(originally published December 02, 2005)
Here's the question - is it LEGAL to expose a cheater or abuser online? We remind you that this piece contains our personal OPINIONS only and was written for the purpose of consideration and discussion.
Most of these type of sites have rules for exposing the people listed. The current interpretation seems to say if you have proof to back up what you say, and it is truthful, it is not libel or slander or defamation. But remember, laws can be changed with enough pressure.
One site that exposes cheating men recently had a group attempt to launch a lawsuit against them. Guess what happened? Other than whining & moaning about how the cheaters and their families were harmed? Not much. The cheaters' website was looking for advertisers and money to help support their "cause." (Their site & cause are now BOTH defunct) Besides, now there are so many other choices of sites available to expose people, both men and women! (Additionally, the men trying to launch a lawsuit all admitted to affairs, cheating and lying to others online... but were angry about their families being harmed. -- Sounds like Dorksy, gridney/ Yidwithlid, Beckstead, etc. Maybe they should have thought of that before they went online to prey on innocent, vulnerable women and then treat them and smear these victims when they were caught in the lies & game playing. In short, they had NO SUIT!)
This same site had a man named Todd Hollis attempt to sue them for defamation. It got to court and rather than "having his day," the suit was tossed out by the judge before it even got that far.
According to judge R. Stanton Wettick, the "Defendant’s Web site is accessible to anyone connected to the Internet anywhere in the world. Under plaintiff’s argument, defendant could be hauled into court in any state for any controversy. This result would be inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s understanding of the requirements of due process."
Recently we were asked if most of these abusers and cheaters feel ashamed, sorry or sad about what they have done. Answer: "Not that we have seen!! In fact, it seems that they usually become indignant, angry and lash out at the person(s) that exposed the truth about them. They only "feel sorry" to try to rope the victim into saying nothing about them and to stop the tide of truth from exposing all the rest of their evil deeds."
Sad? Yes they are. Sad they got caught. And some of them do clean up their act for a few weeks, months or even years - but usually go RIGHT BACK to it and are sneakier about it next time.
If you consider that many of these people fall into a destructive sociopathic and narcissistic pattern you will find that many of them will go to therapy or even make long, carefully-crafted confessions to their partners. They even keep tweaking their stories until they find one that works. Here's one beaut that one of our predators tells to this day, that is the exact opposite of really happened, is pure slander and leaves out a lot of pertinent facts to make them (the Cyberpath) appear the victim:
You were an old girlfriend of Yidwithlid from an upstate NY college. You used the internet to track him down after 30 years, which wasn’t too hard because he’s a published writer.
You had cyber-sex with him and then got him to agree to meet up with you. When he did meet up with you, to his horror, he saw that his ex-girlfriend from college had ballooned into a 275 lb fat pig with poor hygiene and he didn’t want to bang you.
He politely excused himself by saying he couldn’t do this to his wife. You then began stalking him and his family, driving by his house, sending letters to his wife, his parents, his in-laws, his rabbi, the police, anyone with whom you thought you could slander his good name. His poor wife was left with no choice but to report you to the police after you threatened to harm her children.
Sound familiar porkchop?
Or there's the old "she's a scorned crazy woman" that this guy uses. Or this Cyberpath who says the victim who exposed him is "mentally unbalanced." Or this guy who has sworn for the last few years it's "all lies" and he's "writing a book to tell the truth" and "suing everyone." Don't buy it!
Once they find themselves "CURED" (We use that term loosely because deep down they justify everything and see NOTHING wrong with their behaviors) they will, step by step, go right back to their predatory ways either online or off. Being an online cheater is an addiction and takes a lot of honesty and giving up personal time to break an addiction or not trade it for something equally addicting and destructive.
The worst part is these cheaters and abusers usually accuse their wounded targets of harassing both them and/or their partners/ families and even stalking them. This is nothing more than a preemptive strike.
It common for internet predators, abusers and cheaters to enlist their local police in harassing their victims by showing the police carefully selected instant messages and emails to support their claims and need to cut down the once "beloved' target." This move sometimes makes their victims back down but usually the retributive attack can't be backed up.
- Be careful, the law regarding internet communications is still new so ask yourself:
- Are you exposing them to be mean or get revenge?
- Or are you doing it to warn others and possibly stop the cyberpath from destroying themselves and their families?
- Are you being vindictive or shedding real light on the situation?
When you point the finger at someone there are always three fingers pointing back at you. Your stories may help some potential victim see the patterns of behavior displayed by these people and avoid a lot of heartache. They may be cathartic as well. Telling is well known in psychiatric & medical communities as healing for victims.
As it stands, these communications are considered like any internet bulletin board posting as long as it doesn't contain telephone numbers or other information someone could use for identity theft. The exposure site owners say it is a matter of opinion.
In many cases, the cheater's spouse, therapist or partner may even stand up for the cheater/ abuser. These people do "seem" so contrite. They tell them to NEVER speak to their victim(s) again. Is that right? Maybe not. It doesn't offer an outlet for the cathartic anger and venting these exposure sites allow. It doesn't allow for healing on either side. It shows no empathy towards the victim.
Counselors for internet addiction say the cheaters should come clean with their partner AND all their victims. They also suggest trying to reframe the relationship into something more productive and honest for both people. Cutting off the victim is cruel and allows the abuser to then bend their stories without reproach, launch a smear campaign against their victims, run away from any responsibility and lie to everyone even more... including themselves. 12-Step addicts know that you must make direct amends.
Of course, some hide behind the step that says "unless to do so would cause more harm." In this case the cheater convinces themselves it would harm the victim even more. Baloney. The truth is not only a great leveler but also a great healer. In fact, new programs for restorative justice bring some prison inmates together with their victims which has been proven to be very healing for both of them.
So, think about it: if you internet predators, cheaters and abusers truly want to mend your ways then trying to erase what you did online by creating new identities and blocking victims isn't the solution, is it?
Now back to the lawsuit mentioned above. The owner of the site that was threatened with a lawsuit says:
"Most of them say that the [person] who posted [the profile] is crazy, that something is wrong with [the poster]; and that they're [the abuser/ cheater] saints."Domestic Violence advocates say this is classic and typical abuser-speak. It's never the cheater or abuser, it's always the person who found them out! Sort of a no-good-deed-goes-unpunished moment. Unlike the public posting of the locations of known, convicted sex-offenders, this does seem to be more problematic in terms of fairness.
The another site sheds more light on the process:
"I don't want to ruin someone's life.... But, I can't control if you are player and a bunch of women post things about you. That is just a karma thing."
In one case, City of Kirkland v. Sheehan, Bill Sheehan, a man in Washington State says he put up a website in an effort to make the police more publicly accountable. He published information about local police officers from the City of Kirkland and other municipalities in Washington including their names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, spouses' names and more. The police officers claimed this required them to enhance their personal and job security measures as well as expend funds in response to the listings. The case also alleges the site caused stress to both them and their families. This allegation is similar to the one made by the group attempting to shut down the cheating man site.
The ruling on the case held that the First Amendment protected the site:
"[I]n the absence of a credible specific threat of harm, the publication of lawfully obtained addresses and telephone numbers, while certainly unwelcome to those who had desired a greater degree of anonymity, is traditionally viewed as having the ability to promote political speech. Publication may arguably expose wrongdoers and/or facilitate peaceful picketing of homes or worksites and render other communication possible."As for the cheating man site? A former U.S. attorney Scott Christie was quoted in the New Jersey Star Ledger,
"Yes, it's all legal. If I were the owners of this site, I wouldn't be concerned. They're providing an outlet for people to express their opinion. It's much like hosting a bulletin board for people with a common interest,. People are giving their opinion about other people — they're entitled to it under the First Amendment."And this from Canada.com:
According to a privacy lawyer from Halifax, (snip)And think about this: The people who post the pictures/profiles on any site are making an "allegation" — nothing more. Many of them aren't offering evidence that is irrefutable and verifiable other than their account. With sites that do, they make sure they have evidence. But what are the reasons for doing this? Is it a warning, catharsis, revenge or a credible threat? That's something the poster needs to ask themselves before they get into a very sticky legal situation.
"If the person's reputation is in Canada, and they are in Canada, and likely the person who posted the information is in Canada, there's more than enough connection for Canadian defamation law to apply," says David T.S. Fraser, chair of the privacy practice group at McInnes Cooper. But he hastens to add the statements aren't considered defamatory if they're true.
"If you're a slug," says Mr. Fraser, "it's only appropriate people know you're a slug."
In an article on FindLaw, writer Anita Ramasastry brought up some current cases involving exposure sites, digital information and their interesting findings. One case stated that the First Amendment does not protect all personally identifiable information in every context, even those published online. In a 6-5 decision (close), in Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, Inc., et al., v. American Coalition of Life Activists, et al. an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction against a web site that did publish personal information of abortion doctors.
This particular case involved a website called the "Nuremberg Files." It published the addresses, photographs, addresses and other personal information of physicians and others who either provided or supported abortion services. The website also had strike throughs on the names of those who had been murdered and grayed out the names of those who had been wounded. The majority in this close decision held that the "pattern" in which the posters appeared — coupled with the fact that other abortion providers had been killed — transformed the posters into something of a symbolic threat. As such, the information was not protected by the First Amendment.
One owner of a website about cheating, abusive men says this about their site:
If someone posted our pictures/profiles in a database and we learned of it but it wasn't true, then we probably wouldn't waste time even rebutting it. Why? Because if we're innocent, then the burden is not on us to prove such, at least not under American jurisprudence — legal or moral. And we don't use and abuse people online or off - so we are not afraid of scrutiny. Misinformation and slander is easily proved and then we'd ask the site administrator to remove it. Threats such as being "out to get you" or "you're done" or "I will not hesitate to kill you if I see you" - are illegal and should be reported immediately to the FBI nearest where the threatener lives. (CLICK HERE for U.S. Offices)
In short - its a catharsis the victims won't get anywhere else. What are the victims of these men and women to do with their anger, pain and hurt? Suck it up and allow the abuser to move on to another victim? Tell or not tell his spouse, partner or family? Stew in their feelings?
One exposure site owner says:
It is better than going out and slashing his tires. It makes the victims feel better and gives them a way to express their bitterness and hurt."In light of precedents like these, it's extremely likely that any law that simply tried to ban cheating men/ women sites, information aggregators like Zabasearch or "digital dossiers," would be struck down as contrary to the First Amendment. But could a more narrowly written law constitutionally restrict such sites and dossiers and be on the books soon? Some feel yes, such a law would be desirable. Some feel no, that the internet should not be restricted in such a manner as long as it does not pose a threat, symbolic or otherwise, to the persons posted as long as the information is true and proveable.
Perhaps if you are a guilty party, rather than trying to cut down the person(s) exposing you it would be better to call a qualified internet addiction counselor to stop your abusing ways. You would be doing everyone, including yourself, a favor.
Then, see what you can do to get the posting removed without a counterattack. Just talking to the person(s) you suspect posted it and working on amends honestly seems better than a Judge Judy or Jerry Springer hate-fest.
Ramasastry says in her article "... legislators should consider regulating how densely information can be collected online - regulating, that is, how thick our digital dossiers really can be. Doubtless, any attempt to do this will raise First Amendment objections. But this is one issue where privacy and the First Amendment truly clash - and the First Amendment cannot win every time."
And to the victims of these cheaters, liars, internet predators and abusers, remember: NOTHING beats sunshine and fresh air to disinfect abuse! Tell, but do not do it to endanger the person you are angry at or their families in the process. The laws are still being worked out. These sorts of internet exposures won't go away. Think of the National Enquirer and Globe articles that have caused ugly lawsuits.
Write your representatives and tell them your concerns or feelings about internet privacy.
And if you have been cheated on? Vent but exercise caution in posting anyone's personal information.
DISCLAIMER: We are not lawyers and this article is our personal opinion. It should not be construed as legal advice, in part or in whole, in way, shape or form.
OUR ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND HERE