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Judge Rules Web Commenter Will Be Unmasked To Mom

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  • This is surely the correct decision. In order to decide whether to sue, the mother needs to know who she might be suing. If the poster is autistic, disturbed or perhaps already in the court system for other offenses, the mother might decide to leave well alone. If the only way that she can obtain the identity is to file a suit, then there is no escape from legal proceedings.

    One reason freedom of speech needs to be protected is because it takes away an argument for anonymity - that anonymity is necessary for

    • by seifried (12921) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @06:31AM (#30058136) Homepage
      You can always drop a civil suit. Personally I don't think a judge should be ruling on this until a suit is brought, otherwise can I just get a judge to unmask the identity of anyone online who says something mean about me so I can figure out if it's worth suing them or not? If the suit has merit then a Judge should have no problem with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      i can't tell if you're being sarcastic; however, combining your post with the quotation leads me to believe that you might not understand what freedom means.

      freedom means the freedom to make your own decisions, even if i don't agree with them. if someone can't handle that, perhaps they need to live in a tightly restricted community, or under a tyrant.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:23AM (#30058720)

      If the poster is autistic, disturbed or perhaps already in the court system for other offenses, the mother might decide to leave well alone.

      Sorry, but you're profoundly ignorant of how the legal system works. She wants to know if he has any money, if it would be monetarily profitable to sue. Its an investment decision. If he/she is "judgement-proof" or "rich enough", she won't bother. If "mother" can ruin their life simply by filing suit, "mother" will. The justice system is all about money...

      Guarantee step #2 after determining identity is deciding how to make the most money.

      In a way, its a profoundly stupid tactic for the mother to follow, because either she'll discover theres no point in suing, or the defense will use the fairly obvious argument that the plaintiffs is unhurt, because her claimed pain is suspiciously directly proportional to the defendants bank account. Or, if he/she gets blackmailed, there is now a legal trail showing mother did it. An effective way to win the battle and lose the war.

      • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:27AM (#30058740)

        the defense will use the fairly obvious argument that the plaintiffs is unhurt, because her claimed pain is suspiciously directly proportional to the defendants bank account.

        Arrrgh rephrased,

        "the defense will use the fairly obvious argument that obviously the plaintiff was unhurt, and remained unhurt until she determined the size of the defendants bank account, at which time she felt like grubbing some money"

    • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:38AM (#30058810)
      "Civil society does not convey to teenagers an automatic right to post offensive, anonymous graffiti and that needs to be clearly understood."

      Ummm... yeah dude, it does. Anonymity can be CRUCIAL to free speech -- there are certain things that we all wish to express and say about others and about the society around us that we cannot say in public. There is no freedom when a judge can read an Internet posting and immediately, like R. Lee Ermey at the beginning of Full Metal Jacket, bellow "WHO THE FUCK SAID THAT?!" This can lead to all sorts of bullying and abuse by the powers that be and will in the long run have a powerful chilling effect on free speech.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is surely the correct decision. In order to decide whether to sue, the mother needs to know who she might be suing.

      No, she doesn't. You file against John Doe and then enter a process to discover the name.

      If the poster is autistic, disturbed or perhaps already in the court system for other offenses, the mother might decide to leave well alone. If the only way that she can obtain the identity is to file a suit, then there is no escape from legal proceedings.

      No, there is an escape - you drop the case. It's not hard. You file a motion to dismiss, the defense agrees, laywers get their fees, everyone goes home.

      PS - Nice way to slam sufferers of autism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eravnrekaree (467752)

      No no no. Your wrong. Anonymity is an important and vital component of free speech. This is due to the simple fat that expressing certain views and opinions, such as in politics may get you killed. The fact is, while the government can say it prosecutes such offenses, the fact is there is little to prevent these acts from happening and in many cases the attacker may remain untraceable. The government cant be everwhere to protect everyone. As well, a lack of anonymity would allow your employer to basically

    • With rights come responsibility, one cannot yell fire in a crowded theater nor be allowed own a weapon if convicted of an gun related offense.

      This judge is probably right.
    • by sjames (1099)

      In addition to protection from extra-legal reprecussions, I would include quasi-legal such as what amounts to a SLAPP suit. That is, the judge should consider whether a potential lawsuit could have any merit.

      However, in this case, It looks like the judge made the right decision. Following the link in TFA, it's clear that the offending comments had nothing to do with legitimate political discussion and were clearly intended to be hurtful and offensive.

      When I first saw the headline, it sounded like the implem

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Machupo (59568)

      So what you're saying is that the judge should include an analysis of the anonymous poster's financial portfolio as well? I'm sure that would be a lot more helpful to this woman.

    • by Xest (935314)

      "The only reason that anonymity should be permitted is when wrongdoing is being exposed and there is a possibility of extra-legal repercussions"

      Why just extra-legal repercussions? There have been many occasions through the centuries and plenty in recent years even where the legal system in the US has been abused to cause undeserved harm to someone. Plenty of times people have been bankrupted or given a bad name through the legal system when they were in fact not wrong. A good example is someone accused of r

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jason Levine (196982)

      As others have pointed out, she should sue first and *then* get the name of the poster. Then, if she decides that the person isn't worth suing (perhaps they're mentally ill or willing to settle amicably out of court), she can drop the civil lawsuit and it all goes away. It is only if criminal charges were filed that she wouldn't be able to back out of it.

      Freedom of speech using your name is important, but freedom of speech using a pseudonym or being completely anonymous is important also. The First Amend

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540)

      This is surely the correct decision. In order to decide whether to sue, the mother needs to know who she might be suing.

      Yeah, have to know if there's money to be made.

      One reason freedom of speech needs to be protected is because it takes away an argument for anonymity - that anonymity is necessary for protection from the powerful.

      It doesn't, actually. Freedom of speech means that the Government can't imprison me for saying something they don't like (but they can send an assassin after me if they really di

  • Hip Check (Score:2, Informative)

    by kencf0618 (1172441)

    For what it's worth, "hip check" is a roller derby term.

  • by totally bogus dude (1040246) * on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @06:42AM (#30058188)

    From comments on some random website: There is no case, therefore no reason to reveal ID. Trib said after her son asked Hipcheck16 to debate in person, Hipcheck16 asked her son if he frequently invites guys fron the internet over. A perfectly valid question. It could have been meant to make son more cautious in general. Good advice in the form of a rhetorical question.

    But I have no verification if that's correct, and if it is, whether it's the whole story.

    • I believe the Judge feels the language is strong enough to bring the case to court, which would reveal the poster's identity anyway. This option allows her to find out who it was and decide not to press charges. I think the better discussion would not be if the case was strong, but if its right to give personal information that could avoid prosecution. I'm kind of feeling that it is. No sense in putting a loudmouth 13 year old through the legal ringer.

    • You really should click more...

      Declining an invitation to pay a visit, Hipcheck16 posted a response that said, according to court documents, "Seems like you're very willing to invite a man you only know from the Internet over to your house -- have you done it before, or do they usually invite you to their house?"

      The post then continues with references to the boy's "mommy," saying that statements made by her son may cause her political problems after her election, according to court records.

      Stone said the co

      • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @09:15AM (#30059056) Homepage Journal

        Lewd? I see no lewd insinuations at all in the above quote. Read it carefully, and avoid projecting your own lewdness on to the sentence.

        Yes, it can make a reference to sex. As it can to underage drinking, running away from mom, sedition, playing with legos, and a whole lot of other things. The poster only set up an entrapment for your lewd mind, and succeeded.

        I think one has to be seriously oversexed or repressed to see a sexual reference where there is none.
        Which, perhaps, tells us plenty about the situation here in the US today. Many people will actively look for "lewdness" under every rock, because that's where their repressed minds go.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mea37 (1201159)

          Pretending the words don't mean what everyone reading them knows they mean is the wrong approach. Trying to convince people to say that they might mean something else by insulting those who jump directly to the meaning that was clearly intended when the words were written? Ancient rhetorical trick, not even an A for effort.

          If it's 1960, and I'm with a group of guys in white hoods, and finding a black man I say "fetch a rope", I don't get to later claim "maybe I was just offering to help the poor guy with

      • Declining an invitation to pay a visit, Hipcheck16 posted a response that said, according to court documents, "Seems like you're very willing to invite a man you only know from the Internet over to your house -- have you done it before, or do they usually invite you to their house?"

        This is the internet. Around these parts, statements like that barely qualify as impertinent, let alone lewd.

        People who feel otherwise, should leave.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @06:51AM (#30058236)

    ... that theres really no such thing as anonymity online. If someone wants to find out who you are then eventually they will. Which obviously is a double edged sword - if its someone protesting against an oppressive government or suchlike then anonymity is prized , however if its some spiteful little teen using it to fire unpleasent potshots at people he/she doesn't like then I suspect most people will care little if their identity is revealed and most will probably be quite happy with that decision.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @07:14AM (#30058342) Homepage Journal

      ... that theres really no such thing as anonymity online. If someone wants to find out who you are then eventually they will.

      I could...

      • Steal wifi
      • Pay cash at an internet cafe
      • Use free wifi at McDonalds etc
      • Use an anonymous computer at work
      • Use tor or a proxy
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by roguetrick (1147853)

        Opening yourself to Man in the Middle spying or Over the Shoulder spying isn't a bulletproof plan to protect anonymity if you're a paranoid individual.

      • by hansraj (458504)

        Hah, I don't have to do any of that. I will just use my wifi and claim that you stole my wifi!

      • On all those situations you or your car will probably be video'd on CCTV or seen by someone and couple that with the time that you did whatever it was you'll be found pretty quick.

        • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:07AM (#30058620)

          On all those situations you or your car will probably be video'd on CCTV or seen by someone and couple that with the time that you did whatever it was you'll be found pretty quick.

          So lets say someone wants to make an anonymous statement.

          Are you suggesting that 'they' are able to do this:

          1. Know within a short period of time that Anonymous comment X was made by someone they wish to track down.
          2. Subpoena the IP logs of the website where the comment was made (assuming that such logs are kept)
          3. Receive the logs, determine which ISP the IP was assigned to
          4. Subpoena the IP assignment table of the ISP and receive the cooperation of the ISP.
          5. Assuming that the IP is correct, identify the location where the wifi router was.
          6. Go to that location and take a guess as to which camera records to subpoena.
          7. Subpoena the records of the cameras.
          8. Hope that the cameras actually show something and that the data hasn't been overwritten. (Some only store 1 week of video)
          9. Ask around and see if anyone saw any nefarious individuals using *gasp*, a laptop. (Who are you going to ask in a McDonalds? The people who are there now, or the people who have scattered to the winds 5 minutes after eating? The employees who are obviously savants and remember everything since they work at McDonalds and could easily identify someone using a laptop in their store 2-3 weeks ago)

          10. Realize that the guy who posted the comment didn't even enter the store and simply typed up the statement/message in private and set it up to connect to the first open wifi location and didn't even have to take his laptop out of his bag.

          11. ????

          12. Profit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Spazztastic (814296)

            Great post, IndustrialComplex. To expand on that, using a home made cantenna I can access someones WiFi from a block or more away. Using a LiveCD or just doing a low level format I can hide any trace of connecting to someones WiFi. I don't even need to leave my house. What are the police going to do, kick down every door looking for someone who made anonymous comments? Get real.

            Even if they were for any reason to get access to my house and find a pringles can, some coaxial cable and a few BNC connectors, wh

            • Great post, IndustrialComplex. To expand on that, using a home made cantenna I can access someones WiFi from a block or more away. Using a LiveCD or just doing a low level format I can hide any trace of connecting to someones WiFi. I don't even need to leave my house. What are the police going to do, kick down every door looking for someone who made anonymous comments? Get real.

              Even if they were for any reason to get access to my house and find a pringles can, some coaxial cable and a few BNC connectors, wh

      • another missing option:

        live in another country.

        People forget the interweb thingie is international in scope and reach. As long as you speak the language of the locals, you can go make a mess and there is little anyone can do about it. Example: Some little douchebag in Miami might find a local chat group or BBS or blog or whatever in.... I dunno... New Zealand. And he'll go there and stink the place up and get a bunch of people pissed off, call them names and just generally act like an ass. EVEN IF the p

  • hmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by chr1z (1673094) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @07:36AM (#30058448) Homepage
    I'd comment, but then she'll get ME too.
  • by Intractable (1676308) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @07:43AM (#30058494)
    goddammit the woman is a politician - her issue is really about defamation & political reputation. - The trouble started when son defended his mom against some criticisms by hipcheck16. This is bad news for people who like to indulge in random uncensored political commentary. And as for us regular slobs who have no reputation to damage - we have to cop the crap without recourse to suing or whatever.
    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:36AM (#30058794)

      The fact that this is a politician stifling anonymous speech makes this decision even more egregious.

      This type of speech is SPECIFICALLY what the first amendment was written and added to the constitution to protect!

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by RobotRunAmok (595286)

        This type of speech is SPECIFICALLY what the first amendment was written and added to the constitution to protect!

        No it wasn't. There is nothing about the First Amendment protecting *anonymous* speech.

        Remember that when the amendment was written, it was not uncommon for governments to jail individuals for speaking against them, simply because they could. What the forefathers were saying was, "It won't be against the law to speak out against the government in America. Say whatever you want about your ele

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          There is nothing about the First Amendment protecting *anonymous* speech.

          Sure there is. It protects speech. Period. Whether anonymous or not. Given that many of the framers published under pseudonyms, I would assume they would understand that protecting all speech would include anonymous speech. And without anything in there specificallly denying the protections to speech that happens to be anonymous, it fully protects all anonymous speech as much as other speech.

          But I took the comments you are resp
    • by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @08:39AM (#30058816)

      goddammit the woman is a politician - her issue is really about defamation & political reputation. - The trouble started when son defended his mom against some criticisms by hipcheck16. This is bad news for people who like to indulge in random uncensored political commentary. And as for us regular slobs who have no reputation to damage - we have to cop the crap without recourse to suing or whatever.

      So to sum it up this woman is a professional liar who is pretending that some anonymous stranger implying her son is homosexual is a big issue.

      The only thing that is 'deeply disturbing' is this woman's attitude and the fact that she doesn't have anything better to do.

      • this woman is a professional liar who is pretending that some anonymous stranger implying her son is homosexual is a big issue.

        Someone comment regarding this clearly homophobic trait she has. I'm sure Sith Lord Mandy will be super-happy with that.

  • I'd personally say that that this is a door that should neither be fully opened nor fully closed by law in and of itself; but rather, decided on a case-by-case basis with other, more established legal precedents and laws being the deciding factors.

    In this case, TFA doesn't get into the specific nature of the comments made; I see that some enterprising commenters have found additional details, but we still don't have the fullest possible context to this story. There could be additional comments that were
  • If he would actually be anonymous, you would not be able to "unmask" (what in unprofessional term) him!

    That's the freakin' definition of the term!!

    He was perhaps "masked". But his real identity was still known to the site. Which means the commenter was pretty stupid in the first place.

    Also this explains, why they can know who his mom is, when he's supposed to be "anonymous". (Try finding the mom of the Anonymous Coward. :P)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      Except that finding out the identity involved getting the IP that the post was made from logged by the web site, then getting the ISP to identify whom was assigned that IP at that time. Since they bothered with the ISP step it would seem his identity was not known by the site.

      Which likely could be done for an Anonymous Coward post on slashdot too.

      Oh and the mother isn't the mother of the "anonymous" poster but of the guy he pissed off on the forum.

  • TFA sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by the pickle (261584) on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @10:44AM (#30060048) Homepage

    http://www.citmedialaw.org/blog/2009/hipcheck16-no-turk-182-anonymous-political-speech-sacred [citmedialaw.org]

    is much better -- it's written by actual legal scholars and discusses what the specific "deeply disturbing" comments were. Sometimes the hometown major newspaper isn't actually the best place to get articles, Slashdot.

    p

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