You can’t say that!

25 08 2009

no voiceThe online space has created an unrestrained and unaccountable voice – until recently.

More and more frequently, we are beginning to see people being held responsible for their words and actions online. Online forums, social networks, online communities  – have all enabled the public to voice their words to a much larger audience than ever before. It’s much easier to voice ones opinions or views, hidden behind the anonymity of a screen name, and a faceless computer screen.

But with issues like cyber bullying becoming a frequent problem, the question needs to be asked – should we allow people total freedom of speech online?

Should people be held accountable for what they say on the web?

Already we are seeing an increase in the percentage of employers checking the online profiles of prospective and current employees – with the drunk and disorderly soon finding themselves without a job. 45% of employers to be exact.

We also saw Lori Drew, the Missouri mother who saw criminal charges being laid against her, after she had created a false profile on MySpace, which she then used to taunt and make cruel comments about one of her daughter’s friends, Megan Meir. These actions resulted in her suicide shortly after.

How simple is it to create numerous and anonymous identities online?

Is it appropriate to hold people accountable when they misuse these profiles?

Some seem to believe that it’s not, with rights groups becoming nervous that more cases of this kind will challenge a threat to free speech. Last year the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Citizen and 14 other law professors, filed an amicus brief, purporting that the charges against Lauri Drew:

“The groups argue that, while the events were tragic, holding the mom criminally responsible could have “dangerous ramifications” for all US citizens who use the Internet.” (Source: Ars Tecnica)

While we praise the web 2.0 for ensuring that companies are being held responsible for their actions – are we comfortable with the developing notion of ‘free speech’ online? Tiphereth Gloria also discusses this in Social Media Accountability is a two way street.

The recent case involving Google and disgruntled model Lisuka Cohen – saw the landmark decision that forced Google to reveal the identity of the anonymous ‘Skanks of NYC’ blogger. While the (not so tough anymore) blogger plans to sue Google for the loss of anonymity, it seem that your poisoned comments are no longer safe online, ey?