Digital Defamation: Cyberbullying and the First Amendment

May 11, 2009
6:00 – 7:30 PM
New York

Held in partnership with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

As we all increasingly live our lives in the digital space, cyberbullying has reached epidemic proportions. Schoolyard fights have turned into MySpace taunts and derogatory instant messages. More than one-third of teens report being victimized online. Adults are not immune, either, as hateful Internet postings blemish careers and provoke lawsuits.

Search engines and other websites that deliver otherwise libelous content are currently protected by federal law, although some advocate new laws that could force intermediaries to take down offensive material. As writer David Margolick notes in a recent article in Condé Nast Portfolio, "The whole world is now the bathroom wall, and that wall can never be entirely painted over."

On Monday, May 11 at 6:00 pm, the Paley Center hosted a panel of experts who explored these critical and timely issues. Moderated by Brooke Gladstone, cohost and managing editor of NPR's On the Media, the panel included Portfolio contributing editor David Margolick; Wendy Seltzer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a visiting practitioner in residence at American University's Washington College of Law; Victor Kovner, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP specializing in defamation and First Amendment issues; and Joan Lukey, a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP and president-elect of the American College of Trial Lawyers, whose firsthand experiences with online defamation have prompted her to work towards modifying federal law.

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