A college friend of mine recently told me to check out a new, popular website among undergraduates across the country. She said that it was where I could find all of the latest, “juicy” gossip. Like many first-time viewers, I expected the site, known as Juicy Campus, to be another version of Facebook or MySpace. To my surprise, I was completely wrong.

Juicy Campus encourages college students to anonymously post uncensored rumors and gossip about their peers online. In fact, no log-in names or passwords are required to create the online posts. The result? Hundreds of students’ reputations have been ruined and many of their embarrassing secrets have been revealed to anyone who would view the site. As a result, the site has sparked a debate among students regarding whether we should reconsider our beliefs about the accountability and anonymity of internet speakers.

There is no dispute that in this country we value the First Amendment and its guarantee of free speech primarily because of what it provides – a “blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society.” Without this guarantee, many of us might be silenced from speaking our personal beliefs. It is for these reasons that we often go to great lengths to protect this right, preferring to take any losses for all of the gains.

But what should we do when free speech is the weapon that silences us – when it is the source of fear and persecution that the First Amendment is supposed to protect against? Today, college students, a group of individuals who normally celebrate First Amendment rights, question the expansiveness of the freedom. Sadly, at a time when they face rumors and falsehoods, it is the First Amendment that leaves them without any recourse.

We must seek a balance that reminds students who have been hurt by their peers’ free speech that there is also a bright side to the practice. Otherwise, we risk losing the next generation of First Amendment champions.

- Misty Johnson

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