Jan 022011
 
 January 2, 2011  Featured News, Online

There is nothing funny about sexually transmitted disease (STDs). A web site that allows people to name individuals as carriers of STDs while shielding the web site owners’ identities is an affront to both privacy and responsible speech.

Thanks to Jezebel.com, and a tweet by @LawandLit , I just became aware of an absolutely mind-boggling site, STDCarriers.com.   Morning Gloria writes:

It doesn’t take any fancy book-learning to realize that a user-driven website that purports to list STD carriers could be abused by the public, especially when third-party accounts of the state of the others’ genitals are considered reliable.

The website purports itself to be some kind of public service, but rather than serving the needs of a public that wants to avoid getting STD’s from all of those nefarious, trenchcoat-wearing, mustache-twirling deliberate herpes-spreaders, it seems instead to serve as a great resource with which to immaturely and anonymously fuck people over. I’ve never had an STD, but hotdamn am I not okay with this at all.

Read more on Jezebel.com,  but don’t miss the site’s “Privacy and Free Speech Protection Policies,” snippets of which are quoted below. Keep in mind that the domain name is registered in the Bahamas using a whois privacy protector, and the domain name servers are ns186.ip-asia.com and ns185.ip-asia.com:

In some cases we require medical documents be sent via U.S. mail to determine if a publisher has violated our Terms of Use Agreement. We keep these records private and do not share them with third parties. If documents are submitted as part of a request to be listed in the STD Free Section the disease(s) for which you have tested negative for and exam date(s) will be posted with the profile.

If you are found to have violated the Terms of Use Agreement your information may be posted in the Evil Doers Section. This information will include your IP address and internet service provider (ISP) and any other information we have have about you including your email address, full name, phone number, postal address, and picture.

If you send messages that are deemed threatening in any way via email, U.S. mail, or any other medium we may elect to publish the message in our Threats Section. Published threats may contain any associated contact information including your your email address, full name, phone number, and postal address. This may apply to unconstructive rantings in some cases if they of an obnoxious, obscene, or otherwise notable in nature.

The site seems to have a very liberal definition as what constitutes “ranting,” as here’s an example of what they consider “ranting” from their “Rants” page:

It has come to my attention that false information pertaining to myself has been publicly posted on your website (STDcarriers.com), and as such I am requesting that all record to my name be removed from your website immediately.

Then there are these amazing statements in the section called, “Free Speech for American Users:”

STD Carriers is owned and operated in the state of Oregon. As an Oregon information service user generated content (UGC) falls under the protection of the Oregon Media Shield Law. Under this law we are protected from having to reveal the source of information gathered unless the information indicates that you have or are about to commit a crime. The only information we keep besides your email address that as mentioned above is available to other members is your IP address. Your IP address represents your location and internet connection, but technically is nothing more than a string of four numerical fields separated by periods. Like any string of periods and digits it by itself cannot indicate whether you have or are about to commit a crime. Therefore as the law states we like any “person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public” cannot be “required by a legislative, executive or judicial officer or body, or any other authority having power to compel testimony or the production of evidence, to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise…Any unpublished information obtained or prepared by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” Simply put we will not and cannot be forced to release your IP address.

STD Carriers is aware that not all states have a shield law and we knowingly provide service in those areas. We are also aware that some of those areas have civil statues allowing for civil litigation in cases involving the publication of private facts. It is, always has been, and always will be the policy of STD Carriers to treat all UGC as if it originated within the state. STD Carriers will not appear, provide information for, or otherwise participate in any court proceeding outside of Oregon. Furthermore we will not grant requests made by any non-federal judicial officer located outside of Oregon. Exceptions to this section will only be considered in cases related to violations of our usage terms.

Good grief.  I’m not qualified to comment on their analysis of any protection they may have under Oregon’s media shield law.  I expected them to argue that they were shielded under Section 230 of the CDA for user-generated content, but in any event, I don’t think they’re as shielded as they represent, although it would seem that they have, indeed, made it very difficult for anyone who’s been defamed to sue them.

A site like this can do incredible reputational harm to individuals. They may see themselves as some kind of public service, but I see them as major privacy and reputation offenders.  Is this part of the price we must pay for a free Internet?

And is there anything ironic about how MasterCard and Visa let you use their services to donate to the site but you can’t use those services to donate to WikiLeaks?

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