Little Bird creating big problems

I don’t know if a little birdie has told you yet, but there is a fellow UVM student running around spreading slander and gossip all over campus. In the past couple of weeks, a Tumblr site was created, titled “UVM LittleBird”, with a mission to provide a public forum for anonymous commentary dedicated to the uncensored thoughts and concerns of students. The creator goes by Big Bird, and is really just creating big problems. Before we start applauding Big Bird for a seemingly noble appeal to the freedom of speech, let’s have a moment for the creativity of these ingenious endeavors, or lack thereof. How original, a website dedicated to sharing news about local happenings with a bird for a mascot. Twitter, anyone? The only difference is Big Bird’s version is organized so as to make everyone privy to random and pointless rants, rather than let its followers choose what information they feel is worthy of their time. Furthermore, Big Bird seems to have an overly grand notion of what the website is – a notion which seems unwarranted given the sites’ completely ridiculous nature.All sorts of lofty claims about freedom of speech and giving a voice to the people are made, as well as the moral obligations that must exist towards the public sphere concerning information. It seems, however, that the majority of what Big Bird’s thoughts concern is erotic graffiti and mumblings about “walrus tits.” Entertaining as this is, I find the connection between these jokes and the freedom of speech that allows us to criticize institutions without fear to be rather vague, if not nonexistent. Big Bird’s other main selling point is that the site allows for complete anonymity from all of its “little bird” followers. However, if something is actually worthy enough of being so publicly displayed, shouldn’t the author be proud to put his or her name on it? The fact that every single comment is made anonymously is just further proof that the site is full of nothing but lies and ridiculousness. Unfortunately, it is this very same nonsense that has already raised concerns among several prominent figures on this campus. The most notable scenario of this was a claim made openly by Big Bird on the post about SGA presidential candidate Aliza Lederer-Plaskett, calling her a liar who took “unethical actions” in her campaign. Other unproven allegations about her opponent Julian Golfarini were also made on the site. These ungrounded statements are perfect examples of what the site truly is – a place dedicated to valueless gossip, hate speech and slander all under the guise of rhetorical critique. Big Bird seems to have no problem with such disreputable means, though. The website’s mission statement itself warmly welcomes everything from rants and rumors to actual hate notes. Therefore, it admits to making its primary goal the spread of ugly falsehoods and other hurtful proclamations. This is nothing but ill-intentioned libel in its truest form. Public defamation such as this is immoral and even criminal is many cases. Though the whole thing currently seems harmless for the most part, think of how dangerous a site such as this could become. In the age of information, where words and ideas are conveyed instantaneously, this sort of slanderous activity is especially destructive. As that girl in “The Social Network” said – “The internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.”  Big Bird and followers now have the potential to produce an infinite amount of hateful lies and rumors about anyone and everyone within the UVM community, all masked by exaggerated claims of the  right to free speech.