A, O, Oh Way To Go Ohio

Steubenville Football

Remember, the Constitution is a living, breathing document. Or something.

A Steubenville sexual assault case that divided the football-centric town this summer has also sparked a First Amendment debate over the sharp opinions shared online about some of the student athletes who were rumored to be involved.

Should people who comment online anonymously be held legally responsible for what they say? Or, are online comments protected free speech?

Steubenville football player Cody Saltsman and his parents, Johna and James, sued a blogger and up to 25 anonymous online commenters in October, saying they made false and defamatory statements about the teen on a website. The Saltsmans asked a local judge to prevent the blogger and others from making any more statements about them and to remove the ones already posted. (H/T – Vicki)

In light of my recent blog suspension, this story struck a nerve. The story is a week old, and the blogger involved saw the defamation lawsuit dismissed. That’s not the point. The point is that the pendulum is turning away from bloggers, commenters, and other online interactions.

Mark my words, the internet will be regulated – including registration for blogging and commenting – and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

10 thoughts on “A, O, Oh Way To Go Ohio

  1. realwest

    Howdy Wyatt – This is an EXCELLENT news pick up, Wyatt. There are so many people JUST AT THE U.N. who want to regulate Freedom of Speech on the Internet, not to mention Individuals, that if our Judges and Justices of SCOTUS don’t do their jobs correctly, I fear there will be no Freedom of Speech (as we Americans know it, at least) on the Internet at all.

  2. John D

    I’m kind of torn on this issue. On one hand, I’m a more free speech/less government regulation advocate. On the other, truly libelous speech launched from the anonymity offered by the internet is potentially problematic. I’m not sure where to draw the line here. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I’m not the guy who has to play Solomon.

    1. realwest

      Hey John D – I understand how you feel. I am an advocate of Free Speech. However, on the Internet, any one can make up a screen name or nom du blog, and run off at the mouth about anything at any time, absent full time monitors or moderators.
      But I still come down on the side of Free Speech on the Internet simply because I think it is an individual’s responsibility in circumstances such as the Ohio one, to try to determine the truth of the matter. Of course, in real life, unless one is a “celebrity” you can say ANYTHING you want to about that person and perhaps be sued for libel or slander (depending only on whether the “speech” is written or oral). And where your speech can be seen by a court or jury as being knowingly false or made with a willful disregard of the truth, you will suffer whatever penalty the court(s) levy.
      While that may not restore your “reputation” I would think the possibility of such penalty would keep folks minding their “facts” and “statements” about others.
      I’d opt for freedom of speech on the Internet because, as that ole White Guy Thomas Jefferson said* “Its is better to let differing ideas compete in an open marketplace and where the People are the ultimate judge”
      *Kindly note that that is an approximate quotation, not exact.

  3. Wyatt Earp Post author

    Real – Well, we are “citizens of the world” now . . .

    John D – Apparently, some commenters were snarking about the suspect and making assumptions. Just like we do here. If this comes to pass, things around here will be much different.

  4. Wyatt Earp Post author

    Old NFO – If measures like these are implemented ‘netwide, disagreeing with the current administration – as Hillary claimed – will no longer be “patriotic.” It’ll be banned.

    1. L Frame S&W

      Wyatt,
      I have family members who fought in The Great War (the war to end wars), and WWII, to defend the principles this country was founded upon. Free speech opposing the administration currently in office is the cornerstone of our Republic. It seems like some people want to curb speech opposing their particular views, I do not. I may disagree with someone’s viewpoint (I disagree with you occasionally), but their opinion is just as valid as mine, or yours, or any other posters, on your site, or any other site. Curbing free internet speech (posting), is the same as curbing a free press, it is counter to the principles this country was founded upon, and should be stamped out wherever it appears.

  5. metoo

    I agree with realwest and think this will be prodded by the UN. They can’t keep their noses out of anything. Just wish we could keep them out of NYC.

  6. Vicki

    I’m really late commenting, and by now this story is all over the place, even Kos. As a former blogger the defamation suit made me angry – I mean, there’d be a lot of people after me for talking smack about Clinton, Obama, and the Left in general.

    But the bigger story that really chaps my a$$ is how these football players seem to be getting away with this. Sheriff Abdalla cares so much about kids – I’ve seen him buy bikes for kids at Christmas at KMart and tear up over abuse – but it looks like his concern only applies to kids on this side of the river.

    Honestly, come to Steubenville. The reports aren’t exaggerated as to the condition of the town and the worship of the athletes. The high school is beautiful and it’s easy to see where all the money goes in this county. For once, though, I’m glad my kids are out in a county school.

    And given my interactions with a former Steubenville city councilman who was the principal at Son’s (now closed) middle school, I’m not surprised by the attitude we’re seeing. Said principle completely deflected all allegations against him by passing blame and suspicion on to one of the teachers who led the charge, a teacher who was a friend and wouldn’t just make stuff up.

    Dean Martin is rolling in his grave.

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