Obama, Hillary, McCain & Spitzer Step Aside: It’s Time to Discuss Our Online Rights

In the midst of packing lunches for work Friday morning, a clip on CNN caught my attention. It probably stood out because it wasn’t the normal talk about Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, rising gas prices or the Spitzer scandal. Instead, it was about a college website called JuicyCampus. What I heard sent a chill down my spine, and the soothsayer’s warning crept into my thoughts: Beware the Ides of March.

I put down the mustard and turned my full attention to the story on the news.

Apparently, JuicyCampus is a college website that allows people to post pretty much whatever they want about whomever or whatever they want. And the site lets them do it anonymously. The site’s About Us page contains four sentences, simply stating that its sole mission is to enable online anonymous free speech on college campuses. It even gives tips on IP-cloaking (i.e. hiding) on its Privacy & Tracking Policy page.

While people who post to JuicyCampus remain anonymous, those that they post about do not. First names, last names, even pictures of classmates and professors are put on this site for the world to find.

Campus leaders across the nation are asking people to turn a blind eye, in the hopes that by ignoring it, it will die out and go away. But what about all those other websites, news blogs, even personal blogs that take the right to free speech to extremes, or say mean or hurtful things to others?

Often times it is hard to turn a blind eye. People can be and are deeply affected by what is being said about them online, all under the guise of free speech. Yet, many bloggers and anonymous posters feel that they can and should say what they want. And they are protected under the First Amendment.

But what protects you?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. How far should we go to protect anonymous free speech online, and at what expense to others? What do you think your rights are online as an individual and/or as a company? What do you think they should be?