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Online 'Outing' Of Celebs More Frequent

Singer Lance Bass, right, and partner Reichen Lehmkuhl, left , are seen in Los Angeles, Calif. on in this Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006 file photo.
AP Photo/Dan Steinberg
When comedian Bill Maher went on "Larry King Live" and alleged that some top Republican operatives were gay, it was too much detail for CNN, which edited the remarks out of later broadcasts and off the transcript on its Web site.

But the remarks couldn't be edited out of cyberspace, where they remain available, along with virtually everything else these days.

Maher's comments last week, and a series of recent coming-out announcements by Hollywood figures responding to persistent rumors, show just how much the Internet has changed the rumor mill, and consequently the process of "outing" celebrities.

Where anti-gay sentiment used to fuel these revelations, these days they are more likely to be merely a byproduct of a voracious Web-based gossip culture where no part of a celebrity's life is off limits — or, in the case of politicians, an attempt by one side or the other to score political points.

Either way, the information, true or not, is out there for everyone to see.

"The reality is that the kinds of gossip and celebrity rumors that used to spread by phone, around the water cooler or over dinner are now ending up online where anyone can see them," says Glennda Testone, senior director of media programs for GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "It doesn't mean that they're more credible — just that more people can see and spread them."

In the recent political case, Maher was arguing that a number of "people who run the underpinnings of the Republican Party" are gay, even though they don't support pro-gay positions. He said he wasn't going to name names, but then began to.

Despite CNN's actions to remove the remarks from circulation, several versions were available — including on Youtube.com, the repository of all events in our culture.