written by Jim Duzak

How would you like to wake up and learn that a woman you had an affair with has gone public with all the details? Even worse, how would you like to be a wife who reads that her husband’s motive for the affair was that she hates sex and is severely imbalanced psychologically?

Welcome, David and Wendy, to the brave new world of “gotcha” sites.

“Gotcha” sites are websites that are ostensibly designed to protect unsuspecting persons from liars, cheaters, sexual predators, and all sorts of other lowlife characters. There are a fair number of such sites out there, and they all like to say that they’re performing a public service. Maybe so, but they’re also allowing unverified accusations to be routinely published, and allowing innocent parties, such as spouses, to be identified and humiliated.

And there’s very little anyone can do about it.

According to published accusations, “David” is a prominent Connecticut-based financial planner in his 50’s who had the bad luck—and bad judgment—to get involved with a woman he met last year on an Appalachian Mountain Club trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. For six months, they carried on an affair, until he decided to break it off. Then, she reacted like a woman scorned. She not only told her story in excruciating detail on the website cheaternews.com (identifying herself only as “Accidental Other Woman”), she went to the trouble of setting up a separate site devoted to the affair. On that site, she posted pictures of David (ostensibly so that other women would know who he is if he comes on to them), along with romantic e-mails from him to her, details about his wife, Wendy, and all sorts of other personal information.

In theory, there are legal protections against invasion of privacy, even when the accusations are true, especially when the events described took place in private and are not considered newsworthy. But those protections are often meaningless in a situation like this. David’s right to privacy has to be balanced against the woman’s right to free speech and the public’s “right to know”, and it could certainly be argued that he has no right to privacy regarding e-mails that he voluntarily sent. Wendy would seem to have a stronger case than David for invasion of privacy, but wouldn’t her claim have to be, in part anyway, against her own husband? After all, he was the one who divulged all the intimate details about his wife to his mistress.

And if a lawsuit somehow succeeded, what would be the result? The sites involved are not exactly the New York Times; any monetary damages awarded would probably be uncollectible. If a court ordered the postings to be removed, or even shut the sites down entirely, so what? The harm has already been done. Wendy knows what David did and what he said about her. She’s read the e-mails where he calls his mistress “Sweetheart.” She’s read the online postings of other women who have stated—anonymously, of course—that David has long been a serial adulterer.

Whatever one may think of David, it’s troubling that “gotcha” sites can operate with virtually no controls, and that, in the guise of public protection, they can drag innocent bystanders into the spotlight. I have to admit, though, that there’s one good thing you can say about such sites: they provide yet another reason not to have affairs. Anyone contemplating extramarital sex in this day and age should ask himself if he’d like the details published for all the world to see. I think I know the answer, and I’m sure that David does, too.

Tags: accusations, affairs, cheaters, invasion of privacy, legal protections

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