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The CDA Is Dead, But States Are Trying To Revive It 205

Posted by kdawson
from the free-speech-vs.-anonymity dept.
oliphaunt writes "This week at The Legality, Tracy Frazier has an article discussing the damage that can be done by anonymous online comments. While regulars here are familiar with infamous bits of Net censorship like the Fishman Affidavit fiasco, and everyone has been an anonymous coward at least once or twice, some of you may not know about the conflict between Heide Iravani and AutoAdmit.com. Heide eventually filed a lawsuit because the first result for a Google search on her name brought up anonymous comments on AutoAdmit that accused her of carrying an STD and sleeping her way to the top of her class. The Communications Decency Act was supposed to prevent this kind of thing, but an injunction prevented it from ever being enforced and eventually the Supreme Court killed it. Should the law be changed?" The article links to a proposal from last summer in the New Jersey legislature that would institute a DMCA-like takedown regime for allegedly defamatory content posted on a Web site, and would allow aggrieved parties to demand the identity of anonymous posters without a subpoena. No indication of how that proposal fared. Also linked is a recent North Carolina proposal that would criminalize the act of defaming someone using an electronic medium. This proposal shields Web sites from liability and explicitly does not apply to anonymous speech.
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The CDA Is Dead, But States Are Trying To Revive It

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  • Criminalise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pjt33 (739471) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:25PM (#27024819)

    Defamation should be a civil matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is that the average person isn't going to have the proper resources to actually get anything done about it. Pick someone who doesn't know how internet tech works, plaster a load of life-ruining "facts" about them online, and get them ranked to the top of google. For many people, doing this to them could literally ruin the rest of their life, removing any ability to land a proper career.

      While censorship is horrible, there needs to be proper channels to go through that are guaranteed to land light

      • Re:Criminalise? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:02PM (#27025051)

        What we really need is a barrage of these cases, so that people understand how information on the internet works. The problem isn't that information can be published anonymously. The problem is that people put too much weight on completely unsubstantiated rumors and trivial misbehaviors.

        • Re:Criminalise? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:17PM (#27025133)

          Yeah, pretty much this exactly.

          Done properly (use TOR, pick "targets" entirely at random, MASSIVE number of "targets" (probably at minimum 10k or so) and make it pretty much impossible to track a real person to blame) and you could get this to be a large enough noise source that corporations couldn't rely on internet searches for employee information any more.

          Hmmm... Might want to modify that random - make sure about 25-50% of mid and upper level executives of all companies in the fortune 1k are included.

          Who wants to get the /b/tards started on this?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Animaether (411575)

          Although I fully agree with what you're saying, it doesn't work well in the reality of the world.

          Say you're hiring somebody and you google two candidates (as they do, these days)...

          Candidate A comes up as your average joe.
          Candidate B comes up as your average joe EXCEPT FOR that completely unsubstantiated claim on facebook from somebody who said they were over at Candidate B's place the other night to have a spliff (do kids still call it that these days?)

          Yes, they're unsubstantiated claims. Yes, you shouldn

      • Re:Criminalise? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by garett_spencley (193892) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:27PM (#27025193) Journal

        "Just another reason why capitalism fails. The public-facing side of any single company is considered far more important than the life of any individual. Way to go mankind."

        Whoa hold on there. I was in agreement with everything you said up until this last paragraph.

        Capitalism isn't "business rules". It's private ownership of property (and capital in general, hence "capitalism"). How does you being able to own your own land and property have anything to do with what you were bitching about ?

        In capitalism every single individual is both a producer and consumer. Even if you just hold a "9 - 5" you sell your labour in exchange for a mutually-agreed-upon paycheck. It's a voluntary exchange. Capitalism also applies just as well to bartering your labour to a friend in exchange for a couple of beers and hospitality for the day. This is all as opposed to socialism in which the government controls all of the means of exchange and production. Where two individuals are not allowed to enter into a voluntary exchange without the government's approval.

        What you pointed out is that, in this case we have a problem with the JUDICIAL system. Whereby it takes far too long, and is too costly, for an individual to seek justice against someone who anonymously did them harm. How does that relate to capitalism at all ? You're complaining about a GOVERNMENT institution. So what's your solution, get the government involved in EVERYTHING ? Yeah that will fix the problem! /sarc (please note that I'm most certainly not saying that we should privatize the judicial system, only that the problem here has nothing to do with private ownership of capital and the means of production).

        If the justice is more easily attainable for the rich, then we need to fix the judicial system. The judicial system has never been private. It's always been government-run. So why should the rich be able to afford justice more than a poor person ? It has nothing to do with business, and it shouldn't. None of these problems have anything to do with capitalism.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pdabbadabba (720526)

          Whoa hold on there. I was in agreement with everything you said up until "This is all as opposed to socialism in which the government controls all of the means of exchange and production."

          I believe the word you were looking for is "communism" not "socialism". Socialism is, on many formulations (it is quite a vague term) compatible with a market economy.

          • by init100 (915886)

            I believe the word you were looking for is "communism" not "socialism". Socialism is, on many formulations (it is quite a vague term) compatible with a market economy.

            I think you are confusing socialism with social democracy, which is like "socialism light". Remember e.g. that the USSR stood for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

            • Nope. I'm not. I looked it up and everything. :)

              "Socialism" is a broad term which can apply to both "light" forms like social democracy or "heavy" forms like Communism.

            • by schon (31600)

              Remember e.g. that the USSR stood for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

              Also remember that Congo is the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cuba is the Democratic Republic of Cuba.

              Just because (or perhaps especially because) a government says it's something, doesn't mean that it is.

              Oh, and you might be interested to to know that Seven of the top 10 [mapsofworld.com] countries with the highest standard of living are socialist.

        • Re:Criminalise? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:41PM (#27025269) Homepage

          In capitalism every single individual is both a producer and consumer.

          No, in capitalism, the capitalist class skims off the labor of producers by charging them for access to the resources that capitalists "own" and producers need to get stuff done.

          This is all as opposed to socialism in which the government controls all of the means of exchange and production.

          No, socialism is a system based on the exchange of labor and the democratic control of capital. State socialism, as practiced by Marxists, is not the only variety. Anarchists are socialists.

          Even if you just hold a "9 - 5" you sell your labour in exchange for a mutually-agreed-upon paycheck. It's a voluntary exchange.

          No arrangement made in the face of an overwhelming imbalance of power is "voluntary". So long as a state-backed minority class of "owners" controls the vast majority of economic resources, referring to the wage slavery that all but the most skilled workers have to sell themselves into as "voluntary" is a sick joke.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            "No, in capitalism, the capitalist class skims off the labor of producers by charging them for access to the resources that capitalists "own" and producers need to get stuff done."

            How can you own labour if you can't own people ? How can you have a "class" of capitalists when everyone is able to own property ? (and note: I'm not talking about land and capital goods, specifically. Even my daughters owns capital - clothes, toys, cash etc.).

            The only way that your sentence can apply is in a system of serfdom. Wh

            • Rent seeking (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tepples (727027)

              How can you have a "class" of capitalists when everyone is able to own property ?

              It's possible if only members of the upper class have a reasonable chance of bootstrapping themselves into owning enough property to get anything done.

              The only way that you can have slavery, even wage slavery, is when there is a presence of force. In modern times that force is almost always the government.

              Unless the upper class applies force through said government. This is called rent seeking [wikipedia.org] and regulatory capture [wikipedia.org].

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by rohan972 (880586)

                How can you have a "class" of capitalists when everyone is able to own property ?

                It's possible if only members of the upper class have a reasonable chance of bootstrapping themselves into owning enough property to get anything done.

                Well that's not the case now. Technology is cheap. Computers, tools, machines (lathes, mills, even CNC machines), power are all accessible by pretty much anyone who wants them. Knowing a number of people (including myself) who own their means of production, some even without borrowing, I can tell you that it is quite attainable.

                The problem is that people have been conditioned to subservience and dependence in school. The "chains" of modern western "slavery" are quite fragile, so long as you can overcome

                • by tepples (727027)

                  Technology is cheap. Computers, tools, machines (lathes, mills, even CNC machines), power are all accessible by pretty much anyone who wants them.

                  Use them for anything interesting and get sued. Patents to cross-license with the upper class members that hold broad patents in your field are not cheap. Or am I missing something fundamental?

                  • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                    by rohan972 (880586)

                    Use them for anything interesting and get sued. Patents to cross-license with the upper class members that hold broad patents in your field are not cheap. Or am I missing something fundamental?

                    Yes, the fact that there is a heap of stuff invented more than 20 years ago that is still profitable to produce, ie: products that have no patents. Not everything is IT, not everything is changing at lightning speed.

                    As one example, I'm in the process of starting a side business. It doesn't have to support my family, but it could potentially do that down the track. Certainly it can provide a buffer for me that can give me that much more ability to walk away from a deal offered by a corporation. It's furni

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Mr. Slippery (47854)

              How can you have a "class" of capitalists when everyone is able to own property ? (and note: I'm not talking about land and capital goods, specifically. Even my daughters owns capital - clothes, toys, cash etc.).

              I'm sorry that you don't know what capital [wikipedia.org] is. Clothes and toys are finished goods, not capital; cash is capital only when invested.

              The capitalist class is the class that controls capital: controls the money, and owns the land, the factories, even (thanks to copyrights and patents) the very idea

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by remmelt (837671)

              The problem with laissez-faire capitalism is that it stops being laissez-faire after a while. The Holy Free Market will eventually evolve to the system you have now, where large corporations buy up smaller ones for the sake of efficiency (or the threat of a smaller, more nimble company taking away from their bottom line) so consumers have less choice (where free market proponents usually say that the free market means more choice). Then they start buying up laws, I mean making huge contributions to both par

          • No, in capitalism, the capitalist class skims off the labor of producers by charging them for access to the resources that capitalists "own" and producers need to get stuff done.

            Capitalism means you are allowed to own property and other resources (capital) and invest it as you want. By "producers" you seem to be refering to wage earners. Yes, wage earners work for others who have invested their capital to build a factory or business that workers can work at a mutually agreed wage. The capitlist is riskin

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            No arrangement made in the face of an overwhelming imbalance of power is "voluntary". So long as a state-backed minority class of "owners" controls the vast majority of economic resources, referring to the wage slavery that all but the most skilled workers have to sell themselves into as "voluntary" is a sick joke.

            Thanks for the left wing talking points but what exactly does any of this have to do with TFA?

        • While the judges themselves are employees of the government, most of the judicial apparatus is private, and operates under a market system. Suspect that your rights are being violated, but aren't quite sure what bit of legislation applies? Hire someone knowledgeable in the law to tell you. Need to file paperwork in a trial, but want to be sure that you did it correctly, and didn't miss something that could be important to your case? Hire someone who specializes in drafting legal papers to draft them for you

        • by Daimanta (1140543)

          "Capitalism isn't "business rules". It's private ownership of property (and capital in general, hence "capitalism"). How does you being able to own your own land and property have anything to do with what you were bitching about ?"

          Communism isn't "the Party rules". It's the idea that property should be common in stead of private.

          But in reality, communism means "the Party rules" and capitalism means "business rules".

        • "Just another reason why capitalism fails. The public-facing side of any single company is considered far more important than the life of any individual. Way to go mankind."

          Whoa hold on there. I was in agreement with everything you said up until this last paragraph.

          I think if you substitute the "system of publicly traded corporations who employ a significant portion of working America" for "capitalism", you'll get the intended meaning.

        • by npsimons (32752) *

          In capitalism every single individual is both a producer and consumer.

          So capitalism isn't really being used in America today. Got it.

          It's a voluntary exchange.

          Ah, I see: capitalism has never really existed, except maybe on a small scale, say between two individuals in a tribal community.

      • What are you going to do if the site was hosted out of state by a company with no physical assets in your state? Or on an overseas site, by an overseas company? Google doesn't discriminate based on location unless your search specifically requests it, but it is outside any legal jurisdiction you have access to? Are you going to go to Canada to press a case?

        We don't need laws and we don't need this sort of thing presented as an excuse for socialism, we need people that aren't so stupid and recognize that

      • by Jurily (900488)

        "Company image" is a top priority for every business, second only to money/profit. Especially when it comes to publicly traded companies, image is everything, and there is absolutely ZERO room for negotiation when it comes to an employee's personal life potentially tainting the company's image.

        "Hey, we believe what any anonymous moron writes on the internet!"

        How's that for a public image? These people should be ridiculed, at least.

        Or send them for some reeducation on /b/. Let's see what they think of anonymous comments afterwards.

      • The problem is that the average person isn't going to have the proper resources to actually get anything done about it.

        Then allow them to recover sufficient damages and penalties in civil court. You'll get plenty of lawyers lining up to take such cases on commission. There is no need to criminalize it.

        Just another reason why capitalism fails.

        By what bizarre reasoning do you connect capitalism with libel laws? Yes, you might face legal problems when saying something bad about a company in the US, but you

        • Then allow them to recover sufficient damages and penalties in civil court.

          This is only true if the target of the lawsuit has enough wealth to make it worthwhile for a lawyer to take the case on commission. How can the lawyer be sure that Anonymous Coward is actually a wealthy person who will pay a judgment? It could be that after spending time and money to track down the target it turns out that AC is some broke smart ass college student. However, comments that will be Googled can still be very damaging whether made by a wealthy individual or a broke college student. It may not b

      • by rastilin (752802)

        The problem is that the average person isn't going to have the proper resources to actually get anything done about it. Pick someone who doesn't know how internet tech works, plaster a load of life-ruining "facts" about them online, and get them ranked to the top of google. For many people, doing this to them could literally ruin the rest of their life, removing any ability to land a proper career.

        The real problem is the people who would trust something said completely anonymously over the internet. There's an old joke that goes "This is a man who wouldn't trust his mates if they told him the sky was blue with signed affendavits from both the pope and his own mother but would trust something whispered to him by a complete stranger in a bar."

        Just another reason why capitalism fails. The public-facing side of any single company is considered far more important than the life of any individual. Way to go mankind.

        Because if you were looking for baby-sitters and there were rumors that the individual you were screening had inappropriate contact with children, you'd totally h

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RulerOf (975607)

      Defamation should be a civil matter.

      Not only that, but I can hardly see what relevance her sex life has in that forum, especially if the information is hearsay.

      Any forum moderator or website operator should have the common decency to recognize a troll and delete the offending material if you can show, with good intentions, that it's more detrimental to you for that false information to be there than it is positive for them to keep it....

      In the end, you should never have to legislate good taste, but for fuck's sake, it'd be nice for more peo

      • by xenocide2 (231786)

        When I last read about that place and this defamation, someone pointed out that this forum is basically run by people who don't believe in moderation, and attracts a lot of frat house antics. Just as an example, I see two threads there right now with the title "Rate this girl. [1-10]" and "Do Bobby Jindal's daughters fuck N******S?" (censorship mine).

        Its like 4chan for guys who decided to put down the beer and weed and get a real job. They come together to complain about how hard law school is and bitch abo

    • Re:Criminalise? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:55PM (#27025365) Homepage Journal

      And opinion should be neither. ( which is where this is headed ultimately, to restrict you from expressing your opinion, unless its an 'approved' opinion )

      • Slander isn't an opinion. This article is not about someone's opinion, nor about the freedom to express an opinion. It is about the ability to slander without fear of consequence. Well even more than that, it also extends to the difficulty for someone to protect themselves from online abuse like this.

        Imagine someone posted that you were a pedophile, that you hoarded large quantities of child pornography, and that you raped young children. What do you do after the hoster of this content ignores your request

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          If people believe as you that the issue is really about slander, then we have already lost the fight.

          • Maybe I'm jaded, but aren't you suggesting that those of us that are abused, should just take one for the team?

            • by nurb432 (527695)

              No, what i was saying is this is all just a ruse to get support from the masses, when the real goal is far reaching and will eventually restrict your ability to post your opinion in a public forum if it differs from what is "acceptable".

              It's a 'think of the children' slippery slope entry point.

              • will eventually restrict your ability to post your opinion in a public forum if it differs from what is "acceptable".

                You mean like /. moderation system perhaps? -Sure you get to say anything, but no one gets to read it much outside /. group think.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Talgrath (1061686)

          You stop being a pansy and forget about it; even a half-brained idiot can see that internet forums are generally less reliable sources of information than the babbling lunatic homeless guy on the street corner. If your employer believes that nonsense, then you probably don't want to work there because the company is going down in flames.

  • If people know that "bad" comments are taken off the Internet, and the Government is there to protect us, then the Government is giving weight to everything that's out there. Unfortunately, the Government can't take down every bad thing out there. Net result is that the effort to protect people just makes things worse. As long as the Government keeps its hands off, and people understand that there is no Thought Police on the Internet, then they will be dismissive of most unsubstantiated anonymous claims, and they can cause no harm. Legislators, please take the day off on this one. Everybody will be better off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)

      Unfortunately, the Government can't take down every bad thing out there.

      Some of us consider that a good thing.

    • What makes you think people "will be dismissive of most unsubstantiated anonymous claims"? People believe the face of Jesus appears on tortillas. People believe 9/11 was really caused by Israel to get the US fired up against the Muslim world. People will believe all kinds of nonsense.

      It takes very little to trash a person's character online. Of course no employer will pay attention to "she's a slut!" But no employer can afford to ignore "he was given a suspended sentence for child endangerment in Knox Count

  • by kentrel (526003) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:36PM (#27024895) Journal
    I didn't realise Heide Iravani might have had an STD until she fought so hard to stop people talking about it.

    Considering something like 70% of people carry HPV the odds are in your favour that you're telling the truth whenever you say someone has an STD.
    • Selfish Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:56PM (#27025017)

      I didn't realise Heide Iravani might have had an STD until she fought so hard to stop people talking about it.

      Yes, but prior to this Slashdot story, you didn't even know Heide's name. On the other hand, current and possible future employers might do a Google search and find this, and well as potential love interests. Posts like the ones that Heide is upset about may not bother typical Slashdotters, but we have very thick skin here. Heide should be able to this type of harassment, as it significantly impacts her life.

      • by TreyGeek (1391679) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:11PM (#27025103) Homepage
        My question is, how can you be sure that the information that Google provides is actually about the person you searched for?

        When performing a Google search on my name (first and last in quotes) I can make out at least three different people on the first page. Which one is me? Which one is the chemist? And which one is the guy who died on a passenger ship in the first half of the 1900s? I know the answer, but how would anyone else?

        So, maybe there is a Heide Iravani who has an STD and slept her way to the top. But it may be about a different Heide Iravani than the one who is filing a lawsuit.

        You can't trust Google to provide you the information on an exact person.
        • by Ragzouken (943900)
          I imagine prospective employers will assume you are still alive. And they can probably tell by your unemployment and the qualifications on your CV whether you are/were a chemist or not.
        • My question is, how can you be sure that the information that Google provides is actually about the person you searched for?

          When performing a Google search on my name (first and last in quotes) I can make out at least three different people on the first page. Which one is me? Which one is the chemist? And which one is the guy who died on a passenger ship in the first half of the 1900s? I know the answer, but how would anyone else?

          Just to riff a little bit on your point - a friend of mine has started using (abusing?) these name collisions. When required to identify himself on forms and whatnot, he uses his real name. But, he's got a list of people with the exact same name from all around the country and he usually picks one and uses their details. The name thing will cover him if someone demands an ID in person, but if he has problems with data leakage, it ends up being some other John Doe's data that gets leaked.

          So, in your examp

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)

            What a dick.

            If he was making the other people up, no problem. Impersonating (for any reason) a real person is bullshit.

            • If he was making the other people up, no problem. Impersonating (for any reason) a real person is bullshit.

              I tend to agree. But the real problem is with the information leakers.
              If they didn't break trust, nobody would have any problems (and there would be no incentive to do what he does either).

        • by vux984 (928602)

          My question is, how can you be sure that the information that Google provides is actually about the person you searched for?

          And the answer to your question is, you can't, but it doesn't matter.

          Have you ever blown an interview? where you were the best candidate for the job, but just screwed up or maybe life happened that day? Maybe that's the day have a car accident on the way in that makes you late or you get news that a close relative has died and your shaken up? And it ruins your 'first impression'. Wheth

        • Which one is the chemist? And which one is the guy who died on a passenger ship in the first half of the 1900s? I know the answer, but how would anyone else?

          Common sense?

          But yes, it's a very questionable practice to use Google as a primary source for background checking.

          As easy as it is is to anonymously libal someone on the Intertubes, so is it to create a false background. Information on The Tubes is only as accurate as its source...

        • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @05:29PM (#27025567)

          Yes I have been a victim of this. Some moron who shares my name is a moderately infamous white supremacist.

          Needless to say he has a prominent wikipedia and google presence.

          I have actually lost business due to this, as someone looked him up, thought it was about me, and wrote smearing emails about me to my client. I cleared it up with the client but the FUD damaged the relationship and no further business ensued. And who knows, maybe it has cost me job interviews as well.

          A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as they say.

        • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @06:27PM (#27025869) Homepage Journal

          "Which one is the chemist? And which one is the guy who died on a passenger ship in the first half of the 1900s? "

          So, you're saying you faked your own death?

      • Heide should be able to this type of harassment

        I accidentally the whole type of harassment.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:37PM (#27024907)
    ... for "allegedly" anything. They should be able to prove their case in court, or STFU.

    While the current situation is not quite "prior restraint", it DOES have a chilling effect on free speech, in that speech can be censored by merely alleging that it is infringing something. That is wrong, plain and simple.
  • Horrible idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Doing this only legitimizes anonymous comments. People should be made aware that when someone says something online that does NOT mean it is true. So called "defamatory" speech should never be criminalized anyhow. At worse, it is a civil wrong.

    Pretty much all online speech is anonymous. That which is not and involves a person saying something about another, they will already take down the offending content if they are made aware they are going to be sued and do not believe they can substantiate (i.e., defen

  • by MrLint (519792) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:50PM (#27024979) Journal

    In the 'Fisherman' link in this article it goes to an old story by CT, which links to the ACLU on tops for writing elected officials. That link is out of date, the updated link is http://www.aclu.org/files/gen/13516res20021209.html [aclu.org]

  • is not having to smell the people your abusing.

    But seriously, what with the way that skilled people can manipulate data, others assuming identities, the semi-secure networks.
    We're just not there yet, where you can have 100 percent certainty your communicating who you think you are, or that a post was made by who they claim to be.
    The cost of doing an audit trail has to be pretty expensive, and even then... you can't be sure.

    CSI and NCIS aside someone with malevolent intent pretty much has free reign to a

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @04:00PM (#27025039) Homepage
    There is this concept called considering the source. If the poster is anonymous and makes claims without backing them up, then a person would have to be an idiot to ascribe any weight to them. Case closed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vux984 (928602)

      There is this concept called considering the source.

      Yes there is. Until the world at large does it, however, its not going to help.

      If the poster is anonymous and makes claims without backing them up, then a person would have to be an idiot to ascribe any weight to them.

      So everyone on the planet (except you and me of course) are idiots. That's not going to help much though, since all the idiots around us make tons of decisions that directly affect us.

      Case closed.

      Not until we get rid of the idiots. I wouldn't

    • If the poster is anonymous and makes claims without backing them up, then a person would have to be an idiot to ascribe any weight to them.

      Agreed. However...

      You're considering hiring someone. Your web search of their name turns up some anonymous coward talking about what a horrible employee they are, how they tried to steal from the company, etc.

      Now obviously this is anonymous hearsay. What would you do? Contact the person? Well, they're obviously going to say that it wasn't them. Now what?

      You have another candidate that's almost as qualified. Do you want to go through the hassle of having the person checked out more thoroughly? Or is

  • Anonymous speech should be specifically protected on the web, end of story. Full stop. No debate. Anyone in any position of power who thinks otherwise should be dragged out of office for positing such a stupid notion.

    If someone wants to complain anonymously about someone else it should equally be that person's right (not to mention responsibility) to publicly refute any claims they disagree with. There's no sense in whining about a search engine coming up with "undesirable" things about you -- get off your

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @05:05PM (#27025419)
      You forget that the rest of the world does not share the US attitude, rightly or wrongly, and that there are a lot more of them. And you don't know the principle of ethics that says, in effect, "the right of your fist stops at my nose". Why should I have to defend myself against lies? There has to be a remedy for them. Your argument can ultimately be extended to "anybody should be allowed to fire a gun at me anonymously, it's my responsibility to protect myself." At what point on the spectrum between anonymous hate speech and anonymous attempts at murder should the state step in?

      In the real world, if I were to post anonymously that Zero_DGZ is a pedophile who visits Thailand to frequent child brothels, there are other anonymous idiots who would read this and post it as news. Once a few hundred people posted this juicy bit of information, people would cease to note it was anonymous and think "Google says lots of people think that...", and before long you would get a visit from the FBI.

      It may be that anonymous statements of opinion, as in "I think ZeroDgZ is sociopathic", should be protected, but statements presented as facts that are actually lies should not. Using anonymity to protect against suit for libel should also not be protected (it is illegal in many countries as regards print media at least).

      • It may be that anonymous statements of opinion, as in "I think ZeroDgZ is sociopathic", should be protected, but statements presented as facts that are actually lies should not. Using anonymity to protect against suit for libel should also not be protected (it is illegal in many countries as regards print media at least).

        Look up slander [wikipedia.org]. Statements of opinion or true facts are protected, false statements of fact are not.

        • Just slapping "I think", or "In my opinion" in front of things doesn't magically make them immune from slander/libel laws.

          i.e.
          "Bob is an asshole - he is a rapist" -> probable libel as you make a claim of fact.
          "Bob is an asshole - I think he is a rapist" -> still probable libel because it presupposes you have factual information to base that opinion on.
          "Bob is an asshole" -> not libel; whether or not a person is indeed an asshole is subjective (even if a thousand people agree).

          • Yep, it's hard to have an opinion of whether or not someone is a rapist.

            The interesting libel example I heard was "I think I saw Bob having a drink with Sally." If you know that Bob is an alcoholic and that he might lose his job if he is caught drinking, that could be libelous if it turns out to not be true. But, in the example at least, if you don't know that (Bob has a drinking problem) then the statement is not libelous.

            In my opinion, the whole lawyering thing has gotten out of hand and should face
  • Good luck, i'm behind seven proxies
  • I think that people get a little too excited whenever regular old actionable offenses happen in a room with a computer. Just because libel happens on the Internet doesn't make it any different for legal purposes than libel in any other medium. Neither does it elevate speech for it to occur on the Internet.

    For example, an anonymous post on a web page regarding this chick and her alleged std situation is essentially the same as someone having spray-painted graffiti to that effect on the side of a building. No

  • CDA isn't dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Saturday February 28, 2009 @05:32PM (#27025581) Homepage Journal
    Let me correct a few misconceptions in the underlying article and the post. 1. The CDA isn't dead; it's alive and well and thriving. Only 2 constitutionally repugnant sections were struck down by the US Supreme Court. 2. They were struck down in 1997, not in 2007. 3. Communication on the internet is not the "wild west"; it is subject to the same laws as the rest of the world. If someone libels someone, they are held liable under the same principals. An anonymous libel is easier to trace on the internet than it would be in the brick and mortar world. 4. The suggestion that 'online slander' is an 'epidemic' is pure hype.
    • I've been called a pedophile, a rapist, and a distributor of child pornography. Despite this being illegal, I've found it to be impossible to fight. The post is still there [theflatearthsociety.org], available for anyone to read.

      So I don't think it's alive and well and thriving. People shouldn't have to pay several grand to defend themselves per defamation. Since it's so easy to do, and so risk-free, I expect to read about Britney's bad mothering, and Jennifer's depression for a long long time.

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      While it's great that you're shedding some light on this issue, there is one thing I take issue with:

      Communication on the internet is not the "wild west"; it is subject to the same laws as the rest of the world. If someone libels someone, they are held liable under the same principals.

      Which laws are you referring to? Those of the US, UK, Australia, etc? Or by some international body such as the UN?
      My point is that the internet transcends mere geographical and political boundaries, and consequently any laws on it can always be sidestepped by moving to a content/service provider outside of the country.
      While your argument holds up as long as the content/service provider, the defamer and the

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by thelegality (1251040)
      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and offer feedback. We have revised the language in that paragraph to clarify the fact that the holding of Reno v. ACLU struck only two provisions of the CDA, rather than the entire statute. We have also corrected the year identified as the CDA's inception, which was 1996 rather than 2007.
  • If you were ever passed over for a position because of Internet search results, consider yourself lucky.

    An employer who is going to base their hire/nohire decision on what they find in a Google search or a chat room is not the kind of employer you want to work for, trust me. If they're that petty and ignorant when it comes to staffing, imagine what the office politics and management style is going to be like! No thank you!

  • by Torodung (31985) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @08:04PM (#27026337) Journal

    In my opinion, there is only one way to do this properly in the US. We hold a Constitutional Convention, and we reevaluate the first amendment in a modern context.

    Any attempt to do this legislatively should be jealously struck down by the Supreme Court.

    Oh, and Rush Limbaugh just launched his political action committee. He's going to try to bring down President Obama. So consider carefully whether you want the "protections" this law affords.

    Honestly, I think we need to limit the speech rights of legal entities, to level the playing field with the humble individual. We need to state that a conglomerate of any kind, be it a union or a corporation, does not have the same rights as an individual, in order to strengthen individual rights.

    The problem here is not free speech. It is that individual rights have been diluted by poor choices, and "common sense" has been diluted by collective organizations that have more rights than a person because they have more money. We need to reevaluate those choices, and stop looking at this as a zero sum game.

    --
    Toro

  • I don't know about that. When I went to college and slept through class, I usually ended up closer to the bottom.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder why we never had these problems with bathroom walls?

  • I was trying to RTFA and so I clicked the link to the diffamatory posts that started it all, as offered by TFA :

    http://www.thelegality.com/DOCUME%7E1/SAM/LOCALS%7E1/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/W39BHG8L/WWW.autoadmit.com

    Yeah, great job guys, way to know how to use the Internet.

    They wrote, falsely, that Heller has herpes and had bribed her way into Yaleâ"helped by a secret lesbian affair with the dean of admissionsâ"and that Iravani has gonorrhea, is addicted

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