Freedom of Speech/Expression and the internet...

Recently a website,, was shut down. Here is an article that talks about this incident.

I’ve been to this site several times, and have posted on a few occasions in defense of my friends who were being cruelly humiliated in a public forum. I’ve also posted in support of this site being taken down. People were posting hateful lies with the intent of hurting someone they disliked. Currently, that’s protected under the first Amendment. Many people have been very hurt by this site.

For example:

This just isn’t right. I couldn’t believe the extent of which people would be trying to hurt others. Another example:

To me, that’s simply asking for trouble. It’s sick. But in many cases, that could be protected under the first amendment.

Now, I support having a freedom of speech. I’m usually considered conservative in my views on it. But, I also support having certain limitations on that speech, and believe sites like this should either be banned or severely restricted. What kind of measure should be taken to place limitations on free speech on the web? Should there be numerous lawsuits whenever someone horrific like this arises? Or should their be an international organizations that proposes limitations on the net?

I’m sorry if this has been discussed. I couldn’t find threads matching this when I searched, but I could be wrong.


Hateful lies might be protected but harmful lies aren’t always protected. You can sue someone for slander in the United States. I suppose the line can be blurry at times.


It’s not Free Speech if it encroaches on someone else’s rights. Hateful lies violate a person’s right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (I’d like to see YOU “pursue happiness” if everyone believes you’re a drug dealer and child rapist).

By the way, “Internet” should be capitalized.

Hate to tell you this Spoofe, but there IS no right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. That lofty phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, and nothing in the DoI is legally binding.

That said, as these schoolmates are presumably private individuals and not celebrities or politicians, there’s a relatively low burden of proof in libel cases. If defamatory lies are being printed about them they might well have a case.

Anyway according to that article, it was the ISP who shut the site down, so there’s no First Amendment issue. A government injunction ordering it shut would be a different story. I wouldn’t support a blanket prohibition of “sites like this”. These things really have to be taken on a case-by-case basis, as there’s no way to really determine if speech is defamatory without knowing exactly what was said.

A good lawyer would mention the 9th Amendment at this point. :smiley:

An even better lawyer would note that the Ninth Amendment has been used so rarely that, even when it IS mentioned, it is only in passing. Hell, they couldn’t even ground the right to Abortion in the Ninth Amendment.
NO one has the ‘right’ to the ‘pursuit of happiness.’ That trite phrase sounded nice in declaring a need to kick out the king’s soldiers; it found no support in either constitution worked out by the states for their federal government after they declared independence.

As previously pointed out, private parties are not subject to the First Amendment, only the federal government is. State and local governments are subject to the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants ‘due process’, a phrase which has been interpreted to incorporate many rights granted in the first 8 amendments, including free speech.

My school had talked with lawyers to see about the chances of a lawsuit. Apparently, there are few legal paths to pursue in a case like this.

Should there be more legal consequences for providing a medium for people to write libelous hateful lies about others with the intent to hurt them?

The point was that I don’t believe lies should be considered Free Speech. The whole bit about “Life, Liberty, etc.” was mentioned in passing to keep things simple.

If you want me to get long-winded about it, that’s fine… but I think the SDMB server has enough strain, don’t you? :smiley: