UnderCover Waitress: Rebuttal

Monday, January 30, 2012


Received a comprehensive response in the comments section yesterday in response to Censorship, Topix, and SOPA (oh, my). I am copying it verbatim below.

Diane Carlisle also made the salient point that lack of accountability is a big problem on Internet forums. The forum owner isn't responsible, and the anonymous writer can not always be tracked down.

The idea that an adult would commit suicide over anonymous comments on the Internet seems foreign to me. Worse is the idea that mature adults believe everything they read on anonymous forums. Anonymous comments on open forums with no references nor resources to back up anything they say do not an encyclopedia make.

Some of the issues being discussed may be successfully dealt with by simply requiring registration on the site; however, I understand from an article in the New York Times that the owner loses money when he takes down the vicious gossip. Requiring registration would also hinder people's tendency to post things they wouldn't say if their name was attached. I am not defending a "make money at all costs" stand point; only mentioning that his motives seem to be monetary.

This is an argument worth having.

Addendum: Brendan also left a well-thought out response. Including it under Steve's.


"Steve Jan 29, 2012 08:22 AM
As I read your aticle and think checked out that petition, I have to respectfully say your article is the one that is poorly written and I want to explain why. First, I am familiar with the Change.org website and that is one of the most thorough petitions I have seen. Second, there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech. Libel is a crime and try cussing out a judge or police officer sometime. The first amendment has been abused. Third, this concept of ignoring the site is frankly a childish, illogical argument. Even if you ignore the website, that doesn't help because your reputation is still being destroyed. For instance, if I were to call you a pedofile and post it on a site like Topix with your name and town and half the town read it and believed it, your reputation would be gone even if you didn't know about it. My freedom ends where yours begins. When someone has to hire a lawyer they are being raped twice. No where in that petition did they claim that the pursuit of happiness was part of the Constitution. Not every right was written in the Constitution. The pursuit of the American dream is why the Consitution was written so the author of that petition was spot on.

If your child committed suicide over Topix, would your reaction be "Oh well my kid is dead, but spreading lies is more important than human life."

I did some further research and found this site fascinating. It is at http://toxictopix.webs.com. Why do you think most states have adopted cyberbullying laws, because there are certain things that should not be allowed. Why, according to the site I listed, has tons of newspapers dropped Topix? Because it is wrong. Your way offbase on this one."


"Here is my take on this. The argument of SOPA and Topix are two entirely different things. I am not in favor of SOPA, but I am very much in favor of something being done about blatant libel. According to a statistical study, a majority of Americans want more done about cyberbullying and libel online, yet when a bill like SOPA comes along people go nuts. I will say this and once again, I am not in favor of SOPA but the companies who went nuts over SOPA could care less about censorship. They are afraid they would lose money. Let's not kid ourselves there.

In regards to Topix, I have a real passion in this area. I work with victims of cyberbullying in West Virginia (where Topix is a major problem). The police have stated numerous times that Topix is the most problematic site they deal with and the attorney general of West Virginia has stated more complaints are filed regarding Topix than any other website. I definitely understand your argument and I believe going on Topix is largely a mistake because if you defend yourself you will likely be attacked even worse. But, and this is a huge but, because of the lack of rules and laws that does not mean you are safe. Particularly in small towns, if someone claims the Undercover Waitress is a drug user or a pedofile, you can apply for a job or walk into a business and have your life ruined. The argument I have heard is bullying has always occurred. There is a major difference. Online makes it much more permanent and it reaches hundreds, potentially thousands of people instantly. Getting called a name at school is only going to be heard for a select few. Going on Topix, it is seen by thousands.

My issue with Topix is they won't even do the little things to try and curve some of the bullying because they have no confidence that a reputable user who actually wants to comment on social issues, politics, etc. would be against taking thirty seconds to sign up for an account. Their business model in itself speaks volumes.

In regards to your comments and I think you are a little offbase on this one (I have read some of your other stuff and often agree with you, but not on this one), I issue you or anyone else a challenge and I hope you don't take offense to what I said, but the comment you made about speech triumphing feelings is not true. That sort of believe only applies to narcissists, and psychopaths normally (I am not saying that is the case with you). If someone can't say it to your face, then they are plain and simple a coward of epic proportion and that is the last thing our forefathers intended this country to be---cowards.

Here is my challenge and I offer it to you or anyone else. I am willing to pay to fly you in and put you up in a hotel for a few days for you to speak in front of the groups I work with. Do you have the guts to tell a mother whose child ended up in a mental ward or in some cases attempted or committed suicide over this vicious type of bullying, that speech triumphs the fact they now have a destroyed or dead child? Are you going to tell a man or woman that lost their marriage due to lies being told on Topix, to get over it? Are you going to tell a business owner who was accused of selling drugs out of his business, to get a job at McDonald's? Do you have the guts to tell a devastated mom, dad, citizen, or child to "not be so sensitive." Do you or anyone reading this site have the guts to do that and stand in front of a group of people who are in tears and many times afraid to even open their doors because of the abuse they now receive because of being targeted on a site like Topix? I once had someone take me up on that offer and they arrived with an attitude.They left in tears and now are one of the strongest advocates I know against this vicious type of bullying."


  1. Interesting discussion. Suicide is something I will never fully comprehend but I hope I never do. Not everyone sees the world the same way and I have blessed to have never been at that point, but I have known people who have taken their lives. The concept of internet bullying is something that concerns me because it is much more far reaching and instant. I also can tell you as someone almost 50 years old that I knew a few people who were bullied in school that have had a life long lack of self-esteem.

    Moving on to Topix, I believe the problem is the CEO of that company. I did some research myself and found several of his comments to be disturbing to say the least. As big as Topix is and with as many forums as they have, it is unfathomable to me that registration would financially destroy that company. If that is the case, their finances are shaky at best. They have claimed to be a news driven site and based on an article I found want to do more political commentary. You can't be a serious political commentary forum and then follow it with a gossip "who is the biggest slut in town" type of story behind it. Are you reputable or the National Inquirer? You are either or.

    My suspicion is that often times it is the same people going into Topix, posting a lie, and then because there are no rules there, going right back in and posting like they are another user.

    It is the responsibility of a company and forum to have some rules that are enforced. Topix seems to have some false impression that they are a relevant company, yet what they promote is filth. As you stated so well, Topix doesn't want to remove gossip and bullying because that is the type of auidence they draw.

    The issue with me is that there are things that cross the line and Topix is a site that promotes crossing the line. I also noticed that when the media gets ahold of them their CEO claims they are trying to stop bullying on the site, yet he is quick when he is on one of the Tech sites (i.e. moralless companies that are going to defend him) he changes his tune and mocks those who care about the growing number of suicides and libel.

    If you go on a website behind a user name and post things about another person you are a cowardly person and what you have done is assault another person which is a crime. I think Brendan summed it up best. Does the CEO of Topix have the guts to stand in front of the mother of someone who just took their life? My suspicion is he does not.

    The sad thing is Topix could be a useful site, but it chose to do things the coward's way. All they would have to do is require registration and any user driven content should be sent to Topix and approved before it goes online or they could stick to comments involving real aggregated newsreports and political commentary. It would still be a popular site and a source for information. Currently, all it is, is the biggest piece of trash I have ever seen on the internet.

  2. Topix CEO basically said a mouthful not by what he said, but what he didn't say. Originally he posted an article based on something that stated registration doesn't stop libelous posts, yet in other articles he talks about registration hurting his numbers. We, my friends, have caught this man in a lie. I read a lot of papers many of which used to have a link to Topix. I emailed several of them when you wrote your initial article and three responded and stated the best decision they ever made was dropping Topix and one said the only reason they ever used Topix was Topix fooled them into thinking they would have better discussion. One of their publishers admitted it was the worst mistake he ever made and said it totally changed his opinion on what free speech is and isn't. I read Topix has something like 400,000 forums. You mean to tell me that making a few simple changes what cost them their business? Tolles basically admitted the love of money is his real desire. Mr.Tolles, I hope you read this, you can't take money with you, when you die.

    I will put it this way. Let's say I owned an electronic store that sold movies, music, etc and I could make a good living or I could have a business that sold similar products but I could make a little more money by selling immoral, sick videos that teether on illegal (cyberbullying is a crime in many states), the choice is simple. I would rather run an ethical business without selling my soul. I would argue that if Topix had a better reputation, they could make a ton a more money in the long run. Morality, privacy if you so chose, and the sancity of human life should be priority in this country and Chris Tolles company has cleary indicated selling their soul to the devil is what drives them.

  3. This is a very interesting discussion! I was thinking that I couldn't vote to censor Topix right after fighting SOPA, but those who have said that Topix and SOPA are apples and oranges have a good point.

    Since the days the ACLU helped the neo-Nazi group march, we have enacted hate-speech laws that are protections from verbal assaults. I must admit, I don't mind not being able to spew insults with impunity.

  4. Thanks for linking my blog! For now it links to a topic on social media scrutiny, so I guess they are inter-related just a bit. :D

    Great topic, and very comprehensive discussion.


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