Friday, September 22

Suing Over Myspace

Last year, I wrote a post about the growing popularity of blogs and the pressure being created to define a 'legitimate' journalist in (Blogging To Journalism), citing that neither the First nor Fourteenth amendment defines the press or 'journalists' as people who are affiliated with big media conglomerates or whose work is distributed on paper. In short, bloggers deserve the same protections afforded to journalists.

However, in the same post, I also suggested the real question people should be asking is not whether bloggers should be protected by the First and Fourteenth amendments, but whether they should be held to the same standards as mainstream journalists in regard to accuracy and libel. Maybe it's time they were, I said, especially those that unjustly libel individuals and coworkers whenever they like.

Sixteen months later, that question is being asked as a high school assistant principal sues two students and their parents, alleging the teens set up a Web page on MySpace.com in her name and posted obscene comments and pictures.

Anna Draker, an assistant principal at Clark High School, is claiming defamation, libel, negligence and negligent supervision over the page on the popular free-access Web site. She claims two 16-year-olds, a junior and a sophomore, created the page using her name and picture and wrote it as through Draker herself had posted the information, according to Draker's attorney, Murphy Klasing.

The site falsely identified Draker as a lesbian. Klasing said Draker, who is married and has small children, was "devastated." MySpace.com removed the page when Draker told them it wasn't hers. Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Jill Mata would not release information about the case, but confirmed that juvenile charges are pending against a local high school student involving retaliation and fraudulent use of identifying information. Both are third-degree felonies.

As I said before, with freedom comes responsibility. Unfortunately, no one seems to have told these teenagers that once you publish a blog, you become a publisher, bound by the same libel laws as the rest of us. Be bold, but be honest.

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