Here’s a fun legal tidbit: Under Provision 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites are not liable for posts generated by the people who use them. This is why if someone threatens the President in our comments section, we’re not the ones getting tasered by the Secret Service. It’s also how sites like She’s A Homewrecker — a site in which women who’ve been cheated on can publicly shame the ladies their men cheated on them with — can thrive despite seeming like they could easily be sued out of existence.
True, gossip websites where people talk trash are nothing new; everybody’s been to TheDirty at least once in their lives. But we’re singling this one out for the truly magical attitude the site’s supposed owner, Ariella Alexander, has about how she’s not totally using vicious gossip and potential slander to make money, at least according to this interview with CBS 13 Sacramento:
She says her goal is to give victims of affairs a voice and strike fear in women before they even think about becoming a mistress. “Hold up. I don’t want to involve myself with someone else’s husband. I don’t want to end up on shesahomewrecker.com,” said Alexander…“Yes, it’s a man’s fault. But I expect more from a woman. I think women should respect other women,” said Alexander. She says she’s received thousands of submissions, and admits not everything posted on her site may be true. But she says that’s not her problem.
Yeah, because cheating husbands never lie, and angry people never do stupid things on the Internet. Never, ever, ever. Alexander is legally correct, sure, but she’s kind of leaving a lot out of the equation.
One of my other gigs on the Internet is as an advice columnist, and as a result I spend a lot of time taking questions from both mistresses and the women cheated on. And yeah, there’s the occasional woman who knows the guy is married and either doesn’t care or thinks he’s going to dump his wife. But a much higher percentage either took the guy at his word that he was divorced or separated, or simply didn’t know he had a wife and kids. Discovering your “boyfriend” is somebody else’s husband out of nowhere is a pretty terrible scenario for everybody involved.
If you were curious, there’s not much legal recourse, here. Truth is an absolute defense against libel charges; even if a post is one-sided or leaves a lot of facts out, that’s still not libel. And if it is completely untrue, so far, you can only win a judgement against the person who posted the content, not the site.
Fortunately, though, people embarrassed on the Internet do have one tool; if a site like this uses your Facebook photos, you can slap them with a DMCA takedown request. Yes, the same law that makes YouTube a drag sometimes can also save you from shame and embarrassment. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
(Image courtesy of Terry G. Alexander on Flickr.)