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Boy, the internet can be an ugly place, huh? I want you to think about defamation, invasion of privacy, and cyber harassment. On one side of the coin ... people say, "I have free speech!" Really? Do you really have free speech to defame someone? To purposely say something false on the internet that you know will invade their privacy ... hurt their business ... cause them pain and embarrassment. I seem to recall from law school you don't have free speech to run into a movie theater and yell "Fire" and cause 10 people to die in the stampede. Side story ... did you ever know why John Hancock signed his name so big on the Declaration of Independence? All of the signers were essentially signing their death warrant ... their signature on that document was an act of treason that would surely lead to their death. Point being ... Hancock signed his name that big as a "screw you" to the King. That, my friends, is free speech ... being willing to stand behind your words. In my humble opinion, free speech means you can say what you want about someone, but you should also be held accountable for your words. 

So, the topic this week is ... how do you feel about this issue? Who should be liable for a defamatory comment on the internet? Google? The website where the post was made? The poster? If you say poster, then explain to me how we are going to track them down ... most people post anonymous - some loser hiding in his mother's basement taking cheap shots at someone they are jealous of ... someone that took their girl ... someone that beat them in an election. Good luck getting a hosting website to help you. They don't even store the ISP's - it is easier for them to say, "We don't keep that info" than to get involved in your headache/lawsuit. Should they be forced to? Should newspapers require you to sign in with a credit card or legit Facebook page before you comment? I think so. Shame on the Plain Dealer for having a forum comment section that is a nasty free for all. In their old TV forum, there were people that would say heinous, defamatory things about Dick Goddard. Really ... who is sitting at their computer trashing Dick Goddard? Get a life!

What are other issues about internet assaults? Someone posts something bad about you on a big site ... next thing you know it is all over your Google rankings. Good luck getting a job. How about cyber harassment ... cops barely take regular stalking seriously ... your creepo ex-boyfriend sitting outside your house. "Sorry, there is no imminent threat." What happens when that guy leads a cyber-bullying campaign against you? He Google bombs you and ruins your on-line reputation ... you think some bumbling local detective is going to help you. Ha! Why would cyber-stalking/harassment be any different than traditional stalking/harassment? The dude is still ruining your life and scaring the hell out of you.   

What about being a public figure ... it is almost impossible to sue anyone for defamation once you are famous. Take it from me. I have been hearing how Tom Cruise is gay for 25 years. Tom Cruise probably doesn't care because he makes $20 million a movie ... but what if you are just sort of famous ... without the $20 million ... would you want people to say whatever they wanted about you and hide behind the public figure argument? Even if Tom Cruise was gay, why would that be anyone's business? 

We have centuries of laws on the book ... laws about defamation and assault ... why do all those laws go out the window just because the action is now taking place on the internet. It is crazy. 

Make some points about internet cowards ... anonymous posts ... defamation ... invasion of privacy ... etc. I could literally write 10 books on this stuff. David

Side bar ... all kidding aside, if your life is so empty and miserable that you trash people online, please get a hobby and stop being a loser. It is a big, fun, beautiful world out there ... don't be part of the nasty ... you are better than that. 

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