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Should There Ever Be a Limit to Freedom of Speech?

It seems like our linked-up electronic world is full of tragic university shootings, devastating MySpace-fueled suicides, and this: a college website called

The website available on dozens of campuses, encourages anonymous threads commenting on students' sexual exploits, and features content like, "Top Ten Freshman Sluts" and "The Jews ruin this school." While students usually fall on the side of greater electronic freedom, apparently this site has gone too far. A Facebook group called "Ban JuicyCampus" has hundreds of members, and the student government at Pepperdine University voted 23-5 to ask for a ban of the site on campus. The electronic medium had real world consequences for a now-former student at Loyola Marymount, who was arrested after allegedly posting a threat of a campus shooting spree on JuicyCampus.

The popularity of this site is waning as students stop visiting in protest of its objectionable content. Is that enough? Is the best remedy for harmful speech to ignore it? Are the students of Pepperdine right to vote a limit on this kind of speech?


Join The Conversation
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
No. But people need to have good manners and human decency. Which the posters on "juicycampus" and the like clearly do not possess.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 9 years
Oh, I disagree ktownpolarbear - I think that people wrote crap about each other back then too. I'd be willing to bet that in social contexts it was just as inflammatory. Free speech does have limits in place, but other than those, we should be free to say what we want and be sued for it if it's slanderous or libelous.
ktownpolarbear ktownpolarbear 9 years
i think it depends on each situation, but i'm sure when our founding fathers wrote the constitution they weren't thinking about cases where people would write such crap about each other.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I am all for freedom of speech. But, as it is a private institution, Pepperdine has to right to block any site it chooses on its own network, without reason or warning. If the proposed ban was at a public institution, the debate would be different. (And I know most colleges receive some sort of funding through Pell Grants, etc., but a clear distinction still exists between public and private universities.) That being said, though the debate would be different, this ban may hold up at a public university as well, due to Supreme Court precedent about the most good for the most number of people. On the other hand, this content is not forced on people, so it's really hard to look at precedent as a way to decide this case. The whole thing could go either way. It's definitely an interesting one to debate, as both sides can cite not only personal feelings, but past case law.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Freedom of speech is already limited. Some of these comments amount to slander or terrorist threats. The internet is not exempt from pre-existing laws. Offensive remarks, OTOH, should be allowed (unless they incite other crimes). I think we've gotten too thin-skinned and self-pitying, and need to toughen up a bit.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
Total freedom of speech is wrong if you believe that we shouldhave complete freedomof speech, the osamas and hitlers of the world have the right to stand on the street spreading their hate against us all. These guys are spewing vicious lies and i don't know how many of you have ever been a victim of intense gossip but i have and if i hadn't had a family that was amazing i don't think i would have been able to take it, so for someone to go on the internet and possibly hinder or harm someone is not right. not all of us are mentally stable and if people can do that then we should be able to sue people for culpable manslaughter or whatever you call it when people kill themselves because Ms X posted some nasty stuff on the net. The internet is a very powerful tool and it's patheitc to use it for such crap!
cottonpoots cottonpoots 9 years
Yes, and whoever made up the "sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt me" phrase was dead wrong. Words can hurt a person emotionally and scar them for life, or even end a person's life.
rickimc rickimc 9 years
With a college it is hard, but with the myspace suicides, that involved minors, who, being under 18, are not really that free, and sometimes need rules against their free speech to help them learn how to act in society.
kitkatherine kitkatherine 9 years
i'll make mine short. slander anyone? if it's offensive to a person or attack, (eg calling someone a slut, can you REALLY proove that one) it's also against the law.
xrockette19x xrockette19x 9 years
I fully support freedom of speech, no matter how offensive what is being said is. Even if this site was censored, the thoughts being posted on it would still remain. I don't think ignoring a problem ever solves anything, and the way to fix what is posted on this site is not to censor it. I currently can't get onto the site because it is upgrading its servers, but all of the articles citizensugar mentioned are indicative of larger problems. Shutting down a website won't stop people from objectifying and degrading women (top 10 freshmen sluts) or being prejudiced (the jews run this school). If this inspires people to take actions to try and help these and other problems raised by this site, that's great, but I really don't think censoring the site would do anything to help.
sugarbean sugarbean 9 years
The site isn't actually entirely anonymous, and the owners do cooperate with law enforcement when there is a threat to public safety. For instance, in the last month(ish), someone threatened a shooting of some sort at LMU -- the site did cooperate with authorities and the individual who made the "anonymous" post was subsequently arrested. This is actually really similar to another website ( that already has a ton of litigation surrounding it. (see link below for WSJ Law Blog piece on that case) The biggest difference is that the AA site requires individuals to register and log-in to comment (well, that and the anonymous posters contacted their employers and schools) The difficulty with both of these sites is that the law has not caught up with the technology. While the US Supreme Court refuses to recognize opinion as a defense to defamation, generally, in order for a defamation lawsuit (or prosecution) to survive the early stages of the process, the contested statement has to be factual in nature rather than an opinion. Whether something is factual depends on whether or not it can be proven or disproved in court. This is where the law not catching up with technology part comes in... While the servers collect a log of ISPs (which can, to some degree be "masked") of each visitor to the site (not sure about their activity on the site) the ISPs only keep the records for, generally, a *maximum* of 120 days. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it's not difficult to bury a lawsuit in pleadings and motions for a lot longer than 120 days -- meaning the victim's legal counsel can't get their hands on the IP records before they are tossed -- making it nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable for what is said. If we can figure out a way to hold anonymous internet posters accountable for defamation, then let Juicy Campus do its thing. However, when the owner/operator gives users tips about how to more effectively evade leaving an electronic trail, there's a problem. I have even more of a problem with the site's Terms & Conditions -- particularly this provision: "If you use the Site to commit any of the above offenses, JuicyCampus may, at its sole discretion. terminate your password, account (or any part of it) or ability to use the Site, and remove any Content you posted to the Site. If you violate any laws, JuicyCampus may report you to applicable authorities. JuicyCampus will respond to lawful subpoenas." anyone else see the problem here? As far as I can tell, use of the site does not require a password or the creation of an account -- so effectively, there is no consequence for violating those particular terms of use. Additionally, if their anonymity assurances are true, they have no way of blocking specific individuals from the site or identifying the content an individual is responsible for posting (and therefore needs to be removed). Ah well, someone has to feed the lawyers.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 9 years
This is not iffy. This is black and white. The 1st amendment to the constitution gives us freedom of speech. Repeal that and repeal America. Don't agree? Move to Cuba. I whole heartedly believe that the Bill of Rights (ie the first 10 amendments) should be indelible. Censorship and banning free speech is what communists do (though we as Americans admittedly allow it to happen in our country too often!). This has nothing to do with suicide or school shootings - this is a right - not a privilege - a right.
sweetrae80 sweetrae80 9 years
People need to realize that the Internet isn't a forum where you can say things that you aren't allowed to say in "real life." People use and abuse the Internet because they are irresponsible idiots.
JovianSkies JovianSkies 9 years
That website SHOULD be banned, not only because it's very damaging (come on, "Jews ruin this school" is a statement that everyone brushes aside?) but those responsible for its creation could really be nailed for slander. What about protection of privacy? I agree with Nyradzom. Sites like this are put up, and people are STILL shocked when shootings and suicides take place...
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
Kids bullying other kids online and on sms is a big, big problem in all age groups. Parents need to be extremely aware of this. It's hard to know where to draw the line though, about freedom of speech. Like sites for pedophiles that give detailed instructions on how to abduct and rape a child, is illegal but it exists. I'm pretty sure pedophiles are in favor of freedom of speech at any expense. I think there are some very few things that should be regulated or banned, but not more than what already is.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
I don't think this website is so much a question of free speech as it is a question of privacy. I think the speech itself is protected to a certain extent. It's written gossip as opposed to word of mouth gossip. You can be held legally responsible for spreading untrue rumors about someone if it is damaging enough. I think this website is just opening itself up to a big fat libel suit at which point it may take care of itself. This is just one tiny element of the debate over privacy and public vs. private. As much as it makes my head hurt to think about, this is a huge, huge issue with many unknown consequences.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
It sounds like a vile website, but I don't think it should be banned. Free speech should be protected. Foolish gossip should be recognized for what it is. It's a pity that those students can't act like adults, but that only reflects poorly on themselves. The only instances I wish for some restrictions is when Fred Phelps & Co. go protest at soldier's funerals with their whole "This soldier died as a judgment of God because America isn't killing homosexuals in the streets" crap. They always cry free speech, they can say what they want, but it's still absolutely vile.
hvnly34 hvnly34 9 years
I think in America we work really hard at giving the appearance of freedom of speech, but it doesn't really exist. You can say, think and do what you want, but there are consequences and we are monitored a lot more than we think we are...
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
This is a hard one because as someone pointed out there are actually limits to our "freedom" of speech. The Supreme Court (crud almost wrote Burrito Supreme - wth?) has made ruling saying the believe there are limits to free speech. However, I said "No" to this question but utopian caveat. I would hope that with that freedom we Americans would exercise it responsibly, gain knowledge before spouting off and respect for each but you cannot legislate those things not should anyone try.
ellipsery ellipsery 9 years
Free speech is included in the Bill of Rights to ensure the protection of unpopular speech. Unless someone is being threatened, all speech here is perfectly Constitutional.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I don't know how I feel about officially limiting speech on sites like that, but I can say that gossip spread on a site like that has the potential to be much more damaging than just people talking about one in person. People can forget what they've heard in person, or in any case people one meets later on would have no idea what had been said before, but things stay around on the Internet to be found later, and can come back to haunt people--and how much more hurtful if they weren't true in the first place? This is a really interesting case. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it, and more people's opinions about it.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
You either have freedom of speech or you don't. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to take it away.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
There were plenty of suicides caused by verbal teasing in school, the internet is just another medium for bullying and rumors. This is not new nor special. I, too, had never heard of the site until it was plasterized all over media.
AKirstin AKirstin 9 years
I don't want to see any limitations of freedom of speech whatsoever. It's gossip, who gives a crap? If someone is freaking out because someone called them a slut, they should be a lot more concerned with figuring out why they care what random people think of them than silencing the chatter. We need to stop patting our young people on the head, we're totally over-protective. They need a kick in the ass and to be told to get over it, there is bigger fish to fry. All of this stepping in is creating a world of thin-skin. I'm *not* saying we should ignore it, I'm just saying our reactions are completely overblown.
philleif philleif 9 years
You'd agree to limits if you saw the first draft of this comment.
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