Fox News Chicago: Online Defamation, Surfing Safety - Daliah Saper, Principal Saper Law

Robin Robinson: First on Fox Chicago News tonight, surfing safety on Facebook. The website rolls out its first upgrade in recent memory to protect us from the internet's dark side.

Jeff Goldblatt: We just saw that dark side here on Chicago's North Shore. One school's student embarrassed, humiliated until the plug was pulled on this site. Bullies, gossip mongers, and haters; these days words can do the damage as the internet turns into the Wild West of public expression.

Robin Robinson: And how far is too far? And what can we do if anything to protect ourselves? Craig Wall has been looking into those questions and he has found some answers for us. Craig.

Craig Wall: Robin and Jeff, we used to say as kids "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Well that's a fairytale nowadays with social media providing such a prolific outlook for kids and adults to vent, but the wrong words can have serious consequences.

Craig Wall: Speaking your mind online, it happens all the time on social websites. The hateful words fly and then stick on the cyber walls of Facebook or other places like dontdatehimgirl.com for ripping your ex, glassdoor.com for blasting your boss, or ripoffreport.com for ranting about a bad consumer experience.

Daliah Saper: The internet is such an easy and accessible tool people use it as their first line of defense or offense when they want to go after someone.

Craig Wall: Like the Facebook page "evanston rats!!!" which resulted in fights at Evanston Township High School, and a warning from the principal about possible suspensions or criminal charges for students who posted comments. Some were quite nasty.

Taylor Gee (Student): Whoever had sex with somebody else they were putting it out. Whoever was doing something that they weren't supposed to with somebody else they were putting it out.

Sha'Myah Triplet (Student): They do it for like a joke, like for fun, but once it gets serious it's not funny anymore.

Craig Wall: And it can also get you sued for defamation.

Daliah Saper: You have to demonstrate that the person made a false statement of fact about you. That's important because it's differentiating from an opinion, I can call someone a jerk all day long.

Craig Wall: That may be mean but won't get you sued. On the other hand, if you accuse someone of committing a crime, or say something that costs them their job, or that they have a sexually transmitted disease, or are in essence a tramp -- you could wind up in court. Even if you thought you were posting something online anonymously.

Passerby: That's the trouble with the social networking stuff is, it's a lot of freedom to put all sorts of stuff out there and you can hurt people pretty badly.

Craig Wall: Today, Facebook updated its safety center to give teens and parents better information on how to protect themselves online. While you can't control what others post, you can report problems as well as troubling or threatening posts. "Evanston rats," by the way, has been taken down completely.

Jeff Goldblatt: Well even though, Craig, it's been taken down I mean are police looking into it. Can we talk about criminal charges for students who posted on there?

Craig Wall: Police are looking into it; the school is also looking into it. Whether it's going to be criminal charges is a matter of resources in today's day and age. But the school has threatened students with suspensions of up to ten days if they can be determined to have posted those things, as well they could also miss prom or graduation. There could be consequences. Some of these kids, they could even be sued if they can be connected to those malicious posts.

Jeff Goldblatt: Craig Wall proving that there are repercussions out there, we thank you.

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