Internet Law

Prosecutor Explains Possible Case Against JuicyCampus

Only a few of Chelsea Gorman’s closest friends knew she had been raped one night as the freshman was walking back to Vanderbilt University. Yet, months after the attack, the attack became a topic of anonymous gossip—and vicious criticism of Gorman—on the JuicyCampus Internet site.

The anonymous campus gossip site—which a segment of the ABC News program 20/20 describes as a “virtual bathroom wall”—stretches the boundaries of the First Amendment at least close to the breaking point, some feel. But it’s on a different basis—possible consumer fraud over alleged violation by the site of its own posted terms of use—that the attorneys general of several states reportedly have been investigating JuicyCampus, the television newsmagazine notes.

Eagle-eyed viewers of Friday’s 20/20 program on JuicyCampus and Gorman’s experience as a target of the site saw a brief screenshot of an earlier post about the Connecticut and New Jersey investigations.

“We believe that they’re engaged in unconscionable business practices and deceptive business practices, and we would seek to stop them from doing that in the state,” Anne Millgram, the New Jersey attorney general, told 20/20.

“The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act prohibits unconscionable business practices, it prohibits deceptive business practices and what we found when we looked at the website is that the website was essentially saying here are its terms and conditions—you couldn’t post abusive content, you couldn’t post unlawful content, you couldn’t post things that were obscene or violated other people’s privacy,” Millgram says. “But then that’s exactly what was happening, and the website was doing nothing about it.”

She also indicates there may be a further JuicyCampus issue concerning the duty of good faith and fair dealing that is implied in every contract.

The site and its founder, Matt Ivester, declined to be interviewed on camera. However, JuicyCampus has previously characterized the attorney general investigations as “absurd” in a written statement on its “official” blog and said it has done nothing illegal, as discussed in another prior post.

Although it isn’t yet clear whether there is a potential legal remedy for Gorman and others like her who are victimized by vicious JuicyCampus gossip, criticism of the site apparently has prompted several big advertisers to pull their JuicyCampus campaigns, according to 20/20.

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