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Canadian Court Orders Site To ID Anonymous Posters 358

Posted by timothy
from the we-call-them-all-spartacus dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A Canadian court has ordered the owners of the FreeDominion.ca to disclose all personal information on eight anonymous posters to the chat site. The required information includes email and IP addresses. The court ruled that anonymous posters have no reasonable expectation of privacy, a major blow to online free speech in Canada."
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Canadian Court Orders Site To ID Anonymous Posters

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  • Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:21PM (#27332925) Homepage

    I'm behind 7 proxies

    • Re:Good luck (Score:5, Informative)

      by slummy (887268) <shawnuthNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:39PM (#27333237) Homepage
      Good pay proxy service: Socksify [socksify.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488)

      The court ruled that anonymous posters have no reasonable expectation of privacy

      I'm behind 7 proxies

      Does anyone see something wrong with this? Courts can now redefine reality? Or will they just outlaw proxies to keep reality updated?

      I sense a dejavu coming up, Matrix style.

      • Re:Good luck (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:19PM (#27334603)
        Think of the internet as a giant Fax machine. Just because you don't sign the letter you fax, doesn't mean they don't know where it came from.

        Unless you take explicit steps you are not anonymous online *ever*. Even when you do, you're only as anonymous to the point of making it more difficult to find you. The trail is there, however cloudy and convoluted.

        An insecure wireless connection on the other hand...does wonders for anonymnity(sp?) ;-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by neoform (551705)

      I do the same when playing counter-strike.

      I still haven't figured out why my ping is so bad though..

    • by g2devi (898503) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @05:50PM (#27335625)

      No problem, they can still find out who you are by looking at the email you must provide to use the service.

      Once they know that your email is: anon@ymo.us, all they need to do is contact the domain owner of ymo.us to tell you who you are.

      Assuming that the necessary cross border agreements are in place to issue a court order to the domain named: ymo.us and assuming that you were 100% truthful (why wouldn't you be?), they can force the domain owner to tell the courts that anon@ymo.us belongs to "Monkey Dance" at "1 Microsoft Way". Police can take care of the rest.

      So you see, your 7 proxies are no match for this well thought out law. ;-)

  • Oh dear. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:22PM (#27332935)
    Can you imagine the political rhetoric if they found 4chan.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:23PM (#27332955)

    They should be ashamed of themselves, posting anonymously.

  • Rock and hard place. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:27PM (#27333031)

    Canada has always been stuck between a rock and a hard place (US & UK). We are kind of like the retarded step-brother, very polite but not taken seriously on our own (we have a nasty habit of tagging along to our 'Big Brothers'.)

    I often wondered how long it would take the insanity of US & UK to reach us. I wonder if there are any jobs in the Netherlands for an english-speaking computer-geek Canuck. They look like the only safe haven from insanity that is infecting this planet.

    • by guruevi (827432) <evi@NOSpam.smokingcube.be> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:06PM (#27333641) Homepage

      Oh, don't worry, the Netherlands' government is much like the UK/Canada: always trying to follow the US government especially when it comes to tahrarhism and privacy. As far as the RIAA goes, they have their hands over there as well under the name BREIN (from Wikipedia):

      BREIN is perhaps best known for shutting down Dutch eDonkey 2000 link giant ShareConnector.com in December 2004. Due to controversy over the legality of links to illegal content, and a lack of quality in the evidence provided by BREIN, the case has not been put to trial yet. After being offline for two years, ShareConnector reopened in December 2006 but after barely one year; on November 12, 2007, Shareconnector went offline again.

      On October 23, 2007 BREIN, together with IFPI, BPI, Dutch police, and other organizations shut down prominent Bittorrent tracker Oink's Pink Palace.

      On November 19, 2007, TorrentFreak announced on its website that BREIN copy-and-pasted a sentence of text from TorrentFreak's website onto its own website without attributing TorrentFreak, as per TorrentFreak's copyright license. TorrentFreak stated that they intended to seek legal action and damages of almost $1,000,000 for the alleged intellectual property violation.

      According to their own website (anti-piracy.nl) the organization has as members not only the local (legalized) copyright organization but also the MPAA to 'represent the American movie industry'. According to them 35% of new and 16% of ALL media in circulation in the Netherlands is 'illegal'.

    • I wonder if there are any jobs in the Netherlands for an english-speaking computer-geek Canuck. They look like the only safe haven from insanity that is infecting this planet.

      And if Netherlands gets corrupted, I heard you could go to outer-space, or the high seas where there are no laws. But better keep a few ninjas by to protect you from pirates.

      And a little more serious, it seems like countries already enforce some laws on our seas (because they DO fight back against pirates, hard). So maybe space is the last alternative, find a distant planet far far far away.

      • by bencoder (1197139)

        or the high seas where there are no laws.

        Some people [seasteading.org] are looking into the living on the seas idea. They've got some good ideas and plans but they're quite expensive ideas. If it pans out I will join them as soon as it becomes reasonable for me to do so, based on whether I think I can earn a living out there.

    • Not me! (Score:3, Insightful)

      While there is lots of bullshit in the US today, this isn't it. Anonymous speech is particularly protected in the US. Please leave us out of it.
    • by Curtman (556920) * on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:46PM (#27334953)

      I often wondered how long it would take the insanity of US & UK to reach us.

      Really? Because I often wonder why it happens every goddamn time we elect the Conservatives, and why nobody remembers this the next time.

    • by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @06:15PM (#27335909)

      I often wondered how long it would take the insanity of US & UK to reach us

      REACH us? Buddy, we've pioneered so many forms of insanity that the yanks would have to rewrite their constitution in order to catch up to us.

      We have no separation of church and state. We have no right to free speech. We can be prosecuted for thought crimes and "hate speech" in courts which do not follow any traditional legal structures, where you are presumed guilty until proven otherwise, and where truth is no defense. We have no right to defend our homes. We have no right to own and employ firearms in self defense. We don't even have the equivalent of the fifth amendment, let alone the Posse Comitatus!

      If you think the US is bad, you haven't been paying much attention to what's going on at home.

      • by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @09:47PM (#27337693)
        There's got to be some way to score that post higher than 5. Like maybe 50.

        To add to c6gunner's list there is this: the Supreme Court of Canada stated that an accused is entitled to a defense, but not necessarily the best defence that could be mounted if the court allowed it. The reason given in that particular case was that it might discourage people similar to the purported victim from making complaints about other people similar to the accused (but not proven guilty) if the accused in this case were allowed the most effective defense available and he was therefore denied access to information that might have exonerated him.

        In other words, "it's ok if we falsely convict you, and do it despite it being preventable, because it furthers the interests of a group whose members we like better than you."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        We have no separation of church and state.

        In practical terms the Church plays no significant role in Canadian politics, which is the exact opposite of what is going on with all the religious wackiness (complete with war on teaching of the evolution theory in schools) down in the US. None of this is going on here .... well maybe amongst some really far-gone "Conservatives".

        We can be prosecuted for thought crimes and "hate speech" in courts which do not follow any traditional legal structures, where you are

  • Man, sounds like they're gonna have a hell of a time finding this Anonymous Coward person if they ever look here...

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:31PM (#27333107) Journal

    I noticed the blogger doesn't mention anything about the case itself. I wonder how knowing the particulars of the case might effect the response of slashdot posters.

    • Slashdot response is invariant of the particulars of the case. They are also ignorant of the fact that the right of free speech does not protect you from the consequences of exercising it, never has and (hopefully) never will.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        I beg to differ. Slashdot response is highly dependent on whether the particulars are something they agree with or not.

        Ex: Copyright enforcement is good when used to protect GNU and Linux, but is bad when applied to movies and music.

        • Ah, you have me there... :)

        • by smoker2 (750216)
          Mainly because one side gives freely, and the others are making for the hills like bandits.
          A hammer is a hammer even if it's used to murder. Doesn't stop it being a hammer.
    • I wonder how knowing the particulars of the case might effect the response of slashdot posters.

      You mean slashdot posters can be affected by the actual facts of the case?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      As someone mentioned, this is a "civil" affair. Richard Warman is suing the moderators of FreeDominion.ca and many other conservative bloggers because they have criticized him (see http://ezralevant.com/2008/04/richard-warman-has-sued-me-and.html [ezralevant.com]). This is part of a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) to prevent the critics of Mr. Warman from publishing information on how he, with the complicity of the federal government under the Canadian Human Rights Commission, is attempting to censor
  • Shame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:37PM (#27333211)

    Shame on any site that accepts 'anonymous' comments and then tracks email and IP.

    And shame on the government for this ruling.

    • Re:Shame (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jsse (254124) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:55PM (#27333495) Homepage Journal

      Shame on any site that accepts 'anonymous' comments and then tracks email and IP.

      And shame on the government for this ruling.

      If a post violate a local law (e.g. child porn, bomb threats...) and the site owner failed to provide evidence that it was sent by outsider, it's very high chance the prosecutor would put a charge on the site owner.

      Therefore, unless you live in a place where no law is in place to regulate Internet content, otherwise you'd better keep some tracks for your defense.

    • A lot of blogs allow posters to choose their name and then requires them to put in an e-mail address. The e-mail address isn't displayed publicly, but is used, in part, to drive other features of the blog (like e-mailing replies to comments). The IP addresses could be "tracked" by the site's log files. Never assume that you are 100% anonymous.

      • by kent_eh (543303)

        A lot of blogs allow posters to choose their name and then requires them to put in an e-mail address. The e-mail address isn't displayed publicly, but is used, in part, to drive other features of the blog (like e-mailing replies to comments).

        There's no saying that an e-mail address needs to be easily traceable to a particular person.

        The e-mail address that I usually use to sign up for things is a free webmail address, and when i signed up for it, I used a different webmail address when it asked. And so on thru half a dozen different webmail addresses, until eventually we get to an address that was issued by an ancient ISP, which went bankrupt about 8 years ago.

        I didn't set up all these addresses specifically to hide behind (mostly, I was

  • by tjonnyc999 (1423763) <tjonnyc&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:46PM (#27333351)
    http://www.freedominion.com.pa/images/motion_decision.pdf [freedominion.com.pa]

    Worth a read, especially moments like request for "Any and all documents relating to the establishment and ongoing operation of the website, freedominion.ca, by the Fournier Defendants, such as, but not limited to, hosting agreements, billing information, and website registrant name(s)."

    Now, if the purpose of the motion is to acquire documents that will help to establish the identities of the posters - how the hell is the hosting agreement/billing details/etc relevant? Or is this a case of "let's collect all the paperwork we can, relevant or not, and then see what we can make of it"?

    "Well, we see that you've established the site in 1991, and have been paying $ 39.99/month for hosting. CLEARLY, this proves... um... actually, I'm not sure WHAT it proves... Hang on."
    • Demanding non-relevant documents is a legal method of harassment. It wastes both the time and money of the defendant.

      • Demanding non-relevant documents is a legal method of harassment. It wastes both the time and money of the defendant.

        From a quick look at the pleadings.pdf above, this appears to be a civil matter. IANAL, and especially IANACanadianL, but in most civil actions, you get to charge for the documents requested/subpoenaed in this sort of deal. Most organizations of any size have a written policy about how much is charged per page for documents. Ours is $1.00 per page. Often, the plaintiff finds it easier and cheaper to hire a mobile copy service to go in and do it. We put the requested documents in a bare room with a func

      • And it's also quite effective in aiding the defendants lawyers to get the case thrown out or successfully fight the verdict in a higher court.

        Why not simply don't do it and wait for the answer? I want to see higher courts upholding a decision to punish defendants for not supplying clearly irrelevant documents.

        Which, when it happens, calls for the Ammo Box anyway.

  • by stuartjames (1458383) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:12PM (#27333719)
    The U.S. Supreme Court, has recognized the importance of ensuring that average citizens have the right to use false names and publish anonymously. In its 1960 decision in Talley v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that a law forbidding individuals from distributing handbills without identifying their identity unconstitutionally infringed on the First Amendment's guarantee to free speech. The Court declared: Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all. . . . Before the Revolutionary War colonial patriots frequently had to conceal their authorship or distribution of literature that easily could have brought down on them prosecutions by English-controlled courts . . .. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes. Just because someone writes on an electronic medium does not preclude to free speach.
  • Dictionary Time? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    anonymous posters have no reasonable expectation of privacy

    anonymous
    Function:
            adjective

    Date:
            1631

    1 : not named or identified
    2 : of unknown authorship or origin
    3 : lacking individuality, distinction, or recognizability

    Merriam-Webster [merriam-webster.com]

  • by puppetman (131489) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:28PM (#27333955) Homepage

    I am a bit fuzzy on the difference between free speech and the right to stay anonymous.

    It would seem to me that anonymity is not a requirement for free speech, online or otherwise.

    What's to stop the internet-equivalent of standing up and shouting "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater?

    Anonymity, IMHO, is actually detrimental to civil discourse - it gives individuals the idea that there are no consequences to what is said in a public forum. What we say in public life always has consequences - why should the internet be different?

    Visiting most online discussions is like watching the monkeys at the zoo, and the risk of being hit with a lump of flying feces is just as high.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:42PM (#27334137) Journal

      On the contrary, the right to privacy and anonymity is one of the base requirements for the existence of free speech. Without a guarantee of privacy, much speech which dissents from the mainstream, identifies graft and corruption, or identifies wrong-doers would be stifled if there were consequences for the speaker. Whether it's a bully stealing lunch money, a contractor putting beach sand in concrete for a building, a tip line for identifying/finding criminals, or a Governor selling a senate seat - the implications of telling the truth which is detrimental to a powerful individual can be a personal risk which is just not tenable.

      Yes, privacy can be used for evil; however it is critical that is be available.

  • by PhotoBoy (684898) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:34PM (#27334033)

    If I were to post this anonymously, would /. keep a record that I used my /. account to post it, even though outwardly it's anonymous? Do they also keep a record of the IP I used to post?

    I looked briefly at the privacy T&Cs linked at the bottom of the page and it makes various noises about keeping non-identifiable aggregate information for stats, but it's not clear what is done with the data or what would happen if they received a legal requirement to reveal all data held about an anonymous poster.

  • Free Speech (Score:5, Informative)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:37PM (#27334835)
    Canada doesn't have a right to free speech in the same way as America (I know, it could be debated that Americans have it any more but that's a different discussion). Lots of Canadians think we have that right because we think many of the things that apply to our American neighbours also applies to us but they are incorrect. For those interested in the subtle difference, I refer you to the ever-helpful Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_by_country#Canada [wikipedia.org] ). Short version - we have a right to free speech "subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." In other words, our "right" to free speech can be withdrawn...

    I know it makes for a sensational headline but it's inaccurate.
  • by Tool Man (9826) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:44PM (#27334915)

    What this says to me is that anyone running a service, anonymous or not, needs to be thoughtful about their own data retention policies.

    For instance, I might want to keep finer-grained detail for a short while, to assist in troubleshooting or incident handling.

    Otherwise, it's probably just fine to keep more terse logs for a longer period of time. My understanding is that you can't be forced to divulge information you simply don't keep, if regular log rotation is part of your usual business process. The point is, it should probably be part of your usual business process, as it's too late to delete once the lawyers are involved.

  • I hope that stupid and dangerous court decisions like this will prod Canadians to spring into action and change the laws that lead to this. In any society "free" or not, it is ultimately the will of the people that shapes the society, whether through peaceful political means, or otherwise.
  • This judgement has no effect on free speech in any case, merely on the right to anonymity, a different question entirely. On the topic of free speech, Oliver Wendell Holmes (an American Supreme Court Judge) put it very well. "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater". Not even in the United States is the right to free speech absolute - nor would any sane person want it to be.
  • Huh? When you post anonymously, you don't have a reasonable expectation of anonymity? WTF? What twisted legalism brings forth such vomit?
  • by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @05:53PM (#27335663)

    It sounds like Canada must be married to Australia with this nonsense court ruling. Must we all now go to a public library or internet cafe in order to be able to post anonymously? Somebody should act up and get rude and loud until governments get the message. Freedom of communications is not in the hands of governments to regulate. This freedom belongs only to individuals not to states.

  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @10:04PM (#27337789) Homepage

    If I'm reading the case correctly, it appears that a jury decided that the anonymous poster:

        1) posted deflamatory remarks, and
        2) posted IP-protected material (copyright violation, whatever)

    And now at the jury has decided this, they're summoning the website to hand over the logs so they can procecute.

    I'm not sure what I see wrong with that. When someone breaks the law, they broke the law.

    A different issue is whether the website should be keeping those logs, but that's not what this is aboot, eh?

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