After a long a hiatus: update on my current job situation, and the not-so-good situation for EMS volunteerism in my town

After a hiatus over most of the summer, I am happy to finally write on (in?) my blog to say that am currently employed. In fact, I have two jobs. Shortly after graduation I was hired on as a part-time reporter covering the town of New Scotland for the Altamont Enterprise and have also moved to the town. Since I need to pay rent, I am still also a bank teller, which means half of the week I follow my passion and the other half I put money in a drawer and then take it out again.

One of my more recent articles touches on the decline in volunteerism in many organizations, which has now led to the upcoming closure of the volunteer EMS squad in my town:

495378735

Generic ambulance photo-courtesy of Getty Images.

Advertisements

Update on a current project: Dredging on the Hudson in Rensselaer, NY

Map of former BASF site.

Source: NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, courtesy of John Strang.

Dredging the Hudson River is more than likely associated with the dredging that occurred in Fort Edwards as a cleanup of PCB’s left behind GE. However, it has been arranged by New York State’s DEC, DOH, and the company BASF that dredging will occur later on this year (though the timing is still uncertain) in order to clean up pollutants left behind by BASF’s former dye factory that operated on Riverside Avenue in Rensselaer from 1986 until 2000.

Riverside Avenue is a small stretch of colorful homes (including an old dutch house converted into a museum) that ends in a sprawl of facilities like Albany Molecular Research Institute and the Port of Rensselaer. Residents of the close-knit community are mostly happy for the cleanup, but concerned about various factors such as odors from the dredged riverbed and traffic.

Full disclosure: my grandfather worked at BASF, although he did not get involved with this story besides my mother relaying one story of his about digging lagoons to catch runoff.

I will be producing a story on this proposed dredging for my internship at the radio station WAMC sometime in May. At this point I should probably say something cheesy that relates back to radio like stay tuned, readers. 

Tagged , , ,

Animals At The Zoo

Let’s talk about writing.
See, that was a technique known as breaking the fourth wall. It’s probably gained some fame since the premier of the Deadpool movie this past weekend. I’d now like to use a well-known and overused writing technique known as a metaphor. You see, I can compare various writing styles to the animals you would see at the zoo. A deep lengthy writing piece, for example, something you would see in the New Yorker magazine or that your college proffessor would assign for you to read, is an anaconda. Wedged between a fake rock and plate glass, this large sluggish animal, with its dull eyes and tiny diamond head, appears dull and boring. To truly understand the complexity and ferocity, one has to get past the glass and in the tank and then see how this snake reacts when it gets hungry.
Other pieces of writing function like the tropical birds you can get up close with and let dive-bomb your head in a heated house at the zoo. Beautiful, coloful, fascinating, and melodic, these creatures are only hypnotic for so long before you realize they are nothing but a small mass of fluff and repetitize nonsense you’ve heard before.
My writing does not belong in a zoo, and that’s not just because no one would look at it. My writing ressembles those frogs that school children find in ponds near nuclear power plants. With their green and leapord-spotted skin sprouting out extra limbs and mucas, there is something inherently wrong with these swarming creatures, something bizarre and twisted that makes people shake their heads in confusion. I’m not talking of something Lovecraftian or inspired by Poe. I’m talking about mix-ups and lost train-of-thoughts and crude references. Something that is abhorred until the right person with the right appreciation comes along, picks it up, and studies it with a quiet fascination, maybe realizing that these little green deformities stand for something bigger, something more important as a whole. With the frogs it’s the school kids or scientists. With me, maybe a friend, a teacher, and hopefully in the future it will be an editor. It’s good proofreaders, professors, and editors who can give structure to my work. My leads are more than often abhorrent; I can’t pick a focal point in my article when I want the reader to find every little detail as important as I found it. No, without these people, I’d just continue swimming in circles, paddling my extra limbs.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Black Lives Matter Rally at UAlbany

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Students rallied at the small fountain at the University at Albany Monday Night in response to an incident in which three girls were allegedly attacked and harassed with racial slurs on a CDTA bus on the campus early Saturday morning.

Video footage of the incident was leaked on social media and obtained by the Times Union this afternoon.

UAlbany Rally

Photos linked here 

 

Going Through Hell for “Astoria”

 

IMG_2812Backlit with beams of spotlights, lead singer of Marianas Trench Josh Ramsay appeared out of the darkness, his face framed with eyeliner and a mop of bleach blonde hair. Dressed in a top hat and leather jacket, shirtless and with vinyl pants threatening to slip off his thin frame, Ramsay crooned out the first line of “Astoria,” the opener to the band’s latest album of the same name, in a radiant tenor while fans screamed their appreciation. As lead singer, his voice ranges from a gritty whine of low notes to soaring and pure high notes, all the way upwards to a raging falsetto. Astoria, with its allusions to 1980’s pop, has Ramsay incorporating that falsetto into much of his music.

His fellow band members often back up his vocals with well-crafted chords; guitarist Matt Webb in particular accompanies Ramsay with a softer sounding tenor. Webb along, with bassist Mike Ayley and drummer Ian Casselman, though a bit more downplayed in their appearance, joined Ramsay at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park decked out in eye shadow and scarves, sky-high Mohawks, and curling
sideburns for their “Hey You Guys!” tour, a nod to the allusion to the movie “The Goonies” in their latest album.

Even the band IMG_2827was surprised by the amount of fans at the venue, noting this area was not expected to garner much attention. It would be appropriate then that that the next song played was “Celebrity Status,” from the band’s sophomore album “Masterpiece Theater.” The song critiques the effects of gaining fame with lines that include “I pray at the church of asses in the seats.”

Most musicians have a rags-to-riches story, and Ramsay, who dropped out of high school due to a heroin addiction, i
s no exception. But the rawness of addiction and failure that affected Marianas Trench’s first album, “Fix Me,” had nearly disappeared by their second. Songs like “Celebrity Status” certainly were a nod to their new look, and their third album, the poppy “Ever After,” replaced any remaining grit with a synthesizer and the airy idea of a concept album. “Astoria,” also a concept album, was driven in part by three events that had occurred in Ramsay’s life since “Ever After:” the sickness of his mother, his own illness leaving him in a hospital, and the breakup with his fiancée. “Astoria” seems to be powerful not in the coming-of-age story developed for the concept album, but the emotion stemming from these events in songs like “Forget Me Not” and “Dearly Departed.”

IMG_2819I should note that my review of the band and their concert has a bias. Less than a year ago, I got into a fight with my boyfriend, which led to a regrettable text describing his favorite bands as “shitty teenage girl music.” To make this brief, we made up, but I decided I needed to actually delve into the music I had insulted before making another snap-judgment. I discovered Marianas Trench, a band normally too poppy and sugary for my taste, but with rock-opera-styled pieces and Queen-inspired harmonies, I was hooked. I continued listening to the band with my boyfriend, as it was the one band we could agree on.

My boyfriend and his best friend had discovered the Vancouver-based pop-rock band in high school together, and had been following their
music since then. The three of decided to attend to the upcoming concert together and buy VIP tickets. Though I hate the idea of being a fan-girl, I have become emotionally invested in this band, especially since I have become invested in a person who has been listening to the group since the ninth grade.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 08.11.16The concert was announced with an aggressive email from the band’s company. Filled with both red and bold text, it announced that if we did not arrive at 4p.m. we would miss the sound check and meet-and-greet entitled to VIP ticket holders. Arriving at ten minutes of four, we then waited for forty-five more minutes.

Upstate Concert Hall, formerly known as Northern Lights, is oddly situated in a shopping plaza in Clifton Park and neighbors a tattoo parlor and an Ocean State Job Lot. The tattoo shop, according to passerby, once got upset over a line blocking the shop, which led to the line for our show later that night stretching onto an island that spanned the middle of the plaza’s parking lot. While waiting for the sound-check, we could hear the strum of guitars and the wail of vocal warm ups.

Someone asked a bouncer if we were missing the sound check.

“You don’t want to be there for the actual sound check,” he said, “It’s just them playing something and then turning the volume up and down.”

After being handed various souvenir objects (purple glasses, photos, and plastic VIP passes) we were allowed into the venue. And then we waited some more.

IMG_2850Eventually, the band members approached the edge of the stage, casually situating themselves near the audience.

“So,” said Ramsay as he sat down, “You guys just want to chat, ask some questions?”

The audience of about 50 people was silent; they seemed unsure how to respond to this kind of situation. I was even a surprised that the meet and greet wasn’t just shaking the band members’ hands as they autographed our souvenir photos. As others gathered their bearings, I shot my hand up.

“Josh, do you take your tongue stud out when you record songs?”

There was an uncomfortable pause and I could sense my boyfriend tense up in embarrassment.

“You know, because to the noise it could make?”

It had been a question that had been eating at me even since I had first seen music videos with the lead singer’s tongue glinting in the camera light. I had thought such a piercing would be a bad choice for a singer.

Ramsay replied that he didn’t, but a few takes had been ruined because the mike had picked up a clicking noise.

Later on, I asked a few more sane questions regarding the band’s genre and the production of a concept album.

I had been curious to ask about the band’s genre. The band has changed its sound significantly over the course of its four albums, and whenever I tried to describe the band in terms of genre to others I drew a blank. Ramsay was quick to say they were not pop punk, and had never been a pop punk band, and added if is was any genre it would lie somewhere between pop and rock. He and Casselman went on to say that they hated the idea of their music being limited to a genre; good music should be able to be played in any genre, it all depended on the production of the song.

Ramsay seemed especially inclined towards the production of a song. While his band mates cited Depeche Mode and Nirvana as favorites, the frontman stated he preferred finding a favorite song rather than an artist, and added a musical idol for him would be the Swedish producer Max Martin. Ramsay himself has produced a handful of songs, including the 2012 hit “Call Me Maybe.” If anything lies in his future, it may be further well-crafted production of pop singles.

IMG_2849Finishing up with questions, the band set up their instruments to perform “Push,” from their first album “Fix Me.” It was the only song from that album they would perform that night, seeming to want to distant themselves from their initial endeavor. Those songs tend to have a darker, whiner feel, and the album lacks the usual structure of either a concept album or operatic pieces. The album also has a reoccurring theme of referencing Ramsay’s past heroin abuse and eating disorders, while later works focus more on his relationships. But the song lyrics often reoccur in many of the operatic pieces in later albums, so it seems odd to distance the band from this album.

With an intro of breathy “ah-ah’s” and Ramsay’s telltale whiny grit as he opens with the first line, “Push” has the desperate feeling of many of the songs in “Fix Me.” Ramsay joined Webb and Ayley with a red electric guitar shaped like the leaf of the Canadian flag.

Leaving the building, we were told we could wait in the VIP line and be the first ones in. The line was filled with either teenage girls or young women dressed like teenage girls: single black lace fingerless gloves mimicking the one worn by Ramsay, dark eyeliner, hair dyed neon colors. The two twenty-three year old men and I stuck out from this crowd of self-described “Trenchers.” We heard at least two girls discussing being at Marianas Trench concerts in the past few months and I had the uncomfortable feeling I was waiting in line with aspiring groupies.

Back inside the venue, we did in fact get to be closer to the stage than the majority of the audience, but as more people entered, the situation grew more claustrophobic. Crushed by the crowd, and with our feet hurting for standing for over three hours, my breaking point occurred when three people who smelled strongly of beer pushed their way in front of us and out of our ideal spot. About an hour had passed since we had entered the venue for the second time.

IMG_2805Eventually the opening band, Brooklyn-based Secret Someones, began the show with a series of upbeat indie rock tunes to set the mood. I liked the group, made up of Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, Lelia Broussard on guitar and vocals and Zach Jones on drums. The foursome utilized a keyboard and electric guitars, along with a few acoustic numbers, to create pop shifting into alt-rock, which included a cover of Nirvana’s “Breed.” They made me think of a band you would find performing in the basement at a hipster’s house party. Songs like “Heartbreaker,” and “I Won’t Follow,” enriched with the combined vocals of the three women and filled with themes of female independence, were heartwarming but unfortunately not notable enough that I could see them rising to any sort of fame. I also desperately wanted to ask the lead guitarist where she got those gold-sequined shorts that she had ironically paired off with a worn out t-shirt in the most hipster-like of fashions.

Despite the upbeat tunes, the audience remained unfathomably dead. This was not helped by another half an hour of wait time between sets filled with a collection of 1980’s pop songs: Michael Jackson, Cindy Lauper, and even the soundtrack to “Footloose” were used to kill time.

Finally, finally Marianas Trench appeared in that blinding array of spotlights. Ramsay was nearly drowned out by his screaming fans as he appeared in that skin-tight outfit and belted out the opening lines to the rock-opera piece “Astoria.”

Given my struggle to categorize the band into a genre, and the general public’s lack of knowledge of the band, I often have to describe Marianas Trench by comparing them to Queen. Now, it should be known that when I compare a band to Queen I am paying a bold compliment. It implies that I think the singer might have a fraction of vocal purity and emotion that Freddie Mercury had, that I think a song has created a rock-laden odyssey at least slightly similar to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” that the rising energy of the instruments might compare to Queen’s telltale guitar riffs. I’d be dead wrong to even consider saying Marianas Trench is equal to Queen, but “Astoria” is probably one of the best examples of a piece with a similar sound to the band. Ramsay’s voice soars in the introductory lines of “Astoria, I’m warnin’ ya’,” and the seven minute piece switches from heartfelt to frenetic, and even includes a buzzy-sounding chorus in the middle of it proclaiming “On a good day I’m the bad news for the wrong girl with the ripe wounds…”

IMG_2842The lyrics can be confusing. Since their debut album, Marianas Trench’s songs seem to be more and more exclusively for their fans: at least one piece will include or allude to lyrics from a previous album. “Dearly Departed,” a ukulele-accompanied piece about Ramsay’s break up with his fiancée, includes a bridge consisting almost exclusively of titles of songs written about her* (according to fan-based rumors). It sounds like a pop-rock mad lib, but the band has been pulling off recycling their old lyrics for three albums, so it’s clear this niche group of fans’ loyalty is strong.

If you want another example of this niche following, consider three songs into the concert as Ramsay began the song “All To Myself,” only to pause and listen to the audience sing the second half of the first line on their own. The song then became a back and forth between the band and the audience; at one point, the final chorus was carried completely by the audience, nudged along by Ramsay putting his hand up to his ear to listen in a cartoonish manner.

An emo kid grown up to a glam rocker, Ramsay mingled with the audience in a manner that ranged from quirk to cattiness. Once an audience member threw not one but four tiny plush dinosaurs up onto the stage for the frontman to catch.

“Well I guess it could be a ménage à trois,” he quipped as the third dinosaur was tossed, and then, as the fourth one sailed in the air, “Well, now it’s just a gang-bang.”

At one point he was skimming the crowd and spotted someone holding up sheet music for him to sign.

“This really isn’t the time to do that,” he said, but continued to ask the young man about how he had written the piece, how he kept the rhythm, and if he sang in it.

“I do,” said the kid, at which point several audience members started cheering.

“Well, don’t think you’re going to come up here to sing it, because this is my fucking show,” Ramsay taunted.

Sometime later an audience member threw a stick of gum on stage.

“Why would you do that?” asked Ramsay “You’re just drawing attention to yourself for doing something stupid.” Some sort of exchange seemed to be happening as Ramsay threatened, “Don’t you dare throw that pack up here. I will rip you a new asshole.”

The pack of gum landed on stage, and the lead singer proceeded to make remarks about the offender never finishing high school and being inbred, while much of the audience laughed. Later, after the band had finished their following song, Ramsay picked up the piece of gum, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth as a sort of a nod the exchange. The incident sat a little uneasily with me, as it seemed tacky to pick on someone with the indication they were too dumb to finish high school if you yourself never had.IMG_2851

The band also paused to tell a story about opening a concert to the Mortal Kombat theme dressed as ninjas, only to find themselves frozen in their ninja poses for “the longest five minutes of [their] lives” as the tech crew struggled to get the set ready.

“I don’t have any cute stories from this,” said Ramsay, “Just horror.”

Pop-laden numbers played included “Burning Up,” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” both from “Astoria” and based off pop music of the 1980’s. “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” inspired by the Jackson 5, is even concluded with the line “Don’t sound like Mike did, no, but it’s alright for a white kid.” Songs like these have led to some critics accusing the band of merely riffing off popular ‘80’s songs, but the riffs-while taking away some depth of the songs-kept the music fun and dance-worthy for the night.

The band also employed pop pieces from “Ever After,” including “Haven’t Had Enough” and “Stutter,” which had Ramsay actually stuttering and shaking his head wildly to the chorus as he sang “Did I, did I, d-di-did I…stutter, stutter, stutter?” while his white-blonde head became a blur.

One of the most requested songs of the night, at least judged by what the crowd kept screaming, was the band’s single “Pop 101.” Ramsay wrote the song as a retort to Internet murmurings that it wasn’t that hard to write a pop song like “Call Me Maybe,” which he had co-written and produced with Carly Rae Jepsen.

“Oh yeah, where’s your pop song?” Ramsay jeered, before launching into the number.

I was surprised the song was performed at all, mainly because the song was produced to incorporate varying sounds ranging from the Black Eyed Peas to Imogen Heap to Mumford and Sons in order to poke fun at a variety of successful singles. The song involves morphing Ramsay and the other band members’ voices and features pop rapper Anami Vice. Despite none of these features being accessible, the band performed the song and simply had fun with it, designating the rap bit to drummer Ian Casselman, who botched most of the words. But it was refreshing to just have fun with the song rather than worry about the technicalities of pop and production that the song pokes fun at.

The night was calmed down by an acoustic performance of “Good To You,” a song of support in romance. The final piece, also the closer to “Astoria,” “End of an Era,” was just as bombastic and fantastic as the opener, although Ramsay’s voice seemed to be straining after a night of vocal acrobatics. As strobe lights flashed and the crowd screamed, the band makes sang their final chord of “Astoria must end,” and so it did as the lights went out and everything was black for a few seconds.IMG_2845

I stayed awake on the way home by riding a wave of euphoria. This had technically been my first real concert (I don’t count a sock-hop styled band at the Egg I saw in high school or an unfortunate experience accompanying someone to an Ariana Grande concert), and I had finally experienced the crushing impact of a beer-tinged crowd, a gaggle of groupies, and an awe-inspiring though petulant taunting frontman. I suppose I never before had followed a modern band so closely that I had felt the need to attend a concert, preferring to idolize the classic performers of pop, punk, and rock who were either ancient or long dead. Now, I had screamed at, sang along with, and asked awkward questions to a band that was very much alive. Hell, I even had a picture posing with them. With that in mind, after sleeping late into the next day, I put on the overpriced souvenir t-shirt I had gotten the night before, turned on a favorite Marianas Trench song of mine, and began to write.

DSCN1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This link isn’t a verifiable source, just a confirmation that the rumor of this exists.

Update to an update: I really dislike that last post.

It doesn’t capture the sound of the band or my emotional investment in it. Plus, there are a disgusting amount of gifs.

Update: I’m back! And I’m going to real concert before I have to enter real adulthood.

Source: ticketmaster.com

So I had decided to adopt this blog from it’s original form as a college project to regular, personal, maybe news-centric blog. I decided this months ago. And then I had an internship this summer, and I was finishing up with the moving in to my new place with my boyfriend. And then this fall I’ve been splitting time between work, school, my internship, and god knows what else. So I’ve decided I’ll write whenever and whatever I can, and currently I’m listening the the album Astoria by the band Marianas Trench so I’ll write about that.

You might have heard about this band, and you might not have. You’ve probably heard about “Call Me Maybe,” the super-catchy pop-song that was nominated for two Grammys. The lead singer of Marianas TrenchJosh Ramsay, helped produce the song and switched Carly Rae Jepsen’s folk song to a pop hit.

Source: luketheemoji on Tumblr

Source: luketheemoji on Tumblr

The band’s sound is pop-punk packaged into sweeping concept albums. Their last album, Ever Aftertold a sort of Toyland fantasy story. Their newly released album, Astoria, imagines it is the soundtrack of a movie like The Gooniesand so it includes Hollywood-esque instrumental pieces as well as songs resembling Queen or Michael Jackson. I usually will say a band sounds like Queen as a complement, and this is no exception. I like the album, but I’m not the true fan.

Source: giphy.com

The true fan is my boyfriend, Chris, and so, as a combined birthday-Christmas present I bought him VIP tickets to their concert. Then he had a stroke (I’m just kidding but he was freaking out over the news, girlfriend points to me). So I’ll be meeting the band, and I will be going to my first concert that is not a) Full of folks over forty, or b) Full of folks under fourteen (okay this concert might have some younger audience members, pop-punk is teen magnet, but still…). You see, my very first concert was at sixteen, to see the amazing Pink Martini. I loved it, but it was The Egg in Albany, and we (as in me and, yes, my parents) stayed in our seats and listened politely with the mostly older audience (the band creates various vintage sounding pieces sung in numerous languages by the very talented China Forbes).

Source: makeagif

I’ve been to little hole-the-wall venues since, and then, this summer, by a strange turn of events, to the Times Union Center‘s Ariana Grande with a friend of mine who is a fan (no, it’s not me, believe me). It wasn’t my sort of music, and we were surrounded by young girls wearing glow-in-the-dark cat ears, but my friend said it was a nice end to a stressful week for her. Now, though, I can go to an average-sized concert to see a band I enjoy and be able to jump around and dance or even (in the case of my boyfriend) scream my heart out (I’d take out that last jab at Chris, but even he’d admit to it).

Source: giphy.com

All this, and it’s even before I turn 21, which is the age I’ve decided I will be a real adult. Not the weird semi-adult I am now. Well, maybe I’ll still be weird. More than likely, really.

PS: Sorry about all the gifs, but that’s what the kids are doing these days, right?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Valatie Community Theatre, Part II: The Youth Theater

Side view of the Valatie Community Theatre, which has been hosting performances by its youth program since 2004.

Side view of the Valatie Community Theatre, which has been hosting performances by its youth program since 2004.

The Valatie Youth Theater was founded the year before the Valatie Community Theatre in 2004. Their first production, made up of high school and middle school students and directed by one of the founding members, was A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. After a second production the next summer, the program went on hiatus, but the Youth Theater restarted with a production of Pirates of Penzance in 2008.

The youth program now consists of two summer productions: a play for students between grades 3 through 8, and a play for students from grades 8 to 12. The program also offers four summer internships for college students: a director for the older students, a stage manager for both productions, a technical/music intern, and a public relations intern.

“They were able to bring themselves to these young kids in high school as role models,” says Helen Schneider, a theater board member, of the previous interns.

Video: The Valatie Community Theatre: The Youth Theater

A Look at Designing Harvey

Maryhelen Hopkins, presently a student at Hudson Valley Community College, designed the costumes for the Youth Theater’s latest production, Harvey, the previous summer with a modern look, using a collage of modern designs for each character. Most of the clothes, particularly for female parts, were inspired by the store Forever 21, says Hopkins, and she also bought several articles of clothing from the store as well. She made up the collages using the website Clothia.

“I got to use trends which were in season instead of going off of historical stuff,” says Hopkins.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Look at Zeran v. AOL & Barnes v. Yahoo!

Less than a week after the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing, an anonymous post on AOL’s website appeared advertising t-shirts. The shirts made references to the loss of children in the bombings, including phrases such as “finally, a daycare center that keeps the kids quiet,” and “Visit Oklahoma, it’s a BLAST.” The advertisement listed the business phone number of a then unknowing Kenneth Zeran.

Images of the t-shirt slogan.

Images of the t-shirt slogan.

Zeran received a barrage of threatening phone calls. Learning of the ad posted with his phone number, he asked AOL to take it down, which they did. However, a new ad reappeared shortly after, again citing Zeran’s phone number to contact to buy the offending shirts. Zeran soon found himself the target of threatening phone messages and the anger of a conservative talk radio host. His home was placed under protective surveillance and was unable to use his business phone number. In 1996, Zeran filed suit against AOL.

The case brought up the issue of whether an online service like AOL could be held liable for defamation by a third party. Though the ad was published on AOL, it had to be decided whether or not AOL fell under 46 USC 230 if of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act held that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” thereby immunizing AOL from charges of slander or defamation. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at Alexandria dismissed Zeran’s complaint, and though he appealed to other courts, he was denied.

Source eff.org. Source eff.org.

A similar case to compare this one to is Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc. The case arose in 2004 after Cecilia Barnes had broken up with her boyfriend, and her now ex-boyfriend proceeded to put up fake profiles of Barnes on Yahoo!’s public pages, using photos unknowingly taken of Barnes and even pretending to be her in chat rooms. Barnes discovered this after being approached for sex from men who had visited the pages.

Barnes emailed Yahoo! to have the pages removed, and then sent in a copy of her photo identification and a signed statement explaining her situation. Despite repeated requests, Yahoo! did not respond until a local news report was about to air the story. The company’s Director of Communications told her it would be taken, but two months later the profiles remained online, and so Barnes decided to file a lawsuit. The case went to an Oregon district court.

Seal for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Seal for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The debate at court was whether or not USC 230 also applied to this case, which is what Yahoo! argued for. Barnes argued that it didn’t, but rather that it fell under Section 323 of an Oregon torts claim, which states “One who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of the other’s person or things, is subject to liability to the other for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to perform his undertaking,” and that Yahoo! failed to prevent harm from resulting under its care of Barnes by not taking down her profiles when expected to.

The court ruled that USC 230 did in fact leave Yahoo! immune to being liable. However, when brought to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, it was decided that Barnes’ allegations might support a claim for promissory estoppel and held that section 230 would not stop this.

The impact of these decision is that it can allow certain websites to be immune to defamation cases. The question then is, how responsible are these third party internet services? Is it no different than a grocery store dealing with someone consistently and anonymously putting up a slanderous poster on its walls? Or because it must be posted through the site, does that make that site responsible? Whatever the case, USC 230 has changed the lawful nature of these sources.

Tagged , , ,