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The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet

25 Jun 2009

Teeming with chatrooms, online discussion groups, and blogs, the Internet offers previously unimagined opportunities for personal expression and communication.

But there’s a dark side to the story. A trail of information fragments about us is forever preserved on the Internet, instantly available in a Google search. A permanent chronicle of our private lives – often of dubious reliability and sometimes totally false – will follow us wherever we go, accessible to friends, strangers, dates, employers, neighbors, relatives, and anyone else who cares to look. Children and teenagers are increasingly spilling out their most personal secrets – as well as intimate details about their families and friends – in blogs and social networking sites.

In a world where anybody can publish her thoughts to a world-wide audience, how should we balance privacy and free speech? How should the law protect people when harmful gossip and rumors are spread about them on the Internet?