This weekend has seen articles about Online Reputation Management on Gawker.com and The New York Times. Both articles talk about managing Online Reputations and companies who offer services to” fix” online reputations. What they both missed is the opportunity to look at the dark side of ORM which is deliberate Online Defamation and slander. The US has no protection for innocent victims of anonymous and malicious online attacks. I hear all the time that you can go through the legal system to prosecute the person posting the defamation. This does not work, takes a very long time, is very expensive and typically leaves the victim back where they started except a lot poorer. The legal process for online defamation is woefully inadequate and the repeal of CDA 230 is way overdue. Internet sites cry no “we need immunity from others posting slander and defamation on our sites we cannot be held responsible” And the one I really love “we cannot interfere wth freedom of speech” on the web. There are no issues with freedom of speech if its the truth, or if you are expressing your opinion. However, when the information posted is slanderous defamation making outlandish untrue claims publishers online should be held just as responsible as publishers offline. This double standard has gone on long enough and since online publishers refuse to verify allegations or information even when challenged then the law must change to protect the innocent. Many people attacked online do not have the financial resources to go through the woefully inadequate legal process.
This article by Robert D Brownstone and Chad Woodford describes the complexity of CDA 230. CDA 230 was part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 designed to protect children online and the irony of it is that subsequently, the CDA provisions regulating pornographic content were struck down as unconstitutional, but this CDA 230 provision stayed. The law is blatantly exploited by ruthless sites to create content which they make large amounts of money from.
Due to the abuse of CDA 230 this very bad law needs to be amended or totally scrapped and I as an individual want the same rights online as I have offline. Other countries do not have CDA230 and it has not affected the growth of the Internet. These arguments are old and tired and the law needs to catch up with reality. This great post discusses the unconstitutionality of CDA 230 and the 14th amendment.