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Judge Refuses to Reveal Anonymous Posters 100

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the step-in-the-right-direction dept.
kcurtis writes "According to the Boston Globe article, a federal judge is refusing to reveal the identities of 23 chat room users accused by a bankrupt dot-com of posting critical messages to drive its stock price down. About time."
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Judge Refuses to Reveal Anonymous Posters

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  • by pb (1020)
    That's what 'anonymous' means, and it's about time someone realized that.

    My question is, does the judge care about privacy, i.e., would he do the same thing if the company in question was Microsoft, or if the .com's were still successful.

    I know we still have some good judges out there, but commercial interests are rapidly taking over our gov't, and I don't think our judicial system alone will be enough to salvage it.
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • Being "responsible" for speech has nothing to do with anything American. Infact, it is the exact opposite of what America is supposed to be about politically.

    Anyone that blabbers about such "responsibility" is doing nothing more than selling out our future to fascists and corporations.

  • I mean, if someone goes to a "chatroom" and gives stock tips, I guess no one will notice. They'd probably get kicked out, too. This can't be true.

    (Then again, I haven't been using those Java chats for some time. Do they talk about something other than netsexxxxxx now there?)

    =)

  • Nah, some of us prefer good old grease burgers at the local McHeartattack, or a good medium steak.

    Besides, who eats plain pepperoni pizza? You've got to have spicy sausage and mushrooms and ground beef at the very least.
  • And there was much rejoicing

    <CHEER> Yay </CHEER>

    *waves small flag*

  • The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

    It's not intuitive. It's instinctive. ***BIG*** difference.


    --


  • ..is why most sites track the information in the first place. For example does Slashdot dispose of all logging for anonymous users within 24 hours, etc? The strange thing is that while many organizations throw their arms up and claim that they're poor victim of a legal system gone awry and they sure wish they could hide the users better, the fact that they've logged away lots of idenfitying information instantly betrays that.

    Some 5 years ago, I connected the company of a friend of mine to the Internet. He then re-offered full ISP-like connectivity to neighbours in the building and later, to some of his clients.

    Being the neato geek I am, I wrote neat scripts to carefully automagically archive the system logs. When my friend saw that, he went into hysteric fits and demanded that I SCRAP all system logs every week Of course, I wondered why...

    IANAL, but my friend's wife is...


    --

  • Hail Hail! Hail Yes!

  • by Ravenscall (12240) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:24AM (#276664)
    You notice the number of conspirato, err, posters was 23. The judge recognized this, as this was obviously a ploy by the Illuminati to hurt this company for not toeing the line in their part of the NWO.

    It was all just a big conspiracy, and the judge let them off to save his own neck.

  • People who short stock are known as "bears." This is why a down market is called a "bear market." "Bulls" are those who buy stock the normal way.

    Umm, check your causality.

    A "bull" market is one which charges ahead full strength -- duh, like a bull. A "bear" market is one which runs out of strength and seems to hibernate like a bear. It will come back eventually, but for the time being it's dead to the world.

    People who sell short are called "bears" because they've found a way to make money in a bear market. They're named after the market, not the other way around.

  • I think the judge wanted proof that an actual crime had been committed. If the company were trying to legally persue this via a trial with John and Jayn Doe's as defendants, I would think that the courts would be more than happy to help. If in fact the judge agreed that there was sufficient proof that said crime was actual; Anon's would've been thrown to the dogs.
  • by BilldaCat (19181) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:16AM (#276667) Homepage
    1 for us, 12987398731893271 for corporate america.

    put on your rally caps!
  • Actually, it was just reported here. The judge was in Seattle. Does anyone know anything about him (previous career, who appointed him, etc.)?
  • Excellent? Not really. This ruling really changes nothing. One is either anonymous or not. Reliance on laws, justice and other such wankery indicates that you were not anonymous when you posted your musings . Want an example? Anonymous Cowards are neither anonymous nor cowards. It may protect your karma, but, don't expect someone wont correlate info. and drudge up embarrassing comments ten years from now.

    I can't wait to see the phrase "Legal expectation of anonymity". This all ties into why cameras in public places are such an abomination but that is another thread.
  • A bit thick aren't we? Expecting to be seen is not an analogue of expecting, or accepting having ones action recorded and archived in perpetuity.

    Advertising a message board as anonymous gives the uninitiated a sense of insulation which is not only unwarranted, but, completely false. These troubles are born of ignorance.

    This applies to cameras in public in that there is a reasonable expectation that in public my actions are not under scrutiny, that is one cavorts oneself differently in a public restroom than in the middle of the street. Cameras in public inculcate an unnatural sense of unease in much of the populace. Some of us wish to not be treated as children. It is no ones business as to my comings and goings without a proper court order. If I have done nothing wrong, then I should have no expectation that my actions are being monitored.

    Cameras are a tool of a tyrannical nanny state.
  • The judge ruled that 2Mart.com didn't provide enough evidence that the chatters were implicated. How does this provide 'guidance' for anyone? The judge just said, "You don't have enough evidence." He didn't say what enough evidence would be (or did he, and the sound bite article didn't bother to mention that.) The lawyer at the bottom of the article seems a little to optimistic. If this 2Mart had a little more clout than a bankrupt dot-com, we could look forward to an immediate overturn on the appeal. The company probably hasn't decided if they will appeal because they haven't been able to convince their lawyers that there will be a payday even if they do win.

    I still have two more questions, though:

    1)Where does the First Admendment guarantee the right to be anonymous? I understood that it gives everyone the right to speak, not the right to not suffer any repurcussions from what they have to say.

    2)How do you profit from someone's stock tanking unless you're a competitor? If the price goes down, and you hold stock, don't you lose money regardless of how much anyone else loses?

  • hah, you really think that the illuminati was just fiction? dear goddess!

    quick go find and read robert a. wilson, and bob shela's
    illuminatus!

    nmarshall

    The law is that which it boldly asserted and plausibly maintained..
  • This opinion did not hold that you can do anything you want to do anonymously, and that the First Amendment provides complete protection for any speech. What distinguishes this case from other cases involving discovery of speakers from an ISP is that the anonymous speaker was not a subject of any claim brought forward in the lawsuit.

    Usually, the subject of a subpoena where disvovery is sought is the "John Doe" defendant of a cause of action, be it copyright infringement or defamation. The opinion didn't address that question at all.

    Instead, the Court held, intensely properly IMHO, that unless more than mere innuendo is alleged against an anonymous speaker, the privacy of the anonymous speaker must be respected -- even in matters of judicial discovery.
  • Unfortunately, Ed, the poster is quite right. The First Amendment does protect anonymous political speech, just as it protects attributed political speech.

    What the First Amendment does not protect is speech that is devoid of artistic, political, scientific or social value--such as libel. Such speech falls outside the purview of First Amendment protections a priori, and as such the question ot whether or not the First Amendment protects anonymous speech such as these is just trivial.

    The Supreme Court has made it absolutely clear: the First Amendment protects speech, both attributed and unattributed, insofar as the speech possesses some sort of redeeming quality.

    If I want to anonymously post a webpage about how Slashdot sucks, and I make my case with such withering accuracy that Slashdot's ad revenue drops off by fifty percent, would Slashdot have any legal recourse to force my ISP to divulge my identity? ... Probably not.

    Depends on whether or not my ISP can afford a court battle. And that's a far different legal issue.
  • Heres the problem. Not all anonymity is to protect from legal reprocussions. For instance, if you're a professor at some college, or you work for some firm, theres nothing truly stopping those places from taking against you that you published some opinion that they disagree with. They probably couldn't use it legally to fire you (depends on the criteria for what you want to call a free-speech stable society), but they could pass you over for tenure or promotions. Just because the government can't limit your speech doesn't mean that other businesses can't discriminate based on that speech.
  • Your incoherence is perhaps only matched by your lack of perspective.

    People rise; people fall. Many a powerful corporation was but minor or even non-existent a century ago; and many that were mighty once upon a time, have withered away. Power goes to those who are willing to strive for it, and to maintain it -- the present is littered with the remains of the past.

    When was the last time AT&T was considered dominant? Or Montgomery Ward? Or Woolworths? Or Lucent? Or Xerox? Or Kodak? Or the Carnegies? Or the Vanderbilts? Or the Rockefellers? ...

    But perhaps you'd rather enjoy waving a sign and screaming irrationally.
  • Well, presumably ISPs keep billing and access records, so in theory one can be tracked -- with a series of court orders and a sheaf of logs for evidence -- backwards to a modem or other terminal. It's a valid question as to what the legal standard should be, 'tho; because if they're trivially granted, then a company -- or person -- could simply use the judicial system to get a name and address for revenge for even a contentious post that gives offense.
  • *shrug*

    Maybe just in case the sysadmins need to block an obnoxious flooder, spammer or other abuser?
  • No. Because some very specific charges -- violates of EULA/breach of contract could be directed at you to justify the revealing of identity.

    In this case, the judge labelled the company's case as mere innuendo -- the viewpoint being that there IS a standard which justifies removing anonymity, and they hadn't met it.
  • by Puk (80503) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:21AM (#276680)
    Zilly said Thursday he agreed with 2TheMart attorneys that ``rights to speak anonymously are not unlimited.'' But he said the company's reasons for wanting the names were not sufficient, saying the firm made no direct claim against the users, except for ``innuendo'' they had manipulated the stock.

    This appears to imply that if they wanted to charge the users with some sort of criminal conduct, they would reveal the names. Being semi-anonymous doesn't give people the right (or the ability) to break the law. I'm not implying they did, but if they were being charged, the authorities will do their best to discover their identities, and, if (as in this case) they are known, they will release them -- no matter how much "right to anonymous speech" people think they have. The reason they weren't released is because the judge wasn't convinced the need for their names was great enough, and they weren't being charged with anything, but simply used as evidence.

    -Puk
  • People log for reference reasons just as much as they log for surveillance.

    Assuming that people should lose their anonymity because they want to retrieve a discussion later is ridiculous.

    This isn't the X-Files.
  • Jesus Christ. I swear that I didn't check that "anonymous" box. God damn it. The above post belongs to me.

    ------
    That's just the way it is
  • "``The First Amendment clearly applies to the Internet,'' Zilly said. ``The law says that a person has a right to speak anonymously.''

    One, the First Amendment does NOT say that you have a right to speak anonymously.

    Two, the right to privacy (and thus limited anonymity), comes from the FOURTH amendment, a security within their persons, houses, papers and effects; also the FIFTH amendment precludes your being compelled to supply information about yourself or your conduct, metaphorically this can be read as an extension of the fourth amendment into your thoughts: 'your brain cannot be seized and searched, you are secure within your mind.'

    You are *always* to be held accountable for your actions; there is no right to being free from accountability. If there was a John Doe suspect, and a specific legal criminal charge, then the court could and would hear the case of whether or not the two were in fact related.

  • In an important case for privacy and free speech advocates, the Supreme Court ruled recently that the First Amendment protects anonymous political speech. In McIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission, decided April 19, 1995, the Court struck down an Ohio law that required the disclosure of personal identity on political literature.

    The case you link regards whether or not a handbill on a political issue must include a signature. The First Amendment says you can say (and not say) whatever you want. Thus, the handbill author can decide to omit his or her signature from what he says, and the law cannot compell that signature on that handbill.

    If the handbills had been libelous, however, the identity of the author could have been legally vulnerable. Libel is not a protected speech, it is an infraction of the laws, and the perpetrator of libel cannot legally remain anonymous.

  • Before people go spouting off, congratulating the judge on this momentus ruling, I hope we also step back and evaluate what the implications of this decision are. Privacy and anonymity are not the same.
  • If a company goes out of business simply because 23 people are bad mouthing them, that doesn't sound like a very stable company to me. What a lame attempt to get out of a shareholder lawsuit.

    I get on the stock message boards on Yahoo! all the time. People bad mouth stocks or hype the hell out of them constantly. It's been going on for a long time.

    It would take a little more evidence than what was presented in this case to have cause to identify the "chatters"

  • Brush up on your reading comprehension, then try again.

  • how much karma you got yo?
  • EOM
  • If I go into a chat room with a fake name and start saying things thinking that I'm anonymous, does that count? If there is a way to trace someone then they are not really anonymous. These people went into a chat room and started saying things, the servers have a record of thier IP that can be synced with thier ISP so they weren't really Anonymous. I do agree with this ruling but it made me think, how hard to you have to try to keep your identity secret to truly be considered anonymous?
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\=\=\

  • The judge only refused to release the identities of the people because they were not accused of anything criminal by the company, just a suspicion of "innuendo" to drive down stock prices. Posting copyrighted Scientology texts IS illegal under current copyright and trade secret laws.

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:37AM (#276692)
    This doesn't let you break the law and remain anonymous. It says that you can't get the identity so that you can prove the crime. This is VERY important.

    Previously, you could file a BS lawsuit against John Doe, then subpeona the identities to identify John Doe. This allowed harassment.

    What this does mean, however, is that if the SEC wanted to investigate, they could get the names.

    Realize this case: the shareholders are suing that the stock ran up for a company on the verge of bankrupcy. None of the actions of these individuals caused the company to go bankrupt. The company's inability to have Cash>0 did so.

    The shareholders aren't suing that the price dropped. And if the company's business plan required a certain stock price, well, that's their problem. Public companies should be able to function regardless of share price.

    The judge didn't rule that you can't reveal names, merely that you can't without a compelling reason. If there was evidence of a crime, they'd be released.

    For example, if the company compiled a list of short sellers, they could probably give the list to the chat room operators and demand the identities of anyone matching that list.

    The burder is on those wishing to reveal the names, as it should be.

    Alex
  • That's why these people are being sued. Stock price manipulation IS illegal. However, there are some companies that even without manipulation are likely to be doomed (all the .coms, Rambus, etc) and a great deal of money can be made if you guess right.

    Of course, on the down side, the stock market tends to grow about 3% faster than the rate of inflation, so whereas buying stock you're probably going to make money, even if you just stick the money in an index fund (in fact, you'll make MORE than giving it to many money managers), when you short you're more likely to lose money. The bears are a crazy but dedicated bunch.

    I believe it was ESR's book. He was referring to the "tragedy of the commons." However, in this case it really is not applicable, because while stock manipulation may cause short term economic shocks, in the long run stock prices reflect economic reality, not the other way around.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • Thanks, sorry for the confusion, all.

    Stupid Red Hat and Mandrake, have to release new distros in the same week, grumble grumble...

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • by Galvatron (115029) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:52AM (#276695)
    A securities firm lends you stock, which you sell immediatly. Suppose stock XYZ is currently at $40 a share. You borrow 100 shares, sell them at $40 each, and get $40,000. Then, at some point in the future, you have to give that firm back 100 shares of XYZ

    If the stock goes up to $50 a share, then when you repurchase that stock to give back to the firm, it will cost you $50,000, resulting in a net loss of $10,000.

    However, if the stock goes down to $20 a share, then you will make $20,000. Even better, if the company goes bankrupt, the stock becomes worthless, and you make a full $40,000.

    People who short stock are known as "bears." This is why a down market is called a "bear market." "Bulls" are those who buy stock the normal way. The statue of a bull and a bear locked in combat in front of the NYSE building, of course, symbolizes the struggle between these two factions in the investment world.
    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • by Galvatron (115029) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:35AM (#276696)
    The Judge's name is Thomas Zilly. 2*3=6, the number of letters in his first name, and 2+3=5, the number of letters in his last name. He is obviously an agent of the Illuminati himself.

    Hail Eris! All hail Discordia!

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • Aren't all criminals anonymous until they're caught? The Frist Amendment doesn't apply to anything like "misleading investors."

  • Buy VA Linux!
  • Does that mean that I can run benchmark tests and publish my data with full disclosure as an anonymous entity and not get sued?

    DanH
    Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]
  • It doesn't matter what you say, but it does matter how you put it. Everyone in the United States of America is entitled to an opinion.

    With that said, if I were to say "Bill Gates is an asshole", he could sue me for defamation of character, however, if I add those three precious words "in my opinion", he cannot touch me no matter how many attorneys he can afford.

    That of course, is just my opinion based on sentiments which I do believe I am still allowed to have.
  • Yes, but Hustler could afford attorneys to point out the obvious fact that it was just the editor's opinion. In a David vs. Goliath battle, I think you'd be better off ensuring everyone knows that it was just 'your opinion'.
  • >And there was much rejoicing

    Know that is a reference to some campy movie, just can't remember which one...

    though I remember it had something to do with having to eat minstrels...

    ---

  • I'll sell you 100 shares of any company you want that has stock trading at $40/share. Because I like you, I will charge you only $39,000 for this stock.

    You may then sell them to whoever is willing to pay $40 large for them, and make a reasonable profit while you're at it.

    The appropriate moderation for my post is -1 troll, none of this offtopic/overrated crap please.
  • its sad that dead dot-coms are trying to use lawsuits to turn a profit. The days of playing foosball instead of working, because your site made money on its own, is over. Quit trying to make the quick buck, realize the dot-com era is over, and get a job in corporate america and conform like the rest of us.
    Conformity : When people are free to do what they want, they normally mimic one another (from despair.com [despair.com])
  • Someone's been playing too much Deus Ex....
  • Here is a better article [nwsource.com] from the Seattle Times.
  • IANAE(cconomist), but something about this seems fundamentally wrong. The way I understand it, while there's no -direct- connection between the market and reality, it and the general health of the ecconomy have a somewhat symbiotic relationship. Encouraging companies to fail would somewhat weaken the ecconomy, and a weaker ecconomy means less bennefit to this activity. The situation seems like the shared village grazing green metaphor from that one open source book I can't remember the name of (ESR|RMS wrote it..)

    It's one thing to manipulate and take advantage of others and their labors, but to actively bennefit from repeatedly destroying others and their works..


    I guess if you're a greedy asshole, you don't care tho... Kinda like being a sociopath...
  • This is why you should never listen to investment advice from anonymous sources. If you hear a rumor that Sun is about to buy Corel, it could easilly be a Corel holder who wants to dump their stock, but is hoping buy-out rumors will cause a small surge in the price.

    More often, people will spread negative information about a company because they are trying to sell it short.

    (Selling a stock short is when you borrow shares from a broker, sell them, wait for the stock to go down, buy the shares back, and return them to the broker. It's legal).

    Like you said, NEVER believe what you read on stock boards, and never make investment decisions based on rumors.

    wishus
    ---

  • eww... First day with a new, smaller, keyboard. I should probably consider hitting preview once in a while. Sorry about all the typo errors.
  • The way to protect yourself from liability is this:

    If you host a chatroom, newgroup, slashcode-driven site, whatever... set up your system so that it is technically impossible for you to determine who posted what. Make sure any and all logs are deleted daily.

    If there is no record anywhere which ties an anonymous note to a name, you can cooperate fully with the investigation, saying "here is all the available information. If you don't believe me, then here is a perfect mirror of my server for you to inspect as much as you like," and you will still be revealing nothing.

  • Good point.

    (The other type of "shorting" is when you agree to sell at a certain price on a certain future date with a buyer, wait for the stock to go down, then go out and buy the shares you promised to sell to them.)

    Unless you know enough about the company to be a "market maker" on a stock, or you have inside information, selling short basically ammounts to high-stakes gambling. I would not reccomend the practice to Joe Average. You would probably end up trying something desperate (like illegally spreading negative information in investment chat rooms) to avoid losing your shirt... sooner or later.

    If you like that sort of game, go with a fund that does it professionally and leave the driving to them... But I would suggest not even doing that unless you know exactly what you are getting into.

    Disclaimer: If you took what I just wrote seriously, you missed my main point, which is that advice from unknown strangers is useless. All of what I said about the risks of shorting stocks is investment advice from somebody you have never meet so you should ignore it and talk to an advisor you trust, face-to-face, about these issues.

  • by Golias (176380) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:59AM (#276712)
    Okay, you came right out and said you were trolling, but you are not all that far off the mark.

    Publicly trashing companies you want to buy, or talking up companies you are about to sell, is one of the oldest investment scams in the book. The SEC strictly regulates, this sort of behavior. (The guys over at Motley Fool got into quite a fracas ovet this stuff a few years ago... As their old service on AOL became popular, it became a great toold for stock value manipulation: Spread a little FUD about Ford, watch the stock drop, buy low, then go back and fill up the posting boards with glowing praise about how Ford has turned around and is a great value now. Then sell after it bounces back. Rince. Repeat.)

    This is why you should never listen to investment advice from anonymous sources. If you hear a rumor that Sun is about to buy Corel, it could easilly be a Corel holder who wants to dump their stock, but is hoping buy-out rumors will cause a small surge in the price.

    Were these people scam artists, or just typical opinionated newsgroup posters blowing off steam about a company they disliked?

    The line between free speech and illegal market manipulation is not as cut and dried as some people might like to think.

  • Who the hell uses their real name when signing up to post anonymously?

    If a company ever demanded slashdot to identify me they'd either get:
    a) The avenging disco godfather [imdb.com]
    b) An ip address shared by 100 people at my company.
  • > A "bull" market is one which charges ahead full
    > strength -- duh, like a bull.

    Well, maybe. The origins of "bull" in this
    context are far from clear.

    > A "bear" market is one which runs out of
    > strength and seems to hibernate like a bear. It
    > will come back eventually, but for the time
    > being it's dead to the world.

    Nope. Bear markets are indeed named after the
    "bears", the people who sell short, who prosper
    in such markets, not the other way around.
    The older, more full name is "bearskin jobbers",
    referring to an old proverb, "Don't sell the
    bearskin before you've caught the bear"--which,
    of course, is exactly what a short seller does.

    Chris Mattern

  • In a free and stable society filled with reasonable people who are a) able to take criticism, constructive or not and b) willing to accept the consequences of their actions, then anonymous speech isn't required.

  • by Ergo2000 (203269) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:45AM (#276716) Homepage

    ..is why most sites track the information in the first place. For example does Slashdot dispose of all logging for anonymous users within 24 hours, etc? The strange thing is that while many organizations throw their arms up and claim that they're poor victim of a legal system gone awry and they sure wish they could hide the users better, the fact that they've logged away lots of idenfitying information instantly betrays that.

    And there is nothing (though note that IANAL) legally requiring these "paper trails" to be logged away by thousands of sites, yet if you do log it then ironically you ARE responsible for it: It's like a self-imposed police state. An example of reaction to this is how a lot of corporations are imposing a "destroy the evidence, before it BECOMES evidence" mandate: Have a policy telling people to delete all emails older than a month/year/whatever, and you have no problems. Leave them hanging around and watch the subpoenas come flying in the door while you provide evidence against yourself about years old skeletons in the closet.

  • Down with Da Man !! lwts all come back down to reality. the Gov is Pro Business and we no power to stop it only because the vast majority of people eat what they are given. We are brought up to be followers and consumers. the few who benifit from the pro corp gov ideal are the few who end up in power because thier father and mothers are the ones who were in power before them. this is of course not Always true just so often that it sends the country down the tubes.
  • True I guess i must grant you that, however The Amountof effort that the government is going to in protecting itself from become just one more method of mind controlling the masses by big business is shrinking and the size of the corps is increasing.
    Increased communication and business managment through technology has and is leading to corps living on past the point that they would have colapsed in the past, and, continuing to grow to such a large size and power base that they now buyoff and keep in power those that look out for thier interests making our life that much worse. As i said before we are being brought up to be happy worker bees and consumers not free thinkers. that is the one thing that would threaten thier power over us.
    Too bad there are not too many free thinkers still in this country. now they only gather in places like this one.
  • If free speech were really free, anonymous online speech would not be needed. I think they shouldn't co-exist.

    May be it's a matter to weigh the harm which is done by anonymous speech towards the subject matter and persons talked about versus the harm which might be done to a non-anonymous free speaker for speaking up.

    Nothing is anonymous online and nowhere is free speech really free. So, it's somewhat weirdo assumption in the first place. And what's a stable society anyway ? Is the U.S. a stable society ?
  • It was something along the lines of "Jerry Fallwell recalls his first time," to the format of an old Campari advertisement (this is one of the wackier things that I remember from Legal Studies in college). To make the story short, the parody ad, which is typically protected speach, had Jerry Fallwell talking about his first time drinking Campari as having a drunken sexual encounter with his mother in an outhouse (hehehe ;-).
  • I'd like to buy them all a drink, now if you'll all just tell me your names... ;-)

    --

  • True, but the Fishman Affidavit is part of the public record, and thus may be quoted by anyone.

    Tho, just to be safe, I always put the "Fair Use" disclaimer at the top of it...
  • We know who you are. We're watching....

    Hugs and kisses, Microsoft

  • Let's hope that this ruling can be used to set a precedent that can protect /.ers from the Church of Scientology, Microsoft, and anyone else who turns a legal eye on Slashdot.

    I know we haven't seen the last of any of them...
  • Just checked it out--turns out you're right!

    This article [fac.org] says

    The Hustler parody depicted a drunken Jerry Falwell confessing that his "first time" was an incestuous fling with his mother in an outhouse
    and (boldface mine)
    The Court, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, ruled that the First Amendment protected speech that "could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved."15 The Court ruled that a public figure could not recover damages for emotional distress unless he or she shows that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with actual malice, or reckless disregard for the truth.
    so the primary claim was about the depiction of maternal incest. Thanks!
  • Actually, you don't have to qualify it with "in my opinion." Jerry Falwell lost a case against Hustler in which he sued for being named "Asshole of the Month." The court opined that it was fairly obvious they didn't mean that Falwell was literally an asshole.
  • One, the First Amendment does NOT say that you have a right to speak anonymously.

    Turns out the Supreme Court disagrees with you. See this [mit.edu].

    And, of course, those rights don't come from any constitutional amendments. We were all born with them; they are only acknowledged in the Constitution.

  • Ain't it great! You can bring down companies anonymously.

    As if this is going to last.

  • In the year 2010 when microsoft goes bankrupt due to a worldwide bluescreen, their case against 20,000,000 anonymous chatroom users trying to drop their stock over the coarse of 20 years will no longer work for them, as proved in the article.
  • You profit by shorting the stock.
  • You wouldn't lose money if you were shorting the stock.
  • Your suggestion may be a valid method of stepping out of the loop, but then you may be just working to enable people to do harm... I'm not a lawyer, but I see even bigger legal issues there...

    With my website in particular, there is certainly potential for abuse... after all, it's called "Fuckoff!" [fuckaway.com]. I want users to be able to sent light-hearted "fuckoff" postcards to other people, but don't want them to do serious damage or harm at the same time. The only way I can think of to make sure that users don't go "over the line" is to MAKE them take responsibility for their own actions. Giving them anonymity is giving them a license to shoot somebody and get away with it.

    People use anonymity to avoid responsibility for their actions. There are cases where this is valid (such as whistleblowing), but there are many more where it is not.

    Do people disagree with systems such as mine taking steps to ensure (as much as possible) that people are accountable for their own actions, and know it? If you don't want to admit to doing something, don't do it!

    MadCow.

  • I agree... "anonymous" posts should remain anonymous, and sysadmins should go to great lengths to make sure they stay that way. However, it brings up the question of whether or not a sysadmin should allow anonymous posting at all, because of the liability questions...

    I'm facing a similar dilemma... I'm going to post a "Postcard" feature on my website (Keyword: Fuckoff [fuckaway.com]), but want to ensure that users KNOW that they can be tracked down, so that overly-abusive posts don't get sent unless the poster is willing to take responsibility for them.

    Sure, there's always disclaimers and things, but if somebody gets hurt in the process, and the person who originated the damaging message can't be tracked, I'm sure that I'd be the one on the hook...

    Anonymity is great, unless you're using it to willfully hurt other people. Then you should stand up and take responsibilty.

    MadCow.

  • a federal judge is refusing to reveal the identities of 23 chat room users accused by a bankrupt dot-com of posting critical messages to drive its stock price down. The Judge has done the right thing here, even though it's clear that company believes the posters(s) are employees. However this is irrelevant, even if they are employees, they posted anonymously under a pseudo name. No serious investor takes financial advice from anonymous chat handles Fortunately in the UK, the Data Protection act ensures your electronic privacy from Corporate interests.
  • Amen to that, brother!

    Privacy and anonymity are contraban in Dubya's new economy of capito-communism.
  • if you're a knee jerk liberal who doesn't care to find out the facts

    That's pretty funny coming from a knee-jerk right-winger who would eat dog-poo if the republicans said it would lower taxes!

    The greatest misconception that people have about the republicans is that they are looking out for the little guy. They may say it during the campaigns, and all the ditto-heads get a warm fuzzy in their shorts about it, but when it comes down to putting their promises into action it all ends up helping big corps and rich people.

    And the little guy gets the shaft again and again...
  • Anyone taking stock tips from a guy in a chat room called "No Guano" deserves to get burned.

    Too bad it screwed up the rest of the company.

    -

  • The right to voice your opinion is absolutely guaranteed by the Constitution. The right to voice it in a way that will avoid criticism should be protected, too.

    That said, when you represent your opinion, as an inside source of a company, you are no longer voicing an opinion anonymously. An anonymous opinion on a subject doesn't start with "I was in the mailroom and heard..."

    Allowing someone to make statements like the ones made in this case, to cause a business harm, is no better than allowing someone to accuse a person of a crime anonymously. The Constitution provides protection against that, too.
  • Jerry Falwell lost a case against Hustler in which he sued for being named "Asshole of the Month."

    That was not the principal cause of action in the case. Hustler could have won the 'asshole' allegation on factual grounds alone. Falwell is a racist bigott who has made a fortune out of persuading little old ladies to send him their life savings to 'do the work of Christ' - standing up in front of a TV screen persuading little old ladies...

    I can't remember the principal allegation that Falwell sued over but seem to recall it involved maternal incest.

  • Stupidest company that did something of the sort is ZixIt corporation, a dotcom that still has to make any revenues.

    The original business plan for ZixIt was to make money out of a CyberCash like payment system called ZixCharge. To build a market for the wallet they planned to distribute a free email security application called ZixMail.

    The CEO of the company, David Cook said 'sell your shares if we don't have partners for ZixCharge by the end of the year'. The year being 1999 ended with no partners. Instead the firm brought a suit against Visa corporation claiming that a Visa employee had 'disparaged' the company and its products on the ZixIt Yahoo newsgroup. For a long time the posts were available from the ZixIt web site. They got pulled after folk pointed out that independent observers might consider that Paul Guthrie (the Visa employee) might well have given an honest opinion about a product he considered to be rubbish.

    The lawsuit goes on, the company still has no revenues. The latest plan is to charge $24 a month for ZixMail. Problem here is that the products that ZixMail add security to all have S/MIME encryption built in.

  • The only way you can think G.W. Bush is a threat to the internet and Privacy is if you're a knee jerk liberal who doesn't care to find out the facts.

    Or you could be a knee jerk liberal who thinks that Bush is an untrustworthy liar who said anything that would get him elected.

    Remember that Bush tried to get gwbush.com closed down during the campaign saying 'there ought to be limits to freedom'.

    The promise to be a uniter not a divider was broken when they used the Supreme Court to stop the election count in Florida. The promise to put a cap on green house gases was broken when the check from the oil industry trade association made it into the campaign fund.

    Let us see which way Bush jumps on the issue of online copyright. If he does not do the bidding of the people with the fattest wallets it will surprise me greatly.

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday April 20, 2001 @01:02PM (#276742) Homepage
    With that said, if I were to say "Bill Gates is an asshole", he could sue me for defamation of character, however, if I add those three precious words "in my opinion", he cannot touch me no matter how many attorneys he can afford.

    Untrue on both counts. In the first place the statement 'Bill Gates is an Asshole" would be defensible in the US since 1) Bill Gates is a public person and 2) the statement is a statement of opinion and not fact.

    Simply adding 'in my opinion' does not make it an opinion, nor for that matter does adding the word 'alleged'. Unless a reporter is reporting on an allegation that has already become known stating that an allegation has been made has the same effect as making the allegation.

    For example stating 'Bill Gate is a peadophile' would be actionable even if followed by 'in my opinion' or preceeded by 'it is alleged' since it is a statement of fact. Because he is a public persona Gates is considered to have less protection than a private individual would. However the statement would be clearly made 'with actual mallice' so the public interest defence fails.

    Of course in the UK there was a time when a man could pay a prostitute $3000 on a London station platform and subsequently be awarded a multimillion dollar award for damages after newspapers alleged that he had sex with the woman. Today said Jeffrey Archer is facing perjury charges at the Old Bailey and if convicted looks like serving a serious stretch of prison.

  • You are saying that there should be accountability for people who post stock tips or opinions anonymously on the internet and cause people to lose money? WHAT, ALL OF THE SUDDEN THERE IS AN ISSUE WITH THE FACT YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TRUST A COMPLETE SET OF STRANGERS THAT DON'T IDENTIFY THEMSELVES? Please, ctrl-alt-del your mind and reformat, your sense of accountability needs to be reset.
  • Its American responsibility, I think. If you can't stand the responsibility of taking harsh criticism, then stay out of a public forum. You in a sense, waive your right for others to hold comments back when you get into the public forum. There is precious little to say that the company (unfortunately, like most dot coms, accessible practically everywhere and IS PUBLIC) wasn't doomed from the start... and this lawsuit is vindication and a retrieval of investment on a bad business idea in an unstable market. Please remember, with freedo comes responsibility, and usually, most jerks insulate their lives and practices with lawyers. Twenty-three people might have had a beef with them, but honestly, there are probably 23 people I can think of off of the top of my head that would love to see me burn personally as well, and I go out of my way to avoid bad opinions. These things are unavoidable. They didn't ruin the company.
  • Monty Pytonh's Quest for the Holy Grail, in case you're not joking.
  • I know this is a troll, but there is perhaps a cogent reply?

    The judge is pointing out that the company did nothing to prove that the users' anonymity needed to be broken. They had no proof the anonymous users were anyone who could impact the lawsuit.

    Basically, the judge did well in disallowing a fishing expedition that might reveal users for no good reason.

    As others noted, anonymity will never protect you from breaking the law. But it might (if this stands) keep law enforcement and corporations from fishing expeditions that may, or may not, find guilt.

    On a side note: Yay! My first published submission. Did I just off-topic my own submission?

    No sig.

  • (IANAL) Actually, BG could -not- sue you for defamation if you called him an asshole. Things like defamation and libel have very specific legal definitions which exclude such invective. The "in my opinion" part is understood in a statement like that. In fact, a legal paper I was reading the other day suggests that you could say something like, "Bill Gates is an evil Nazi baby-raper" and not be sued, because while the statement is offensive, it does not present a specifically actionable statement of fact, as opposed to a statement like, "Last Thursday I saw Gates attending a neo-Nazi rally, shouting antisemetic rhetoric at the crowd." Such a specific false statement is slanderous. Of course, the territory gets pretty gray around here, and ultimately in most cases a judge will have to draw a conclusion about the intent of the speaker. Bile, invective and ill opinion (informed or otherwise) can be unpleasant, but they are inevitable and they are protected speech. In fact, for a public figure (and Gates certainly qualifies), the bar is very much higher to demonstrate defamation, slander or libel.
  • by KingAzzy (320268)
    Of course the judge threw the case out. It was a frivilous lawsuit any way you look at it.

    These patent infringement things that everyone here collectively moans about are an entirely different story, unfortunately... the law is much 'stickier' in these cases.

  • I think the determinent factor here is that there doesn't seem to have been much evidence that the rumors were false, that they were deliberately misleading or that there was a conspiracy.

    If there was clear evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the chat roomers then I would support discovering their identities. Under the circumstances I think the judge made the right call.

    Just because somebody says something you don't like doesn't mean they lose their right to anonymity.

    -Coach-

  • I used to be a vagan, but now I'm just a vagitarian.

    [flicks tongue]

    It definitely is the lifestyle.

    --

  • 2)How do you profit from someone's stock tanking unless you're a competitor? If the price goes down, and you hold stock, don't you lose money regardless of how much anyone else loses?

    It's called shorting. Basically you borrow stock from someone else and sell it. When they want it back you buy some. Read up on it at The Motley Fool [fool.com] (about two thirds of the way down that page). They don't like it because there's unlimited potential losses.
    --
  • by sllort (442574) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:39AM (#276752) Homepage Journal
    "``The First Amendment clearly applies to the Internet,'' Zilly said. ``The law says that a person has a right to speak anonymously.''"

    Great. The First Amendment clearly applies to the Internet.

    Does that mean that a person has a right to speak anonymously about DeCSS?

    I keep getting such a mixed message from our legal system.
  • Now if the judge had been having sex with a large golden apple, then we could be sure.

    M$ Winblows: For when you just don't care.
  • At best it's based upon a slipperly slope type argument, Our stock price went down, therefore these comments made it happen. Baseless unless you can prove it, which in this market would be very difficult since almost all stock prices have diminished greatly over the past few years. Kudos for the judge although I wonder if the claims had more substance if the judge would not have forced the issue. It's easy to back the constitution when the issues are non issues. Also, if the financial backing of a Microsoft had been behind the case, instead of a bancrupt website, you would be playing with a different set of rules.

    Seems fairly typical of the US courts with their propensities for selective enforcement. Meanwhile the legislative bodies try to control the masses by developing and marketing curricula that promote sectarian beliefs, promoting censorship and limiting freedoms along the way. I wouldn't say this is too much of a victory.

  • Does anyone here see any philosophical contradictions between "Free" speech and "Anonymous" speech in a stable society? Can (and should) both co-exist?

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.

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