Impact of the ‘Washingtonienne’ case on Social Media.

December 26, 2006 by Lisa Oshima | Social Media

It’s been a slow news week in the world of social media and social networking – what, with the holidays, people are spending time with real life friends and family, rather than at work or with their on-line network.  But, there is one social media/ social networking story that is still making headlines and drawing crowds of millions with wide eyes and dropped jaws this week – yep – the ‘Washingtonienne’ case.  For those of you social media-ites who have been living under a rock, click here to read the latest on the status of the lawsuit, which is proving just as elicit and sexually-charged as the blog that sparked it.

In my opinion, this case is thoroughly ridiculous and a waste of the court’s time.  Apparently, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman feels the same way:

“I don’t know why we’re here in federal court to begin with,” Friedman told attorneys for both sides in April. “I don’t know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private, intimate details.”

Despite this frivolity and mis-use of the already over-burdened court system, I’m concerned by the way the outcome of this trial may impact social media and the way that bloggers and other social networkers freely express themselves.  I don’t believe in hanging out dirty laundry to dry in a public forum, but this is America, and if someone wants to do that, it’s their right, so long as what they’re saying is, in fact, true.  However, I also agree withMarc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center:

“Anybody who wants to reveal their own private life has a right to do that. It’s a different question when you reveal someone else’s private life,” he said, adding that simply calling something a diary doesn’t make it one. “It’s not sitting in a nice, leather-bound book under a pillow. It’s online where a million people can find it.

That said, if you want your private life to stay that way, it is advisable to know a little something about the integrity and personal habits of a girlfriend/boyfriend before you share your “private” life with them.  Apparently, Robert Steinbuch didn’t. According to the AP:

Cutler, a former aide to Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, says she created the blog in 2004 to keep a few friends up to date on her social life. Like a digital version of the sex-themed banter from a “Sex and the City” episode, Cutler described the thrill and tribulations of juggling sexual relationships with six men.

What will the outcome of this case mean to social media in the long term?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, the case highlights the importance of personal accountability.  In summary – It’s not nice to kiss and tell, but if you’re stupid enough to get involved with someone who clearly has a history of kissing and telling, don’t be surprised to read about yourself in their blog.

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