We are compelled to start this editorial with a disclaimer:
The Morehead News is not involved in the ownership or management of the social media Web site called Topix. Some of our news content appears there because it is linked to our public website.
Nor are we proud of the fact that Topix, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is partially owned by three major newspaper companies — Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy.
We hasten to add that those companies own barely a third of Topix and the site has totally independent editorial control.
Like painkilling drugs which have been perverted to become killing drugs for their abusers, Topix also has been diverted from its original purpose.
Topix was created as means of pulling together, or aggregating, many news sources so that citizens would be better informed.
The plan was to create a separate news page for each community in the U.S. Hence, we have a Morehead forum, a Mt. Sterling forum, and so on. Although targeted to the entire nation, most of the growth of Topix has occurred in small cities and towns.
However, instead of providing a forum for discussion of public issues, the community sites have been hijacked for spreading gossip, much of it mean-spirited, even destructive.
To encourage freewheeling discussions and to make it easier to report political corruption and other wrongdoing, Topix allows posts to be anonymous.
Anonymous means you literally can write whatever you choose without giving your name.
Today, Topix commenters try to outdo each other with posts more negative and scandalous than those already visible on each discussion “thread.”
No topic is safe from comment as shown by the fact that the Morehead Forum on Topix, as of Thursday, had more than 12,400 “threads.”
According to various sources, Topix posts in some communities have provoked fights, caused divorces, and worse.
The forums have been condemned by local governments, resulted in numerous lawsuits and been blamed for tragic outcomes.
Earlier this year, a woman in Indiana killed herself and her three children just hours after posting this cryptic message on Topix, where her divorce had been discussed:
“Now it's time to take the pain away."
In our opinion, one person quoted in the New York Times this week accurately described Topix as a "cesspool of character assassination."
In Carter County, a business owner filed suit against five unnamed persons who had labeled him a sex offender on Topix.
His lawsuit could force Topix to divulge the computer addresses of those five commenters which, in turn, could lead to their exposure.
Topix represents a frontal assault on the privacy rights of each of us. It is a perfect tool for “cyber-bullying” and other vicious tactics.
Such nameless, faceless, slanderous speech has no rightful place in America.