What did you call me?!?

This is the latest question on the mind of a one Ms. Buttina Wulff. Ever heard of her? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, she is the former First Lady of Germany and author of a newly published memoir making waves on German bookshelves. The exciting part is who she is directing this question at, Google, or more specifically, Google’s autocomplete function! This in and of itself is not terribly interesting, I’ll admit that, however it opens the door to what I believe to be an increasingly important topic in regards to electronic publishing; the definition and roles of slander and libel.

Ms. Wulff has brought a suit against Google due to the fact that the autocomplete function on the monster search engine not so kindly suggests that users search for “Buttina Wulff prostitute” or “Buttina Wulff escort.” If I were any sort of public figure with a reputation to protect, I would be similarly offended. Google denies responsibility of these unkind suggestions due to the fact that the autocomplete function only suggests what other users have already searched. Essentially, if the rest of the world thinks you have ties to prostitution, Google is not responsible for perpetuating the rumor. Or are they?

With information being tweeted, posted, blogged, reported, linked, paraphrased, and repeated in a million different ways at the speed of light, who is to say what constitutes libel? We live in the golden age of libel, slander, and the invasion of privacy. We can’t go a week without a cyber bulling scandal, a celebrity apologizing for an insensitive tweet, exposing a princess’ goodies, or undermining 47% of a nation. With an onslaught of satirical and comedic “news” sources constantly outselling and out distributing their genuine counterparts, libel laws are struggling to keep up. To be honest, the first time I read an article by “The Onion,” I believed it to be genuine news reporting. Redistributing satirical reporting as hard fact unknowingly could not only be embarrassing but have legal repercussions also, depending on who your are.

Did you all hear what Romney said in his apology to the nation last week?

“Let me make this absolutely clear: I have the utmost respect for all of the filth-encrusted, lesion-covered degenerates of this nation,” Romney said. “In the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting real Americans in their squalid, roach-infested hellholes in every corner of this country. I promise to stand up for every one of you, even the 47 percent of you huddled together for warmth, fighting your own family members for moldy crusts of bread as you wallow in your own excrement.”

Added Romney, “And I look forward to serving you as your next president.”
-The Onion 9/18/2012






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