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Judge Orders Man To Delete Revenge Blog 590

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-you-take-requests-your-honor dept.
nonprofiteer writes "A Minnesota man violated a restraining order obtained by his ex-girlfriend by blogging about her mental health and sexual issues, and sending links to posts on the blog to her family, friends, and co-workers. The judge then extended the restraining order by 50 years, ordered the guy never to write about his ex on the Internet and ordered him to delete the blog he created. Even though there was no evidence that what he had written was false, the judge said the ex-girlfriend's 'right to be free from harassment' outweighed the guy's 'right to free speech.' 'I believe it's rare, if not unprecedented, for a court to order an entire blog deleted,' says technology law professor Eric Goldman."
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Judge Orders Man To Delete Revenge Blog

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @12:20AM (#38366326)

    He violated a restraining order. The first amendment issue isn't novel just because he happens to be talking about her on a computer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Well, according to law professor Eric Goldman, ordering someone to delete their blog IS rare and perhaps unprecedented. That's something I heard somewhere.
      • Well, according to law professor Eric Goldman, ordering someone to delete their blog IS rare and perhaps unprecedented.

        Probably because someone establishing a blog for the sole purposes of harassing someone they are already under a restraining order not to harrss, and then setting up sock-puppet accounts on social networking sites to relay the harassing blog posts to the family and friends of the victim isn't the kind of violation of a restraining order that has come up all that much in the past.

        (Then again

    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dhalka226 (559740) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:03AM (#38366604)

      For what it is worth, I agree with you. However I still don't agree with the premise that ordering the blog deleted does not overstep a boundary.

      If it was harassment, he should be arrested for harassment. If it was a violation of his restraining order, he should be violated and locked up. If he does it again, it should all happen again -- harsher and harsher.

      To me, the blog itself was not the harassment; he could have sat around on somedouchebaghateshisex.blogspot.com forever ranting into the wind and I doubt anybody would have cared. It was the way he essentially stalked her via sending his nonsense to her family and friends that crossed the line. That being the case, that is the behavior that should be punished and stopped. His right to be a dickhead and write his drivel should not.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:15AM (#38366658) Homepage

      What he should have done was turn it into a religious issue.

      Let's say I stand outside a gay person's house (could be any minority group, gay is an example) with a sign that says I hate them and I'm going to burn them. I'd be arrested for threatening that person.

      Now if I stand outside that same person's house with a sign that says God hates them and God will burn them in Hell, that's perfectly fine for some reason.

      • by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:29AM (#38367010)

        Now if I stand outside that same person's house with a sign that says God hates them and God will burn them in Hell, that's perfectly fine for some reason.

        Well, yes - you're no longer threatening them. You're stating that you believe a third party is threatening them. You likewise wouldn't be arrested if you held up signs saying "Joe Blogs down the road hates gays and is going to burn them" - except, probably, to stop you libeling Joe Blogs. Sadly, I don't think God sues for libel.

  • Welcome to MN (Score:4, Informative)

    by DWMorse (1816016) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @12:22AM (#38366354) Homepage
    Lived here all my life. There's no point in trying to warn anyone that a specific Minnesotan woman is crazy. Welcome to the norm for all Minnesotan women. ;)
  • I'll get him to relay messages to me and I'll post them anonymously to a blog. They judge is going to have to order him to not speak to anyone about his ex to shut it down. Let's see how well that goes over with the ACLU.

    LK

    • Like hell you do. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:02AM (#38366598)

      I'll get him to relay messages to me and I'll post them anonymously to a blog.

      A word of advice:

      Don't step into someone else's shit until you know how deep it is.

      Conspiracy to violate a court order is not going to end well for you or for some nutcase revenge blogger ---- and maybe a stalker ---- who now has a new target in his sights.

    • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:40AM (#38366806)

      I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

      - Evelyn Beatrice Hall

      I disapprove of what you say, but I will conspire with you in ruining an innocent woman's life just to prove a point about free speech.

      - LK

      I think I like the original version better...

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        I disapprove of what you say, but I will conspire with you in ruining an innocent woman's life just to prove a point about free speech.

        You'd make a great lawyer.

  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @12:50AM (#38366542) Journal

    Unpopular, despicable and even odious speech is protected constitutionally and this fellow is entitled to write whatever he cares to and publish it in whatever manner he sees fit, be it internet blog, book or clay tablets.

    Now where the Judge -does- has specific powers to help this woman out is in limiting this fellows -contact actions- that are specifically targeted at this woman and her friends, family and co-workers. He does not publish the blog -at- anyone. He publishes it for everyone. Emails, notes and letters sent to specific individuals is not publishing, it is direct communication which he can be ordered to cease without violating his fundamental constitutional right to free speech.

    .

    • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:26AM (#38366724)

      Well, you need to look into constitutional law a little more. First amendment rights vary according to the type of speech and the subject.

      Political speech gets very broad protection -- your political rants and screeds, no matter how odious, pretty much are protected. When you start advocating violence against a particular person or group, however, you have reached the boundary. You are not protected from the consequences of said speech, either.

      Commercial speech (ie: advertisements) get much less protection. Like the FTC might come down on you for truth in advertising issues. The FDA prohibits certain forms of advertising for prescription drugs.

      If you direct attacks at a particular person, who that person is has impact on your protection. Is the person a politician either in or running for office? Fire away, pretty much. Does the person live in the public eye? Famous actors have to put up with a lot of crap. Is the person just a normal Joe trying to get by? The court tolerates much less crap aimed at them.

      Libelous and slanderous speech is always subject to remedy.

      Anyway, the d-bag in question clearly wasn't making a political point, and the victim certainly wasn't a politician or movie star. This was a private person trying to have some privacy, and some d-bag being a d-bag in a very public way. It is a fact that the truth is always an absolute defense against libel, so maybe if what he said was true you can't shut him down for libel. But hurtful speech directed against a private person is not going to get very much first amendment protection. And I'm OK with that. That's a very different thing from a political rant.

      • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:32AM (#38366770)

        Well, you need to look into constitutional law a little more. First amendment rights vary according to the type of speech and the subject.

        Well, if you want me to read the first amendment, then I'm not finding anything about that.

        If you want me to look at the invisible exceptions that judges have 'interpreted' into the constitution, then I guess you're right.

        • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @03:20AM (#38367224)

          Well, you need to look into constitutional law a little more. First amendment rights vary according to the type of speech and the subject.

          Well, if you want me to read the first amendment, then I'm not finding anything about that.

          If you want me to look at the invisible exceptions that judges have 'interpreted' into the constitution, then I guess you're right.

          Certainly, I never said otherwise.

          But you didn't say: "Well, my reading of the constitution is...", you said: "... is constitutionally protected.." -- well, not to coin a phrase or anything, but that depends on what the meaning of "is" is. If "is" means "because GeneralEmergency say so", well, you are right. But if "is" means "the law of the land in a practical sense as implemented in every federal district court circuit" then I think I'm closer to the mark.

          In addition to reading the constitution, did you read the Federalist Papers, and the so-call Anti-Federalist Papers? And study the history of the time? Not that I have, but they are among my goals for 2012. The founders were political activists. They were concerned about the suppression of political speech. The constitution leaves much unsaid. The law in the early United States drew from English law, so it seems to me it would have been understood that protections against libel and slander that come from English common law were precedent. Early decisions about how to implement the first amendment would have been made against the background of inherited English common law. Where the constitution seems vague by today's standards, I think we need to look at the common thought of the time -- a certain amount of things left out probably would fall in the category of: "Well, duh! That's obvious."(*) to Jefferson and Madison.

          (*) Citation needed. It's not clear either Jefferson or Madison ever said "duh".

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Well, if you want me to read the first amendment, then I'm not finding anything about that. If you want me to look at the invisible exceptions that judges have 'interpreted' into the constitution, then I guess you're right.

          I think this Supreme Court quote from Robertson v. Baldwin (1897) pretty much sums it up:

          The law is perfectly well settled that the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the "Bill of Rights," were not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guaranties and immunities which we had inherited from our English ancestors, and which had, from time immemorial, been subject to certain well recognized exceptions arising from the necessities of the case. In incorporating these principles into the fundamental law, there was no intention of disregarding the exceptions, which continued to be recognized as if they had been formally expressed. Thus, the freedom of speech and of the press (Art. I) does not permit the publication of libels (...)

          From your post it sounds like we first discovered this "unconstitutionality" now or that it's been retcon'd in by judges later. Reality is that these exceptions have been implicitly understood to be there since the beginning and have mostly gone unchallenged for centuries. Sure, if you want to go into an over-literal reading of the first amendment, then I will remind you that what you're writing now is not constitutiona

    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:27AM (#38366726)

      I'm really not that bothered. I've long been on the "free speech, period!" bandwagon, but realistically all our rights have limits, and those limits generally start about where someone else's rights begin. You have religious freedom, so long as your religion doesn't involve deflowering underage girls, for example. We put you in jail for that. This guy isn't saying anything of value. He's just being a dick. At some point his right to be a dick has to give way to her right not to be harassed for the rest of her life.

  • by skine (1524819) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:22AM (#38366704)

    I'll grant that it may be an unprecedented move to delete the entire blog. However, it appears that the ONLY use for it was to get revenge on his ex.

    If it contained a reasonable number of posts unrelated to his ex, the judge may have simply ordered that the violating posts be deleted.

    But since all of the posts were violations, it seems reasonable for him to delete the entire thing.

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:30AM (#38368152) Homepage

    In most of Europe, removing a blog like this is a no-brainer. Europe is more concerned with freedom of expression and freedom of the press than the US notion of "free speech". For Europeans free speech as a concept is to be able to express one's ideas and thoughts without harrasment or fear of political oppression.

    A blog designed to harrass a single person with no political agenda? "Censoring" that is the sane thing to do if you ask me. Society doesn't exist to protect one person's ability to make another one's life miserable.

Our policy is, when in doubt, do the right thing. -- Roy L. Ash, ex-president, Litton Industries

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