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The Court of Internet Opinion Abolishes Privacy and Condones Smear

Posted on the 22 January 2013 by Fadi Bejjani @DrFadiBejjani
The Court of Internet Opinion Abolishes Privacy and Condones SmearIn the last decade or so, it has become increasingly easy to smear somebody we do not like on the internet. It is all anonymous and inconsequential and allows us to freely spew our venoms without a worry in the word and regardless of who might read it and what that might do to them. The fact is ANYBODY in the entire world might read it: Young children or their friends in school (who will then use it to bully them); your elderly parents who might get a heart attack, your ex-wife who might come back for more alimony, etc.

It has been describe by a news outfit as the WILD WILD WEST all over again. Look at the worldwide strife and upset  that this infamous second rate amateurish Youtube video about the Prophet Muhammad caused recently . It is frightening to see how something as trivial and isolated can spread terror and cause death thousands of miles away. It is unsettlingly too easy and no doubt malevolent people will exploit it.

You maybe taken into custody for contempt of court or a similar non-crime. So you get processed with fingerprints and mug shots and the whole nine-yards then you pay the fine and get released without even being charged with anything. Several years later, your friends family or clients call you to say your mug shot is on the internet. Of course they claim it is public records but they will take it off for $399. What a racket!

Today there was the story of this NFL cheerleader who slept with a minor and paid for it, now suing a gossip internet site for $11 million for posting the matter. I wish her all the luck. I am no lawyer but I understand double jeopardy. If somebody commited a crime and paid for it, the law forbids to try or punish them for it again and again. Just like for the mug shots (were often the internet posting ends up being much more punishing than the crime) these “gossip” or “regurgitated” postings are tantamount to double, triple or even infinite jeopardy. Instead of a jury of your peers you are being judge by the whole world over and over again, where none of the rules of evidence and voir dire apply. In a country where all citizens are innocent until proven otherwise, everyone is entitled to a fair trial (we bend backwards to provide that very right to the worst terrorists or criminals), and where there is no double jeopardy, How is the internet respecting any of that?

Of course this all enfringes in the biggest way on privacy. On the one hand we HIPA staunchly defends patients’ privacy rights and hundreds of rules are enacted to enforce this, on the other hand I am told that every phone conversation or even text is recorded! Let me tell you a story that will make you cringe:

PW, an acquaintance of mine, went to a ball game in NYC with his friend an FBI agent. At some point during the game, the agent excused himself and disappeared for 30 minutes or so. When asked what happened, he told PW that some fan texted “If  player so and so looses, I will kill him” and he had to go check it out! True story.

American got the fast news bug just like the fast food one. They love violent and bad news primarily just like they prefer their movies. Quality verified news just like quality ccoked foods take time to prepare and digest. In the somewhat distant past, neither people nor news were able to travel very far or very fast. News was conveyed by messengers and travel was by foot or horse. Only worthy and important news made it to destination and spread. The rubbish was dropped ipso facto. There was a natural filtration mechanism for gossip and trivial news. Nowadays, before you realize the news you aired or posted was wrong, 20 million people already saw it and the damage is done!

For now, people wronged by the internet have to count on KARMA to get their revenge. It is a meager consolation if and when it happens. The outcome of this cheerleader’s suit could drastically change things and curb the internet glut for smear. You spend years building your reputation and it is destroyed by a few key strokes. The perpetrators should be prosecuted like identity thiefs. Let us not forget that the internet is also a convenient vehicle for spammers, brain-washers, scammers, predators and government intruders. So how do we keep the good and get rid of the bad? A serious debate should soon occur about this and also revisit the right to privacyUnchecked Internet Smear is a Form of Terrorism!

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