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News, Culture, Controversy on the Internet

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Me Libel, You Pay

If you errantly refer to someone as, say, a "Nazi son-of-a-bitch," can your online provider be held responsible? That, in essence, is the issue being decided in state supreme court in New York thanks to a libel suit filed against Prodigy, one of the Big Three online services. A Long Island financial firm claims it was unfairly accused of fraud on a Prodigy bulletin board. Prodigy, like other online service providers, regards itself simply as a conduit through which people communicate — like a telephone company — and thus claims it isn't responsible for postings. The suit, complains a company attorney, is "trying to establish responsibilities that aren't present in traditional media." Nevertheless — and despite the fact that the suit is still pending — Prodigy agreed last week to try and track down the person who allegedly vilified the Long Island firm. It will also explain to the court how it monitors its message boards.

At Least They Like the Cat

Heartened that a recorded meow and computer photo of Socks have drawn thousands to the new White House Web site (http://www.whitehouse.gov) Administration officials tell TIME they plan to design an entire Socks department — "in response to citizen demand." Expect new photos but — alas — no updated mewlings.