January 25, 2008

Update on Indirect Link Risks: School Site Shut Down Due to Porn Link

Greetings. Yesterday I discussed the case of a Florida Middle School resource officer who was under dual investigations due to his MySpace page being linked to "friends" who in some cases themselves were found to be linked to porn sites.

I expressed strong concerns regarding this sort of indirect responsibility being implied. After all, you can only control your own site, and directly linked pages can change without your knowledge or control at any time. When we're talking about indirect (links to links) pages, the situation is even more ludicrous.

I also noted yesterday that the school's own Resources page was problematic when viewed from the standpoint of indirect links, and suggested that a double standard was perhaps being applied.

Today comes word that the school's Web site has apparently been shut down (and as I type this, it continues to be inaccessible), reportedly due to the presence of a direct gay porn link on their resources page.

I'm told that the school currently has no explanation for this link.

However, even giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they were hacked in some manner, this incident certainly emphasizes the dangerous folly of trying to assign responsibility to a Web site or its author for linked pages that aren't their own, and the even more gross insanity of trying to extend such responsibility to indirectly linked pages.

[ Update Within an Update: 17:45 PST: The link in question appears to be a clip art domain name that expired years ago, and then was sometime later obtained by the porn site. I think that this aspect very nicely demonstrates the impossibility of policing the contents of pages that are not your own. Here we have a direct link from the school's site that illustrates this, at the same time that the school officer is being investigated for indirect links, which are even more "distant" from the officer's own MySpace page. ]

Employing the usually dubious concept of "guilt by association" when evaluating Web links -- particularly indirect ones -- is a sure fire way not only to drag the Internet into a litigation firestorm, but also to decimate the concepts of justice and free speech on the Net.


Posted by Lauren at January 25, 2008 11:52 AM | Permalink
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