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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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  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:31AM (#38366424) Homepage Journal

    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

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:36AM (#38366452) Journal

    Where do you draw the line at "you can be THIS much of a jerk, but any more and the law steps in"?

    If you were to measure the damage in dollar amounts, you can take someone to court for very small amounts, less than $100.

    In my book, he crossed the line with his demonstrated intent to hurt her. He isn't trying to protect the general public by sharing this knowledge, and he isn't even trying to entertain people. His pure goal is to hurt her however he can (ironically he might have a sub-goal of getting her back). I see no problem if we as a society protect people like that with restraining orders and such.

  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:50AM (#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 MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:15AM (#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 tragedy (27079) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:20AM (#38366686)

    You have to question whether the intent was necessarily just to hurt her though. It could have also been, from his perspective, a way to defend himself from what he saw as slander from her. Clearly the judge didn't think so, but judges aren't infallible.

    The ultimate problem with restraining orders is that they're not some sort of magical force field. Often in order to get a restraining order, one party has to claim to be afraid of physical harm from the other. The thing is, someone truly dangerous isn't going to be stopped for a second by a restraining order. They may, however, help keep marginal situations from escalating by keeping people apart. Simply preventing people's feelings from being hurt is another matter, however. Harassment is one thing, but where does normal relationship bitterness end and harassment begin? It seems like the ex-boyfriend in this case went a little too far, but it seems like the judge went a lot too far.

    And to add my own personal experience with restraining orders; once, years and years back, I went with my then girlfriend while she was babysitting a friend's children. It turned out that her friend and her husband were having relationship difficulty and she had a restraining order against him forbidding him from being within some particular distance of her. So, naturally, her big plans for the evening were to go to where she knew he would be and force him to leave and then follow him around the whole night. And that really does seem to be how restraining orders are usually used: just one more weapon in the troubled relationship arsenal. The people getting the restraining orders are quite often aggressors rather than victims, or at least are aggressors as well as victims.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:27AM (#38366728) Journal

    You have to question whether the intent was necessarily just to hurt her though. It could have also been, from his perspective, a way to defend himself from what he saw as slander from her.

    Figuring out intent may be the #1 difficulty with our legal system today. A lot of laws rely on intent as a distinguishing factor in how serious a crime is (it's the difference between first degree murder and man-slaughter). The difficulty is, of course, that it's impossible to do accurately.

  • Delete Slashdot (Score:1, Interesting)

    by nickdc (1444247) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:28AM (#38366738)
    Some poster called me a crazy conservative, foxnews lovin, right wing republican. I have a right to be free from harassment so that's grounds for deletion. Expect to hear from my lawyers soon Slashdot. Have a nice day.
  • by jagapen (11417) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:29AM (#38366748)

    That's not how our legal system works, though. With limited exceptions*, juries are the finders of fact and judges are the finders of law. In this case, the question of whether the man committed the tort of intentional infliction of emotional harm is a question of fact and thus would go to the jury. If they said yes, then the remedy for the damage caused be the tort is a question of law and thus is a matter for the judge. (In this case, the remedy is enjoining him to delete the blog and to refrain from further writing about the particular topics relating to his ex.) It is entirely appropriate, in our court system, for the judge to make such orders.

    Personally, I have no problem with this order. A ruling by a court is a very, very different thing than an act of an executive or legislative body. Rulings by courts of original jurisdiction generally have little precedential power (i.e. they don't bind other courts; one ruling does not stare decisis make) and they are much easier to fight and undo than a statute or executive order. Also, it is entirely consistent with centuries-old doctrines regarding harassment and innumerable previous rulings which have not destroyed free speech. Adding "...on the Internet" does not make it a new and troubling concept.

    * Trivia: Wisconsin's constitution makes juries the finders of fact and law in libel cases.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:34AM (#38366778)

    This guy isn't saying anything of value.

    Subjective.

    I've long been on the "free speech, period!" bandwagon

    Are you certain? That implies to me that you're in favor of absolute freedom of speech.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:36AM (#38366788)

    The judge is full of shit, there is no such 'right to be free from harassment' anywhere in the constitution but there is a right to free speech. If this order is allowed to stand as precedent, it might be used by wealthy people to stop the media from revealing their dirty laundry by just by complaining they are being harassed.

    The only thing this girl can do about this is sue for libel and get some money out of him if found guilty.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @02:44AM (#38366838)

    the Supreme Court has held that political speech is that speech which is most protected by the First Amendment.

    I guess my question for the supreme court is: where does the first amendment mention anything like that?

    The supreme court likely has interpreted it as you say, but I don't think their interpretations are valid (but they do have more power than me).

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @04:44AM (#38367322)

    "The people getting the restraining orders are quite often aggressors rather than victims, or at least are aggressors as well as victims."

    This, this, this.

    My wife and I once asked for a restraining order against a man and his son (granted, without difficulty). They were pissed when we did so and immediately claimed some bullshit and filed for their own. When I was notified, as a respondent, I didn't contest their claims thinking that two restraining orders would simply be redundant and serve the same purpose--keeping them the fuck away from us. WRONG.

    They asked for different restrictions that were used against me, such as requiring me to stay 5000' from their house, when we had only asked for 500'. The problem here is that we lived in the same neighborhood and my house was within 5000' of theirs. They called the cops on me the moment I came home from work and I had to go to court to contest the order they had.

    On top of this, a restraining order is only as good as the resolve of the Judge that signed it. Both of those two men later violated the order we had against them (literally chased my wife and daughters at knife point, only to be held off by a total stranger with a 12-guage. (Thank you, if you're reading this!)), witnessed by over a dozen police officers (fuck you, Alaska State Troopers), admitted their guilt in court to the very same judge that signed the violated order...and walked out of that courtroom before I did, free men.

    Needless to say, we left the state and I now own a gun.

    The worst aspect of restraining orders I can think of is the false sense of security they provide--no piece of paper will stop a nutcase once they got their panties in a bunch.

    (If you did nothing wrong, and someone files for a restraining order against you, ALWAYS contest it. It doesn't cost a penny to do so, but it might cost many if you don't.)

  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @05:45AM (#38367622)
    If he's lying, we have laws that cover that. If he's harassing her, we have laws that cover that. If he's telling it like it is on his blog, we have laws that cover that...in the first amendment of the constitution.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @05:46AM (#38367634)
    I'm serious here. I don't think it's the state's business to protect the feelings of people. The state should protect their rights, and there is no such thing as a right to not have your feelings hurt. Just think of how horribly you can fuck someone up, and scar them for life, by telling them that never loved them and that you are disgusted by their various inadequacies. You can do all this for transparently vicious reasons, and doing it might well be deeply immoral, but never in a million years would I want that sort of immorality to be illegal. Can you imagine if we had to police people's feelings? What I'm saying is that in every state that I would ever want to live in, there is such a thing as the right to be a jerk - even a very cruel jerk. Of course the state must guarantee certain rights, like the right to bodily integrity, property, and some extent of protection from harassment and wrongful slander. These, however, leave lots of room for hurt feelings - and that's as it should be.
  • by makomk (752139) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:20AM (#38368104) Journal

    And to add my own personal experience with restraining orders; once, years and years back, I went with my then girlfriend while she was babysitting a friend's children. It turned out that her friend and her husband were having relationship difficulty and she had a restraining order against him forbidding him from being within some particular distance of her. So, naturally, her big plans for the evening were to go to where she knew he would be and force him to leave and then follow him around the whole night.

    Yeah, the way restraining orders on exs are granted and interpreted seems to be absolutely nuts, based more on ludicrous gender roles than on any real danger. I wouldn't be surprised to see violently abusive women getting restraining orders against their exs, stalking and violently attacking them, and then getting them arrested for breaching the restraining order.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:25AM (#38368440)

    People are just having major trouble with the fact that almost nobody measures up to the publicly accepted moral standards. Pointing this out is generally called racism.

    E.g. how about this one : every religion, including Christianity, demands that their adherents support slavery to some measure (Christianity only demands that Christians do not take slaves, and rejects doing anything other than providing nonviolent assistance to prevent others from having slaves, that's what canon law states). Some religions have other names for forced labourers, like for example Hinduism's "dalits" or buddhism's many forms of forced labourers, like "vasala", who should be forced to work by the point of a sword. Some religions and value systems ask quite a bit more. Islam for example, demands muslims not only support slavery, but support the freedom of the owner to kill, rape, starve, and so on his slaves (a woman cannot own anything, the only right sharia gives a woman is to hold rights to property. Is that equivalent ? No, as a woman is not free to use property as she pleases like a man is. The position of a rich woman is akin to the position of an underage inheritor in western law). Why is killing/raping/... slaves allowed ? Because muhammad did that to his slaves, "on the orders of allah" (he did the most absurd things on orders of allah according to the hadith. He quite literally hammers in his tent poles on places pointed out by allah, who is totally invisible to everyone standing around. Allah even changes his mind about which shoes he should wear in one verse), pointing out the disgusting immorality of that is considered equivalent to calling islam disgusting and immoral (which of course it is, at least on this point).

    You cannot have a single moral standard, free speech and illusions. Amongst those illusions is the "all religions, and atheism uphold the same equivalent standard of morality" illusion that we currently find so very popular.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @09:11AM (#38368770)
    At this point, he could face prosecution for libel. You know when I look at the Constitution, I don't find in there any place where it mentions a right to be free from harrassment. I do, however, find a right to freedom of speech. I have trouble seeing how an enumerated right is trumped by an interpreted right.
    I believe that if the judgement had said that the order was because the blog and the man's actions subsequent to creating it were a clear violation of the spirit of the restraining order and that on the basis of that held the man in contempt of court. Then gave the man the option of serving jail time for contempt of court or delete the blog (with the understanding that if he restored the blog the jail time would ensue) Followed by an order not to promote the blog (or anything like it) to the woman's contacts.
  • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @09:55AM (#38369188)

    Stop dating people you're attracted to? Really, is that your suggestion?

    It is mine. Either that of "shut up and take the abuse". But "caveat emptor" sounds less assy. What you're saying is women like jerks and therefore should be able to date jerks without them being such jerks. See the problem with that statement? They also should be able to eat heaps of chocolate without getting fat and to buy tons of fashionable accessories without spending all their money. That's great and I myself often wish I didn't have to choose between what I like and what is not stupid to do, but life doesn't spoil us like that, so you have to wise up at some point and listen to the Rolling Stones instead of your fickle urges.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @11:41AM (#38370312)

    The constitution applies to conduct by the government. Common law applies to actions between individuals. Common law has a long, well-established tradition of recognizing that there's a line between "things that are false" (slander/libel) and "things that might be factually true, but are none of your business or anybody else's". In a case like this, intent matters. She might not be able to sue him for slander or libel, but harassment is a definite possibility.

    The justification for ordering specific performance (removal of the blog, refraining from future public comment about the woman over the internet) is based upon another well-established legal principle: Equity. Equity is an extraordinary relief granted by courts in situations where monetary judgments are not sufficient to make the injured party whole.

    If the woman became a public figure, the man might have had an affirmative defense. However, by all appearances, she wasn't.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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