July 23, 1997 12:25 PM PDT
GeoCities takes down site rating students
The site may have been a adolescent prank, but school officials were disturbed by the amount of personal information contained on the page, which could have been used to track down the described individuals.
The unknown publisher posted the full names and "ratings" of up to 150 girls who recently graduated, as well as marks for a handful of female and male teachers and one schoolboy. The virtual report card used a scale of one to ten to rate "looks" and "personality," which is usually done by students for yearbooks, for example. However, when a parent found the site's "comments" section, that really whipped up a stir.
The Palo Alto School District also found the comments--labeling people from "quiet" and "shy" to "ugly" and "big scary chick," along with sexually explicit references--offensive and asked GeoCities yesterday to take the site down.
The online community complied on grounds that the site violated a provision in its terms of service, which prohibit "blatant expressions of bigotry, racism, hatred, or profanity."
The personal home page also was pulled because it was incorrectly posted in an area about gaming. GeoCities hosts noncommercial Web pages for free within its 37 themed communities and takes down pages unrelated to an area's content.
Although the site was discovered and removed in one day, Palo Alto school officials can't ask the publisher of the lewd profiles to stay after school for detention.
"We don't know the identity of the person or persons who created that site," said Irv Rollins, assistant superintendent for student services for the Palo Alto district. "But the content of the site had very adolescent and young characteristics. I'd be surprised if it were an adult because the comments were very immature."
Although the Palo Alto Police Department told school officials that no laws were broken, if the publisher is ever identified the district could file sexual harassment charges under the state education code, Rollins added. In addition, the individuals mentioned on the site could possibly sue for libel.
For now, it seems the culprit will remain unnamed unless the rumor mill at the school comes up with something. GeoCities is mum about the mysterious "beauty" judge's identity.
"Our guidelines are very deliberate. No pornography or hate speech or illegal activity can be posted," GeoCities CEO and founder David Bohnett said today.
But, he added, "This was a first-time offense and this person may have not read our guidelines carefully. We strictly adhere to privacy standards for our members unless compelled to do so by a court order."