|FINDING LIMITS IN CYBERSPACE|
Online, does everything go?
September 8, 1997
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Questions answered in this forum: Will independent cyberjournalists have access to political sources? Shouldn't cybernauts just trust their own judgement? Could newsgroup posts be considered libelous? Could libel suits squelch freedom of speech online? Should libel laws be updated to reflect the digital age? Viewer comments on online credibility
August 28, 1997
The NewsHour reports on questionable news on the 'Net.
December 25, 1996
A panel discussion on how the Internet fared in 1996.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of cyberspace and law.
The U.C.L.A Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy.
Archie McDougald of Brazoria, TX, asks:
Is the American public, specifically onliners, intelligent enough to sort fact from fiction? Is it not our own judgement that dictates what we do and do not truly believe?
Prof. Margaret Jane Radin responds:
This is a complicated question. I don't underestimate the intelligence of the public, whether online or not--they tend to seem pretty savvy. (For example, they don't care much about Whitewhater, because they figure it's one set of politicians blowing smoke at another.) But sorting fact from fiction is involved with emotion and social factors, not just intelligence. In this month's Scientific American, there's an article by a well-known researcher in psychology about false memories, with evidence that many people do tend to believe what others want them to believe. Even though I'm very wary and skeptical, I believe the advertising industry can frequently delude me. I'm afraid that whoever sells miracle cures for cancer on the Net is going to make a lot of money.Steve Geimann of the Society of Professional Journalists responds:
A major concern for professional journalists in the online community is the ability to separate fact from opinion, reality from fantasy, balance from agenda. I think responsible, professional journalists must continuously educate the public about facts and balance and fairness. We must show Internet users, and others, how information is gathered, even linking to the source material to further document how we decided what was important, what was relevant. Lots of rumor and speculation float around the Internet. Gossip can become "fact" when it shows up online right next to other information we know to be true. Personal perspectives also play a role, and reasonable people can disagree on some aspects of a story. But facts are facts. Give browsers the facts, explain how they were obtained, and I think you help the public make the distinction between material reviewed through an editorial process and one man or woman's unfounded opinion masked as fact.
Will the Drudge Report case
provide a precedent for cyber-libel?