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Malicious Gossip And What You Can Do About Internet Abuse!


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Online Rumor Websites: How to Fight Internet Abuse
"The business model of these websites is hate. They're promoting it," says a privacy expert.

When Vanderbilt University freshman Chelsea Gorman was raped near campus in the spring of 2007, her life was shattered. She told only her close friends about the ordeal and left school for the rest of the semester after she began suffering panic attacks, but by last March she was back in Nashville and putting her life together. Then she got a phone call from a friend. The story of her rape had been posted on the Internet.

"Chelsea Gorman Deserved It" was the title of a message posted on juicycampus.com, a popular website dedicated to anonymous gossip about college students. "Everyone thinks she's so sweet, but she got what she deserved," wrote the unnamed author of the post, who went on to express envy for her rapist. Suddenly the whole campus knew about the devastating attack, and Gorman's fellow students talked about it in front of her.

"The business model of these websites is hate. They're promoting it," says a privacy expert.

"That was probably the hardest part," she told ABC News earlier this year. "That something like this is considered gossip is disgusting."

Even more disgusting is how common stories like this have become. Cyberbullying of younger children, usually by other kids, is a familiar story; less so is the online harassment of college students and adults. The cowards who cloak themselves in digital anonymity to smear others are not only hurting their victims but also damaging the sense of trust important to us all, online and off. The effects can range from mere embarrassment to lost jobs to emotional trauma. Meanwhile, the creeps sitting at their keyboards are rarely held to account.

Online harassment is as old as the Web itself. But now it's being actively encouraged by websites that profit from sourceless vitriol. Perhaps the main offender is JuicyCampus, whose home page promises that "posts are totally, 100 percent anonymous." The website has become a clearinghouse for abuse, ranging from cruel insults and vicious rumors to the outing of gay and lesbian students and the harassment of racial and ethnic groups.

How would you like to be the UCLA student who was recently branded "a stinky, ugly Jew … the most hated {censored} on campus"? JuicyCampus's frequently-asked-questions page—in addition to directing users to "IP cloaking" software to further mask their digital footprint—responds to "I'm offended!" with a flip "Sorry. Also, that's not a question."

The website covers 500 colleges and universities, and already there are a slew of trashy imitators, many targeting older adults. Among them is the site gossipreport.com, where "you can anonymously talk about anyone you want. Instead of creating a profile about yourself, you can create a profile about someone else." One post features the photo of an Ohio man along with the message "Watch out, ladies." The post accuses the man of spreading STDs and says he's "a manho who can't be faithful to no one."

At rottenneighbor.com, users can trash the folks next door. Is a house in Boca Raton, Florida, really occupied by "the most obnoxious family alive"?

Yes, according to one post, which claims that the girls who live there are sexually promiscuous, not to mention reckless behind the wheel. A street address and a Google Maps image of the house accompany the post. Creepy, huh?

"The business model of these sites is hate," says Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in Internet privacy and security issues. "They're promoting it. They're encouraging you to say outrageous things."

Smear someone in a traditional media outlet, like a newspaper or a talk show, and you can end up in court. But the law that Congress passed in 1996 establishing basic Internet regulations prevents website hosts from being held responsible for what outsiders post on their sites. In other words, the law says that the kind of defamation that would get the New York Times sued is fair game on JuicyCampus.

Sure, gossip is an ugly fact of life. But the Internet has changed its impact. Gossip that used to be contained within a relatively narrow social world is now broadcast to a wider audience less able to assess its credibility, says Daniel Solove, a professor of law at George Washington University and the author of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. And even a completely false allegation can last forever online.

Now we have a kind of permanent digital scarlet letter," says Solove.
We prize our right to free speech, but, experts like Solove say, we need to do more to protect another right: privacy. Meanwhile, some people are fighting back. Take the case of two young women victimized by several anonymous online thugs who posted threatening messages about them on autoadmit.com (which bills itself as "the most prestigious college discussion board in the world"). The unnamed attackers posted the women's photos, claimed that one of them had herpes, and wrote that both "should be raped."

In June 2007, the women filed a federal defamation lawsuit against the dozens of anonymous AutoAdmit users who made the comments (one of whom may have also used tricks to make the slurs appear as top results when the victims' names were Googled). By subpoenaing Internet service providers, the women have acquired some of the users' names; last August they named one publicly and are threatening to out more.

Maybe more cases like this one will make cowardly creeps attacking people from behind their keyboards think twice, lest they see their own reputations ruined in the end.

Do More

  • Create a Google Alert for your name. You will receive an e-mail anytime you are mentioned somewhere online. Notify the hosts of the website where a smear about you has been posted; they will often take it down. The faster you respond, the less time a lie has to spread.
  • Companies like Reputation Defender (reputationdefender.com) can help you wipe away lies that continue to appear in the records of Google and other search engines.
  • Wiredsafety.org provides advice for victims of online harassment.
  • Daniel Solove's book The Future of Reputation can be downloaded for free at futureofreputation.com.


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Jun 1, 2004
Re: Malicious Gossip? Here Is What you Can Do About Interenet Abuse

Due to this bad episode juicycampus.com had to shut down its website for good... the other websites, who are still running have devised mechanisms that it is very easy to trace the culprits. Please be informed whosoever thinks that they can get away with this! :welcome:



Sep 17, 2010
If they prosecute the people who make these messages, and they know that they are not anonymous, messages like this will go down. But anonymous user sites like this need to be shutdown.



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