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Posting AC - a Thing of the Past? 390

c0lo writes to point out an article from the Indystar. From the article: "A Marion County judge has ruled, for the first time in Indiana, that news media outlets can be ordered by the court to reveal identifying information about posters to their online forums."
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Posting AC - a Thing of the Past?

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  • I am ironically.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:01PM (#35380028)
    Posting this anonymously
  • For what reason? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:03PM (#35380052)

    The only reason a court would be gathering such information is to stifle free speech.

    • Re:For what reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:15PM (#35380244)
      If I were to go around the internet telling everyone that you are a child molester, wouldn't you want to find out my identity? Oh, I posted as an AP when I did it, tough luck. Now if a future employer google's your name it's all over the internet and you have to waste your time explaining it and I got off without even a slap on the wrist.
      I think both sides have good arguments, I would hate for there to be a 'one size fits all' solution to this dilema. If someone is slandering my name on the internet anonymously, I want to go after that person. First I should have to prove the allegations are false, though.
      • by smelch ( 1988698 )
        Slander should not apply to anonymous posters. The standard for what counts as slander ought to be the person is backing their statement with their own name. Anybody who believes the anonymous writings (not anonymous as in AC, but as in smelch, you have no idea who I am) of somebody online without going to some kind of official reference is a moron. We've all learned not to trust wikipedia, but you think anonymous postings can count as slandering somebody? No, if what is written online about you that way da
        • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:48PM (#35380698)
          The problem with that is that people have had their lives pretty much ruined by people posting slanderous allegations against them online. The most recent one I heard of was a guy who had to move because word got around that he was a child molester. Some woman took it into her head that he was one. She created multiple accounts on online forums and then started "exchanging" information about his record as a child molester. Each one of her accounts "didn't know" about some of the stuff that another one did. She even had one account that started out "skeptical".
          • by smelch ( 1988698 )
            Thats unfortunate, and I understand the potential for that to happen. However, astroturfing is something people need to get familiar with because it extends way past slander. Product reviews, etc. I don't think the answer is to look at who's posting stuff after the fact, we should educate people on astroturfing and how to get reliable information online. Rumors existed before the internet, he-said-she-said conversations will never go out of style. People need to understand the nature of the internet and the
      • Re:For what reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:46PM (#35380676)

        It's simple really. If a serious threat of violence is made in an online forum, the police in the jurisdiction the threat is directed at go to a judge, fill out the paper work, and get a warrant. If someone is libeling you, you take the evidence, go to the judge, get a court order. It isn't as if this case is saying that anyone can make a request to get IP addresses of anonymous posters, it would still require a court order or warrant to get that information.

        • by swilver ( 617741 )

          Of course, such people would not stoop to simply post such messages using someone else's computer / account / wifi, etc..

          • Re:For what reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rary ( 566291 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @02:27PM (#35382070)

            Of course, such people would not stoop to simply post such messages using someone else's computer / account / wifi, etc..

            So what? The point of obtaining that kind of information isn't simply to blindly arrest whoever was identified. The point is to question the person as part of an ongoing investigation. If there is reason to believe that the person in question has committed an offence, then they may be arrested. But a name associated with an IP address or a forum account is not, in itself, sufficient evidence to get a conviction.

      • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:57PM (#35380818) Journal

        There's also the grand proposition of reprogramming society not to respond positively to hearsay. That's your "one size fits all". It's all about conditioned response and behavior modification, with specific keywords to set off the alarm, no matter the context. Real, honest to god psy-ops at work. Piece of cake. There's a small stink about the military trying it out on some congressmen in Afghanistan. I have to laugh when I consider how well it's working on genpop when they all recite almost word for word what they hear on the TV.

        I find these charges hard to believe

        Then don't believe them

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Yes it is tough luck. It can even be done publicly to a public official without any recourse.

        http://www.zimbio.com/Senator+Rick+Santorum+of+Pennsylvania/articles/Wx8d2kfC9QG/Rick+Santorum+Google+Bomb+Still+Haunts [zimbio.com]

        if you want a perfect example...

        Now shut up or I'll associate your name with another bodily fluid mixture!

      • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        No, if you post my name as an AC saying I am a child molester, it has no value at all. When doing that two possibilities are usually given to counter balance the possibility of anonymous libel :
        - a right to answer. On /. it is quite simple : you have the right to hit 'reply' and make a reply.
        - a right to the deletion. A bit too extreme in my opinion, but a court already has the possibility to order /. to remove the offending content. No need to track the 14 year old that thought it was a funny prank.
      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        If I were to go around the internet telling everyone that you are a child molester, wouldn't you want to find out my identity?


        Now if a future employer google's your name it's all over the internet and you have to waste your time explaining it

        No, you wouldn't. No sane person would work for a company so stupid as to pay attention to such a random claim, and no HR department would dare run afoul of the law by refusing to hire you because of an anonymous child molestation allegation. These things don't happen in real life, and they don't happen on the internet either. We don't need special laws to infringe free speech to protect us from anonymous non-existent slanderers .

        If someone is slandering my name on the internet anonymously, I want to go after that person

        You say "on the internet" so do you want the same power in real life too

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The right to free speech says absolutely nothing about the right to anonymous free speech. At also says nothing about there not being consequences to your free speech, only that the government won't stop you from saying it.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Sure it does.

        The whole point of "free speech" is that there can't be any consequences for you.

        You need to hone up on both your history and law.

        Some states even protect anonymous speech explicitly and their own Supreme Courts will back it up. ...I think I will go read some of the Federalist Papers now.

        • Free Speech does not mean No Consequences. Just that the consequences you can face are not for speaking, but for what you say. If you are not speaking the truth, you run the risk of being charged with Libel or Slander, if you are spreading information that isn't yours to spread, you run the risk of being charged for copyright violations, if you are spreading information that has been deemed secret in nature, you run the risk of being charged with espionage, if you are tormenting people, you risk being charg

        • by blair1q ( 305137 )

          The whole point of "free speech" is that there can't be any consequences for you.

          No, the whole point of Free Speech is that you can criticize the government and the government can not use its power to prevent you from doing it or punish you for it.

          There's a lot of other speech that you will face serious consequences for, from the government or from the public at large.

          You need to hone up on both your history and law.

          Now that is ironic.

          Some states even protect anonymous speech explicitly and their own Supreme Courts will back it up. ...I think I will go read some of the Federalist Papers now.

          Depends on what the speech contains. If it contains threats of violence, their Supreme Courts will hunt the speaker down themselves. Free Speech is not an absolute right and never was. Failure to unde

    • by Beetle B. ( 516615 ) <`beetle_b' `at' `email.com'> on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:27PM (#35380412)

      Oh, let's dispense with the silly sensationalism.

      Free speech was never meant to defend acts of libel.

      If reasonable acts of libel took place, and the site knows the IP address of the posters, then it is ridiculous to use the shield law. That's like saying that I can set up a newspaper where I don't disclose the identity of any of my journalists, and where they can freely malign any individual through it while appealing to the shield law. That is ridiculous.

      What wasn't clear from a cursory reading is whether the news outlets will be required to store the information. That's a bit overstepping, if it's the case. It's like saying that if I have a bulletin board in my supermarket, then I should be required to get the identity of anyone who posts there.

      While not germane to the point of the story, I've not seen one instance of a news site allowing comments improving the quality of the site, or the discourse.

      Not once.

      Open comments to news stories almost always have brought out the worst in people in every news site I've seen. There's almost never anything informative in them, and even if there is a comment that makes a valid point, it is lost in the crowd of other comments.

      • >>>I have no problem with peoples' identities being sought

        Also makes it easier to throw the formerly-Anonymous persons in jail for things like ----- sharing how to crack a PS3 to install linux or media-watching software ----- producing art or comic books filled with nude teenagers doing what teenagers do (sex) ----- uploading a copy of Streamboat Willie --- et cetera.

        Liberty cannot live in a world where people can not hide.

        • by MikeURL ( 890801 )
          As far as the internet goes there will always be a way to post things in a reasonably anonymous way. The only way to really truly shut that off is to shut off the internet. Even some non-technical people know that finding an unsecured AP is equivalent to putting on an anon shield of armor.

          If this just devolves into an argument about being able to upload 1000 gig of hollywood movies I lose interest immediately.
      • What if newspapers and other sites purged identifying information within a few days of the post?

        That would be enough time to subpoena the information immediately in cases of "clear and present danger" or if the police are monitoring a site as part of an active investigation, but not enough to go after comments made more than a few days ago under a one-off handle or as a "guest"/"anonymous coward."

        Assuming you don't pre-moderate non-registered comments, you need to keep IP addresses for at least a few hours

    • by numbski ( 515011 )

      TOR. Don't know how many times I have to say it.

    • Right! Courts shouldn't be able to gather any evidence against anyone for anything!

      Are you really this fucking stupid? Yes, there could be abuse. There is the possibility of abuse with ANY law. The court can issue a warrant for your phone records or to toss your place, but dammit, websites should never have to turn over IP addresses! They only want to stifle free speech! After all , if some kid posts that he's going to shoot up his school on some forum, the cops have no right to get a warrant for any in
      • Further, the judge exposes himself to the laughing hyenas of higher courts, who will decimate his ruling for the folly it is. The judge forgets the US Constitutional Fifth Amendment, Indiana's Constitution, Indiana Code, and the long tradition of pseudonyms-- which are entirely legal by common law lo long as the pseudonym isn't used for fraud.

        He's made an ass of himself, and will have his ass handed to him.

        • The judge forgets the US Constitutional Fifth Amendment

          Exactly which part of the Fifth Amendment applies here? If you meant the Fourth Amendment, I don't think it protects you from a warrant issued by a court. In fact, I vaguely recall there being something explicit in there about warrants.

          • No, the part about: nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,.... as in not say anything, or say in anonymity. It's also part of the right to freely assemble, looked at in another way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by westlake ( 615356 )

      The only reason a court would be gathering such information is to stifle free speech.

      Free speech is not the freedom to libel and slander the innocent. Free speech is not the freedom to make threats with impunity.

      The anonymous speaker can be legitimately exposed.

    • The problem is that the harm done by people positing anonymously is practically nonexistent. People bring up slander, but an anonymous post in an internet forum isn't really slander, it's just at troll. People bring up bomb threats, but there are plenty of ways to make an anonymous bomb threat and tracking this information will not really help with that (honestly, if you're going to make a bomb threat, doing it anonymously in a forum is not a good way to go about it).

      On the other hand, requiring websites

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )


      Lets hope this is struck down rapidly and we can all get our constitutionally guaranteed rights back.

    • You want something fun about this ? Try reading about the LCEN in France (sorry, I only have link in french, try wikipedia http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_pour_la_confiance_dans_l'%C3%A9conomie_num%C3%A9rique [wikipedia.org])

      The main point : every service provider must log information about what anyone did, when, and how; including login, password, and anything available to identify someone. And it's not even on a case by case basis, but an obligation for all service provider...
    • If you believe that, then you already have a tinfoil hat on.

      Not all speech is, or should be, protected and inviolate.

      Here's a hypothetical: someone is murdered. Someone posts details about the scene/incident anonymously that were never released publicly.

      Defamation (as in this case) is a slipperier slope, imo. So you're saying that people are entitled to say the most slanderous, horrific, libelous, lies about someone without any recourse to the victim being able to refute or deny? I'd say that's unreasona

  • Perhaps the key is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <<megazzt> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:03PM (#35380060) Homepage
    To ensure this information is never stored in the first place.
    • yeah, that's right - let's count on companies steeped in respect for metrics and numbers to just stop logging who visits their site. That'll happen.
      • especially on ad driven sites.

        The customers aren't the people who read the topic but the Ad companies. And the Customers get what they want or they go elsewhere.

    • Just have a policy of deleting all logs after 24 hours. That gives enough time to block spammers by IP without also giving much of a window for courts to breach anonymity.
    • It's a tricky line. In the event someone anonymously posts enough libelous information about you to ruin your life, what's your recourse? On the other hand, there's a huge capacity for abusing that information as well if its made too available. Ideally, a court order would be needed to get this information every time, but even then, you might get the idiot judge who sees those legit criticisms as 'evidence.'
  • Recap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:04PM (#35380086) Homepage

    1. People under tyranny
    2. Write pamphlets anonymously [google.com]
    3. Make a new country
    4. GOTO 1
    5. "Goto considered harmful"

  • If the website doesn't retain info on anonymous posters, then there's nothing for them to provide. Does Slashdot retain anything?

    • If the website doesn't retain info on anonymous posters, then there's nothing for them to provide. Does Slashdot retain anything?

      Retaining the data is worth money to sell to advertisers, marketing and who knows what other parties. Lots of places retain a ton of data. What they say on the policy may have no relationship at all. Especially when it's all done by multiple companies contracting each other and everyone just way too busy dealing with everyday problems, costs+margins, employees, shareholders etc. Your personal data is just a meaningless detail of the businesses. It's hopeless actually, data will circulate everywhere, legal

    • A quick look at my blocked scripts on this page show the following:
      • google-analytics.com
      • doubleclick.net
      • addthis.com

      So there's 3 scripts on this page whose sole purpose is to track you. I'm also willing to bet there's enough information stored in various locations (for example timestamp on the message cross referenced with the log files) to figure out who posted those anonymous comments.

    • If you're logged in, but check the "post anonymously" setting, slashdot apparently retains your association as the author of that comment. You cannot mod your own comment in such a case, even if you logout and login again. I don't know about actual AC postings, although I suspect at the very least the source IP address is retained.
  • by imthesponge ( 621107 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:05PM (#35380114)
    Who knew?
    • Its also very hard to prove.
    • Anonymous speech on the internet is not the same as other types of anonymous speech, and it shouldn't be judged by the old precedents. Off the top of my head:
      + It occurs orders of magnitude more often
      + It's the most common form of speech on the internet
      + there's lots of trolling, and people understand that
      + It's international in origination, not just local (so justifications about enforcement that went into the old precedents may not apply)
      + The Streisand effect combined with court investigations p
  • So, (Score:4, Informative)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:08PM (#35380160) Homepage Journal
    Random judge, in Indiana, usa, fucking marion county, decides what are the web standards and realities of life on internet ?
    • I suggest that Slashdot have a day of awareness by using "Anonymous Hoosier" for all AC comments.

    • Marion County is one of the most corrupt places I have ever visited. I went to Indianapolis with some friends, went out to bars, and then everyone got arrested (too long a story to say how it went down). Anyways, the Judge gave everyone the highest bail (one person even received higher than the bail schedule's max amount), we paid it, got charged double (20% cash instead of 10%), and had to go back to court twice. They are thieves. All of the charges were dropped the second we went to court. In the end
  • I get tired of people who hide behind AC thinking they can get away with harassment and forum owners who won't take control of the situation. At least this requires a court order, which means the person or group demanding the information be made available must provide a reasonable justification to the court as to why it must be done. It's not a perfect system, but it's better than saying, "You can't allow anonymous posting."

  • I'll even post the information I used to sign up for this Slashdot ID publicly; I have nothing to fear:

    Mr. Ivan A Humpabunch
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington D.C., DC 20500

    The rest of you anonymous cowards should be ashamed of yourself.
  • Cyberbullying? Not likely, it's stifling of speech. Find out who they are then drag them into court to put the fear of the Law into them. Once they're scared into submission, the plantiff can continue on safe in the knowledge that no matter how foul he behaves, no one will comment. I doubt it'll go far.

    • Agreed. Most cyberbullies don't care if their target knows who is verbally abusing them because they're more popular then their victim already so have no fear of reprisal. This is about making sure nobody ever gets their free speech right online ever again, as lawsuits become the sword that kills the first amendment.
  • I'd be really surprised if the the court couldn't all ready do this. There isn't much difference between this and subpoenaing phone records.

    Due process is being observed; the defendant is in court and evidence is being gathered. This isn't police warrantlessly fishing through these records. Just because the internet is involved doesn't mean "everything's changed!" That's the battlecry of those who would use it to diminish current due process rights.
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Friday March 04, 2011 @12:15PM (#35380248)

    Real dumb move there by the decision-makers. What will happen is that Joe Clueless who makes a comment about someone sucking might get stung, while there will be a heightened interest in using a proxy for traffic; likely an offshore proxy that will either reply with unmitigated laughter, or a high resolution picture of a middle finger (or perhaps a sole of a shoe depending on geographic location) when someone demands IP logs.

    VPNs are becoming really easy to use these days. The iPhone can activate one with a couple button presses. Browser extensions can activate Tor access with a button press.

    If push came to shove and people started being arrested and sued left and right, it wouldn't be difficult for even Joe Sixpack to move to a VPN service, which would make current police work against real criminals a lot harder because every connection, the forensic officer would have to bed the VPN server for IP to IP correlation logs, or be able to monitor all connections to the VPN server and prove that connection "A" went into the network, and was routed to site "B", and do it well enough in a presentation to convince a jury.

    If this judge were smart, he would have let the small fry go. This way, the nasty criminals would still be easily catchable without having to make any and all police investigations international affairs.

    • Huh? Did something change? Since when are we after the big criminals?

      You got that wrong. Steal a hundred bucks and you get arrested. Steal a hundred billion bucks and you get a bailout. It's all a matter who got who at the balls.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *


        If people saying "Elbonia sucks" on a forum get nailed by the Elbonian embassy for slander, then people will get scared and start using VPNs. Once this becomes a common practice, the people that LEOs really want to catch for suspected terrorism or other serious offences will require international cooperation with an offshore VPN service instead of just asking the telco for IP to names.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      If this judge were smart, he would have let the small fry go. This way, the nasty criminals would still be easily catchable without having to make any and all police investigations international affairs.

      Its an entirely different market. Criminals tend to be poor and depend on public defenders. The other side of the case is the prosecutor, who is a public employee.

      Civil cases involve relatively wealthy litigants and/or defendants. So this judge is simply protecting the ability of his cronies in the legal profession to engage in a profitable business.

  • So you can no longer comment anonymously. Start up a secret identity. I've been using one since 1994.

    Oh, did you think 'Remus Shepherd' was my real name? It's a pseudonym, and hopefully one that no one can connect to my real name, even if a judge orders them to do so. I'm sure it's not bulletproof, but every layer is another court precedent that has to happen before your anonymity can be taken away.

  • Slander is illegal regardless of medium, but you have a protected right to express your opinion, even if the subject doesn't like it and feels 'criticized'..

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @02:36PM (#35382200)
    A british judge has just ruled that a newspaper does NOT have to reveal the identities of some commentators to a person who wanted to sue them. He classed the comments they made as no more than "pub talk" (a pub is english for a bar - where you go to drink, and talk).

    ref: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/28/newspaper_anonymous_commenters/ [theregister.co.uk]

  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @03:02PM (#35382510)

    Don't post stuff in the USA.

    Pretty soon the US is going to see all parts of the internet hosted on non-US soil, to avoid all the US BS. Companies will follow suit. As will Jobs.

    Then the US will just be a tiny speed bump on the information superhighway. I mean the great thing about the internet is that it is distributed, it doesn't actually have to exist in a certain place and thus be subject to its stupid laws. Just move the physical bits somewhere nicer.

    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )

      Where is nicer? Honest question. I'm an American, and I love it here, but we're headed the wrong direction. In 20 years, I might very well want to move somewhere more free.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley