The Printing Press to the Internet
2. History and Impact of Media Law
C H A P T E R T W O History and Impact of Media Law CONTROVERSY: After you receive your semester grades, many of you are likely to grade your professors on the wildly popular RateMyProfessor.com. Some of you might post unfavorable—possibly false and reputation-damaging—comments about professors. You might say something similar to the following, a slightly revised version of a real stu- dent posting taken from RateMyProfessor.com: “Socrates is a lousy teacher and prob- ably would be fired. But these professor dudes have tenure and are untouchable. He has an ego-centric, pompous personality. He is rude, mean, disrespectful, all of which take away from any teaching ability he may have. Other profs don’t like him.” You are likely to post such comments anonymously and, generally, the law will protect your anonymity. As Justice Hugo Black explained, under the First Amendment, “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind…the Federalist Papers, written in favor of the adoption of our Constitution, were published under fictitious names. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”1 Moreover, a federal statute provides immunity from liability to the owners of RateMyProfessor.com for student postings. That’s why the social media site works so well, at least in the eyes of students and the website owners. In contrast, a sensible newspaper publisher would not provide such a forum in its pages because no law shields print publishers...
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