Numerous articles, including Sandy Maple’s on parentdish.com, “Teen Insult Web Site Shut Down,” have reported that online free speech has bowed to the pressure of community values.  A web site, “People’s Dirt,” has been pulled out of cyberspace by Go Daddy, the internet host, in an effort to stop online harassment, cyber bullying and abuse.  Calling it an “insult site” is misleading.  It was much worse.

The site was very popular with vindictive and vicious high school students who used it anonymously to publically trash-talk, harass, abuse and embarrass their targets.  The combination of slander and defamation on the slander board was illegal, but the anonymity offered by the site protected the abusers.

What did it take to pressure Go Daddy to drop the site?  A joint effort by parents, students, school administrators and the Maryland Attorney General brought sufficient pressure on the Go Daddy Group and the “People’s Dirt” advertisers – the advertisers pulled their support and Go Daddy acted to preserve its reputation.

Whether protecting kids from physical bullying or cyberbullying, that grouping is always necessary to stop bullying at school or online.

The Go Daddy hosting service agreement with its users allows Go Daddy to end service for sites whose content includes activities that “defame, embarrass, harm, abuse, threaten, slander or harass third parties.”  The contents on the site, including a threat to kill students and staff, racial slurs and claims of promiscuity about named high school students, and accusations against named teachers fit into those prohibited categories.

Go Daddy could have resisted the effort and forced the group to go to court to prove some sort of illegal activity.  But this is a much better solution: common cause to stop bullying and abuse.  Go Daddy will find other ways to make money.

Every society or community limits complete free speech because of a more important value: The balance necessary to maintain the strong sense of community that enables the people to live together peacefully.  Neither end of the scale – complete free speech or complete censorship and repression – yields a society worth living in.  Some form of compromise, some balancing of individual and communal desires and needs is always reached in communities that move ahead amicably.

Whether the site will remain offline is still an open question.  Other internet hosts may be willing to carry it.  Alfredo Castillo, the site’s founder, has previously said that if the site was removed by Go Daddy, he would move it to an international host, where it could skirt any American prosecution.

Mr. Castillo is a person who doesn’t care about his community.  He’s an individual isolated from his community’s values and interested only in his own desires to make money.  Those are some of the identifying characteristics of bullies and sociopaths.  Anyone know where he lives and where his children go to school?

Resource Cited: http://www.parentdish.com/2009/06/16/teen-insult-web-site-shut-down/

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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