be used to shield actionable behavior. Educators can and will continue to educate students about these sites. Student governments should continue to lead boycotts against them. But the law has a role to play here too. It is time to bring the potentially actionable aspects of these sites into the light of day.

On that note, tomorrow night Dan Solove will speak on Internet reputation, gossip and rumor. Please go to www.ucpl.cornell.edu for information and a link to stream the talk remotely.

 

 

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