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Canadian Judge Orders Disclosure of Anonymous Posters

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the or-you'll-get-a-mountie's-hoofprint dept.

Privacy 250

debrain writes "The Globe and Mail is reporting that Google and a newspaper called The Coast must disclose all information they have about the identity of individuals who posted anonymous comments online about top firefighters in Halifax. The story in question is titled 'Black firefighters file human rights complaint,' and there are some heated opinions in the comments."

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It's almost (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847578)

It's almost as if they were ACs posting "nigger" jokes.

OH NOEWS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847626)

U R TRAMPLE ON MY RITE TO B A DOUCHE ON INTERNETS!@!!11

lowercaselettersletsmeuselot ofcapsuptoplowercaselettersle tsmeuselotsofcapsuptoplowercas elettersletsmeuselotsofcapsupto plowercaselettersletsmeuselotsof capsuptoplowercaselettersletsmeus elotsofcapsuptop

From TFA (-1, Troll)

trurl7 (663880) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847642)

Judge Robertson says people who post comments anonymously have to be held to account for their actions.

Hi Judge Robertson,

Do you have trouble comprehending the word "anonymous"? Or is it that you do not understand the implications of anonymity on freedom? Or are you just an authoritarian dumbass?

What "actions" have these posters done? Expressed an opinion? Given the racial nature of the story, I imagine those comments were quite disgusting and racist. I do not support them. But similarly, the notion that every instance of anonymous speech must be ferreted out, and the 'perpetrators' held to 'account' is just wrong.

But as long as we are 'holding people to account', let's go all the way. Grab the CEOs of MPAA and RIAA and talk to them about the erosion of the public domain. Talk to Cheney about torture and the warcrimes tribunal. Let's get Albright, Kissinger, Bzhezinsky and talk about imperialism. And don't forget the fine folks from Arthur Anderson and Enron. The list goes on. Why don't you get THOSE people and hold THEM to account, you self-righteous prig!

Re:From TFA (4, Informative)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847736)

Why don't you get THOSE people and hold THEM to account, you self-righteous prig!

Because he's a Canadian judge, and those people are American? It's one thing to not read the summary, but it's the FIRST WORD of the title. Or are you one of those people who think Canada is the 51st state?

Or maybe I'm just getting in the way of your self-righteous tirade, where facts are irrelevant.

Re:From TFA (2, Funny)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847866)

Or are you one of those people who think Canada is the 51st state?

No, not yet. But we're patient. ;)

Re:From TFA (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847896)

Speak for yourself. Some of us are ready to steamroll that border on a moments notice!

(I kid... but you left the door open and I had to walk through)

Re:From TFA (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848412)

Silly Americans ....

The first time you tried to steamroll the border we burned your little White House down.

The last time you seriously threatened to steamroll the border we sent you Celine Dion .....as you can tell the lessons on invading Canada only get harsher :D

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848458)

lol everytime you've tried to invade Canada, not only did we drive you out, but we ran down to Washington and burned your Whitehouse down to the ground, twice so far.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848474)

Time for a second ass-whooping? ;)

Re:From TFA (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848270)

Or are you one of those people who think Canada is the 51st state?

No, you are actually the 57th state. Didn't you listen to our President when he was running for office? ;)

Re:From TFA (3, Interesting)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847740)

I actually had a long discussion about accountability vs. free speech with my wife yesterday, and she was shocked that you can't sue someone for insulting you (she's from Europe). The idea that someone can call you a stupid moron, and you can't sue them, is simply incomprehensible to her. I know that you can sue someone for making false accusations of adultery (or similarly damaging), and circulating the rumors (slander), or printing them in some fashion (libel). At what point does freedom of speech cross over to something which should be dealt with in a modern form of the old fashioned honor duel?

Re:From TFA (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847804)

One of the great joys of a system that attempts to minimize prior restraint is that you *can* go up and slug someone for insulting you. There may be consequences afterwards, depending on the situation, but nobody is stopping you from the old fashioned honor approach to handling things.
This is good, as there shouldn't need to be courts involved until after you have personally deemed it a big enough issue to get yourself fully involved. If some coward could run hide behind a judge every time he was unhappy, it would not be a good world.

She might be shocked but she's also wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847834)

You cannot sue someone for insulting you, if all it does is make you feel bad or whatever. It must have some actual consequences for you, so it must actually be slander.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847908)

There is a difference between saying "Mr. X is a moron" and "I think Mr. X is a moron", the latter being merely expressing an opinion.

Re:From TFA (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847978)

Or "Mr. X is a moron....allegedly".

Re:From TFA (2, Funny)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848070)

Or "Is Mr. X a moron?"

Re:From TFA (2, Insightful)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848462)

Or "How would you feel about Mr. X if you learned he was a moron?"

Re:From TFA (3, Informative)

lupinstel (792700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848492)

I don't know about you, but I think it is a bit suspicious that Mr. X has never publicly denied being a moron.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848302)

I have a hard time believing this tale. Europeans are generally much less sue-happy than Americans.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848444)

"The idea that someone can call you a stupid moron, and you can't sue them,..."

The very act of wanting to sue an anonymous calling you a stupid moron is what makes you a stupid moron.

Re:From TFA (4, Informative)

nvrrobx (71970) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847742)

If you had read the summary, you'd have noticed we're talking about a Canadian judge. Canadian law about hate speech is very different from the US.

Your references to Cheney and such do not apply, you self-righteous pig.

Re:From TFA (2, Insightful)

trurl7 (663880) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847826)

For those that didn't get it - references specific to American human rights violators were used metaphorically, being examples I am most familiar with. As this particular judge's attitude is something that shows up frequently in those who dispense so-called justice all around the world, feel free to substitute whichever local corporate and political dirtbags you feel appropriate. Also - since the actions of the people I listed affected the global community as a whole, perhaps the question of jurisdiction should be re-examined. In principle, the Hague has global jurisdiction anyway.

Flame on, fellows.

Re:From TFA (0)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847894)

Then try posting with *relevant* examples. You might not get first post, but you'd also not look like an ignorant moron. Your cover of "global community" and "metaphors" doesn't hold weight.

Re:From TFA (2, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848188)

I'm sure his "cover" is more than adequate for any objective viewer. Canadian identity hypersensitivity simply makes you unable to believe it.

Some principles are universal. The fact that the United States has notable examples in recent history of both implementation and denial of those principles provides convenient reference material. I'm sure anyone sufficiently motivated by "Canada or die!" can come up with comparable domestic references.

Oh, yeah, Welcome to the U.S. [slashdot.org]

Re:From TFA (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848292)

Canadian law about hate speech is very different from the US.

Out of curiosity, why should speech cease to be free just because it's hateful? Isn't it more logical to draw the line at threats?:

"I hate niggers." <-- free speech
"I hate niggers, let's go kill one." <-- not free speech

Re:From TFA (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848448)

That's basically how it works in Canada, though the threats have to be more than just some internet randomness.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848466)

Hey! No name calling! A prig is not necessarily a pig! Pigs can on occasion be warm, friendly and charming. Prigs are, well, prigs. They judge is being a prig. Anonymous is anonymous. We have elections in private voting booths because it lets people say exactly what they think without censure or reprisal. Anonymous internet sites are great because they allow the same thing. I don't know if the journalism/print media has ever allowed that kind of openness toward free expression (especially in Canada), and I'm thinking, that perhaps exposure to the internet (and that Pesky Slashdot) has allowed people to believe they have more freedoms than they traditionally have had. Props go to sites like Slashdot for allowing free and open discussion. Fuck! It would be an awful place if I were censured in the expletive I used in the last (short) sentence. I apologise to those I have offended, but I praise Slashdot (and other online sites) that don't bring the hammer down on free expression. Sadly, it looks more and more like the last place in the world where people are allowed to express themselves freely.

Reply (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847744)

Hello Frank,

Thank you for your comments, I should point out that as a Canadian Judge I cannot hold those people accountable. I should expect you to receive your extradition notice shortly however.

- Robertson

Re:From TFA (-1, Redundant)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847766)

But as long as we are 'holding people to account', let's go all the way. Grab the CEOs of MPAA and RIAA and talk to them about the erosion of the public domain. Talk to Cheney about torture and the warcrimes tribunal. Let's get Albright, Kissinger, Bzhezinsky and talk about imperialism. And don't forget the fine folks from Arthur Anderson and Enron. The list goes on. Why don't you get THOSE people and hold THEM to account, you self-righteous prig!

Ermmm.....because this judge is Canadian? I don't think any of those people are in his jurisdiction.

Re:From TFA (0, Troll)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847996)

Wow! Too slow on the post there. Mod me redundant.

Re:From TFA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847830)

This is why I *never* post anonymously on slashdot.

Re:From TFA (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847832)

What "actions" have these posters done? Expressed an opinion? Given the racial nature of the story, I imagine those comments were quite disgusting and racist. I do not support them. But similarly, the notion that every instance of anonymous speech must be ferreted out, and the 'perpetrators' held to 'account' is just wrong.

I think the rest of your comment makes you sound like a bit of a nut, but within that frenzied rant you hit a moment of actual coherant fluid thought. Not that I don't agree with the whole statement you are making, just drifting off from the issue at hand really.

That issue is anonymity on the internet. My gripe basically boils down to this;
If you are going to disallow someones anonymity on the internet because of any punishable law, you should then have to go back and punish everyone who has ever broken any punishable law under the guise of anonymity on the internet. This is of course impracticle, so throw that idea out of the window.

IF this is against your idea of how things should be run, propose a bill that suggests you CAN aquire information from anonymous sources in the FUTURE. You can't just choose to change the laws for one scenario, especially when its the one being dealt with. This would be like an Umpire changing the amount of Bases in Baseball to 3 instead of 4, mid-game, with all bases loaded. It'd be an outrage.

So please, if you are going to attack the freedom that is anonymity - do so in the proper manner. I have no problems with Lawyers and Judges trying to reform things so long as they abide by the same rules that I do when I want things done differently. A powdered wig should not be able to make demands like that.

Re:From TFA (-1, Redundant)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847856)

"Talk to Cheney about torture and the warcrimes tribunal. Let's get Albright, Kissinger, Bzhezinsky and talk about imperialism. And don't forget the fine folks from Arthur Anderson and Enron. The list goes on. Why don't you get THOSE people and hold THEM to account, you self-righteous prig!"

Probably because he is a judge in ANOTHER COUNTRY.

Sheesh. RTFA much? Even the writeup?

Re:From TFA (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848014)

Sheesh. RTFA much? Even the writeup?

Or even the title. Or even the FIRST WORD of the title.

Re:From TFA (1)

dotmarker (639361) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847936)

Or is it that you do not understand the implications of anonymity on freedom?

I don't understand either, what are those implications you speak of but don't specify? I'm guessing you want this judge to protect your freedom to spew vitriol without consequence, such as a coward might do.

Re:From TFA (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848074)

In the US we understand that the words of an anonymous coward are just words, and only have the power that you, the pussy, give to them. And as such, there can be no damage to reputation by the rantings of an anonymous coward on a message board.

Re:From TFA (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848276)

Well, other than the loaded language and cheap ad-hominem, yes. Vitriol should be protected speech, within reasonable limits. The definition of "reasonable" is what's at the heart of the issue, and moves around a bit. Still, the operant principle is anonymity is protected unless you have DAMN good reason not to. "Good reason" rising to the level of criminal indictment for actual crimes, not political censorship (let alone ass-hurt of any group of people, no matter how prominent or influential).

I don't know about Canadian history, which as far as I can tell has a suspicious history of obsessive politeness, but angry anonymous pamphleteering is one of the cornerstones of the independence of the United States from Mother Britain.

Come to think of it, that might explain somewhat why Her Majesty [wikipedia.org] is still the Canadian Head of State, but not ours.

Re:From TFA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847950)

Do you have trouble comprehending the word "Canadian"? Hate speech and uttering threats are against the law here. If someone used the newspaper's website to commit a crime, the paper is bound to identify those individuals.

Re:From TFA (3, Insightful)

uncqual (836337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848362)

Interestingly, many Americans, including those bashing America while extolling the virtues of Canada and much of Western Europe because of their enlightenment and social programs, fail to realize how many rights Americans take for granted are not available to many of the citizens of these other countries. In particular, broad freedom of speech/expression and various rights associated with criminal justice.

Personally, probably because I was born and raised in America, I wouldn't give up the freedoms I have in exchange for more collective social infrastructure. But, others may make a different legitimate decision or conclude that one can have the best of all possible worlds.

It's a "Norwich Order", and it's exraordinary (3, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848078)

If you don't know who to sue yet, you can apply for a court order to discover the name of the person to be served.

To get it you have to convince the court you have a case, and require the information, at which time the court may chose to issue an order to a third party (eg, a newspaper) to identify the person.

It's far more common to be told to file the suit against "John Doe", after which the court will conclude you're serious and order the person's name disclosed.

See Halsbury's Laws of Canada under "Norwich Orders" or google for the recent "York University v. Bell Canada Enterprises" case

--dave

Re:From TFA (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848138)

What "actions" have these posters done? Expressed an opinion? Given the racial nature of the story, I imagine those comments were quite disgusting and racist. I do not support them. But similarly, the notion that every instance of anonymous speech must be ferreted out, and the 'perpetrators' held to 'account' is just wrong.

"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - Voltaire

(there, summed it up for you)

Re:From TFA (2, Informative)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848242)

There are two issues here: the nature of what was said and how it was said. With regards to the first issue, hate speech is not legal in Canada. Americans seem shocked by this, but you are accountable for hateful things that you say in Canada. In my mind, limits to free speech are important when that speech crosses the line into hatefulness. I see no reason why people shouldn't be held to account for damages that they willfully cause through verbal abuse.

The second issue (the one that is less well established under law) is the manner in which the speech was said; in this case, the internet. There is no special protection for speech that is stamped as anonymous. I ask you: do you have trouble comprehending the word "anonymous"? A communication with a web server is not anonymous; it's subject to subpoena. There's no "ferreting out" here. The process is very clear.

Re:From TFA (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848254)

But as long as we are 'holding people to account', let's go all the way. Grab the CEOs of MPAA and RIAA and talk to them about the erosion of the public domain. Talk to Cheney about torture and the warcrimes tribunal. Let's get Albright, Kissinger, Bzhezinsky and talk about imperialism. And don't forget the fine folks from Arthur Anderson and Enron. The list goes on. Why don't you get THOSE people and hold THEM to account, you self-righteous prig!

C'mon dude, you had a really great post until this last paragraph. I think you made the point about free and anonymous speech quite well without this rant....

Re:From TFA (3, Informative)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848350)

A) Canada has a thing called "Hate Crimes" where if you spread ideas that condone or incite hate against a particular people or race you can get into trouble. Regardless if you believe in the the law or not, it is currently in effect, thus the Judge is well within his rights to court order the name of those individuals. I didn't read the comments on the website, but I can imagine what they are like.

B) The Coast is a newspaper that exists in Halifax, Canada. Very much under the jurisdiction of Canada. Google also does business in Canada, thus also subject to the laws therein.

C) The fact that the posters are not Canadian citizens is immaterial. You break the law in Canada be it fraud or in this case Hate Crimes you are still subject to the repercussions. The question is can they be tried. Considering Canada and the USA have a long standing extradition treaty, Canada would certainly be within its rights to demand that those US citizens be extradited to Canada for trial. The US of course would likely be within its rights to refuse, at which time they would likely be tried in absentia and convicted, and a outstanding warrent issued for their arrest should they ever enter Canada. Essentially banning them from ever entering the country. If they ever land in a plane in Canada, they would likely be arrested and thrown in jail. Considering what was probably said in the comments, it is questionable if the US would make this a treaty issue.

Lately due to the crazy lady from the USA (Ann Coulter) the validity of Canada's hate crimes laws have come under question. I think people should be clear, we do have free speech in Canada, it is just tempered (as it is in the USA as well people tend to forget, just not as much). So you can say and believe pretty much anything you damn please, however if what you say is deemed so reprehensible a Judge may be called in to determine if it meets the criteria set out in the hate crime laws. These criteria as I am aware of them are pretty steep, you really have to go out there to go across the line so to speak.

It is a slippery slope I will give you that, however I also believe that someone has to be accountable for their actions, and that includes what they say in public. You can say whatever you like, however be prepared for the repercussions.

99% of the time comments like these would A) never make it to posted, or B) be removed by the website, however given that this is a news paper they may have felt obligated to share the posts as part of free speech. Which calls into question how much responsibility does the news paper have in this matter? It could be that they did not meet their obligations and that partial fault falls to them.

Wow this was a pretty long post for discussing comments I didn't even read!

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848396)

While everyone is complaining that this post references people across an imaginary line, the DATA Google is holding is also across that line. If Judge Robertson can force Google to go across a border to bring data back, why not force these other things?

Re:From TFA (0, Troll)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848510)

Canada has hate thought crimes. America has not quite gotten there, yet. Sooner, rather than later, your right to hold an opinion different from anyone, on any but the most neutral subjects, will be illegal. Never have understood how my countrymen can remain so ignorant of what is happening in the rest of the world concerning hate crime/thought. When you can not, by rule of law, call a person a name or state they are inferior just because of their race, or sex, or ethnicity, then freedom is lost, and probably will never be regained. And no I am not a racist. I can however see that just as blacks in America never get charged with hate crimes against whites, the same will be true when they remove the ability to speak your mind. Whites will be crackers with no repercussions, while calling a black "nigger" will end you up in jail.

Re:From TFA (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848560)

But similarly, the notion that every instance of anonymous speech must be ferreted out

Did anyone mention "every instance of anonymous speech"?

I think people should be able to say whatever they want anonymously. But I don't think there's any "right" to your identity not being discovered if you're spewing hatred. You can be as big an asshole as you want, but don't cry if your identity is disclosed, preferably by one of your peers or someone who knows how to resolve an IP address or email header.

There's a big difference between anonymous political speech and just spewing raw hate. For those cases, where someone finds the courage to be racist as long as they're anonymous, "more speech" isn't as good a solution as a boot up the ass.

Ann O'Nymous... (2, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847652)

...wrote them all!

Re:Ann O'Nymous... (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848104)

Anonymous use a single name to hide their numbers...

Hey Judge Robertson (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847708)

Judge Robertson:
Fuck you, you cocksucking, nigger-loving, shit-for-brains, motherfucking idiot; come after me, I dare you.

You're the worst excuse for a judge and I hope you try to persuade /. to hand my information over to you.

Your friend,
Anonymous Coward

P.S. Here faggot faggot faggot!

May I be the first to say... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847720)

The firefighters in Halifax suck at their job.

Re:May I be the first to say... (0, Troll)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848046)

Well go help them out. They may reward you with a huge Christmas tree

Re:May I be the first to say... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848354)

May I be the first to say...

Go fuck yourself.

Who in their right mind ... (1, Flamebait)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847722)

The best way to post comments in any heated debate is semi-anonymously, using a disposable e-mail address and a public Internet connection (or better yet, TOR). This is fairly effective at discouraging this sort of ridiculousness.

Re:Who in their right mind ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847944)

Better yet, Find a site that has a Checkbox!

Soviet Canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847728)

In soviet canada, you have no free speech! There if someone hurts your feelings or speaks bad about you then you can just sue them because you don't like it.

it was me, anonymous, who made all postings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847732)

It was all my fault; I just couldn't stop myself from doing it....

mea culpa

so sue me!

Re:it was me, anonymous, who made all postings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847916)

No! I am Spanontacus!

Such Informed Debate (5, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847750)

Wow - the comments on the Globe and Mail site are even less informed than those found on Slashdot for discussions like this!

What's hard to understand? If you write or broadcast something libelous or slanderous you risk a lawsuit.

Just because you identified yourself as Poopybear4556 doesn't eliminate your liability.

If you don't want to be identified the onus is on you to hide yourself, not on whoever runs a web site.

Re:Such Informed Debate (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847952)

Thank you rueger for your insightful comment. I look forward to many more of your anonymous comments in the future. However, in this instance perhaps you would like to take your irony pill before posting.

Thank you

Re:Such Informed Debate (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848080)

The Globe and Mail has done nothing but slide downhill for the last year and slowly becoming a Toronto Star Lite. So don't be surprised that the comments reflect that. As well, you can write slander/libel in Canada generally but not all the time. But then again our free speech laws aren't really very free either.

Re:Such Informed Debate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848346)

It's a sad day when people who purport to defend debate intentionally obfuscate and deceive about issues by using language tricks, as you do here.

Yes, if you write or broadcast something libellous or slanderous you risk a lawsuit. Libel and slander is punishable. There has never been anyone who has stood on a chair and said "Libel should not be punished!"

Except that what is libellous and slanderous is in no way up to an individual to decide. If you write or broadcast something, it is not libellous or slanderous for any effective purpose until a judge has said so. I cannot take it upon me to decide that what you have written slanders me or libels me, and have that effectuated. What you write effectively becomes libellous or slanderous the moment a judge decides that it _is_ libel or slander.

In this case, the judge has not decided that way, as the parties responsible have not been found guilty of libel or slander. If the judge has not found them guilty of that, she seems to appeal to some "third estate" to mete out punishment - because she says people "must be held accountable for action X" - implying the punishment or threat of it - but for an action that she has not herself found punishable or decided _is_ libel or slander.

When you present it as "when you say something libellous or slanderous you risk a lawsuit", you are deceptive, because it is something everyone would agree with - but in this instance, no judge has decided that what was said WAS libel or slander.

If you were honest, you would have written "What is hard to understand? If you write or broadcast something that someone feels is libel or slander, you get your details made public so that they can react against you?" which is a more contentious issue. In fact, I believe this is a "first" in the Western world. McDonalds cannot go to a judge and say 'we were really disgusted by some comments but haven't really thought about whether they are illegal or not, so can you just order people to tell us who made them and then we'll talk about legality later'.

Re:Such Informed Debate (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848390)

Just because you identified yourself as Poopybear4556 doesn't eliminate your liability.

If society forms opinions of individuals based on pseudonymous commentary by people named "Poopybear4556" then society has a serious problem. I'd argue that anonymous (or pseudonymous) speech is far less damaging than identifiable speech, precisely because we don't know who's saying it and whether they are credible or not.

If I called you in the middle of the night, identified myself as DorkFace08, and told you your momma was so fat, would you pay any attention to me? Then what the hell do you care about what "Poopybear4556" has to say?

Hard when it's truly anonymous. (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847752)

If a website doesn't record IPs of posters, and doesn't keep logs of who posts anonymously, it'd be rather hard to be able to comply with this. Hopefully they can do a "best that we can" response.

Re:Hard when it's truly anonymous. (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848098)

If a website doesn't record IPs of posters, it probably doesn't exist. Now, a web server might not keep logs, but all website access IP's are logged somewhere. Either on the server, the router, or the ISP. Unless, of course, someone controls all the layers and specifically writes a utility to completely purge them. But I doubt it. At the very least, IP logs are used for basic diagnostics.

Re:Hard when it's truly anonymous. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848338)

but all website access IP's are logged somewhere. Either on the server, the router, or the ISP.

Huh? Why would an ISP log website visits? That's an awful lot of data you are talking about and even if they were inclined to collect it they'd probably run afoul of wiretapping and/or privacy laws in most western countries.

Re:Hard when it's truly anonymous. (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848500)

I disagree. Most sites track IPs for analysis, advertising, or troll-banning reasons. If I were writing a blog, forum, or discussion tool that was intended to have anonymous posts, I would never store the IP [except for the above reasons]. In light of anonymous things needing to be turned over to the police, I'd simply not collect it as part of my published privacy policy and data retention policy.

What comments exactly? (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847772)

I went through all 31 comments from the article and I didn't see any anonymous ones. Now you got me all curious...

Re:What comments exactly? (2, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848036)

Read the update at the end of the original story. The posts in question were removed. Damn spoilsports.

Re:What comments exactly? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848086)

The comments were posted under several names: "LessTalkMoreAction", "The truth", and "scandalous2010". The posts were removed by the paper.

Anonymous (-1, Offtopic)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847778)

To the tune of a certain dance:

Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous!
Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous!
Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous!
Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous! Anonymous!

Let's keep this right! Come on!

A Cold Day In Hell (0, Flamebait)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847782)

It's a cold day in hell for free speech. Perhaps it is brain freeze from Canadian winters.

Re: A Cold Day In Hell (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848068)

Free speech is something Americans do right (or at least better) than Canadians.
I'll support people who agitate in the direction of more freedom of speech.

Canada vs US (3, Informative)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847822)

As Dean Steacy, chief investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission said: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."

http://volokh.com/files/warmantranscript.pdf [volokh.com]

Re:Canada vs US (2, Informative)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847926)

Well said!

And he can say that because he's the chief investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

What freedom of speech we have here in America is paid for dearly. Canada pretty much retained the British definitions and conditions. They've made their bed.

Isn't the very idea of free speech that... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848284)

...you don't have to be anonymous to say what you want since the government won't come after you no matter what. Individuals might hate you, though, but that shouldn't stop you now should it?

It's only when you don't have free speech that you need to be anonymous.

Re:Canada vs US (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848366)

Canada pretty much retained the British definitions and conditions. They've made their bed.

Well, where do you suppose all the British Loyalists went after we kicked them and the Redcoats out of our country? Of course Canada hasn't caught up completely to the mother country. AFAIK they have less cameras than people, can still own firearms and haven't lost their right to remain silent.

Re:Canada vs US (3, Insightful)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848194)

Speech is construced as having accountability, especially regarding libel in british common law (and now canadian law). Free speech is not absolute -- it requires accountability. In this case, if a grieved person can *proove* who is spreading spurious lies (and they can prove they're lies), they have the right to restitution.

There are lots of other provisions and protections in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We also have hate crime laws. Its different than the US, its not perfect...but to paint canada with a broad brush of 'you're fascists' is ridiculous. Our country's founders had the motto of 'peace, order, and good government.'. Slightly different motivations than Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- although most of the time they correlate.

Re:Canada vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848294)

Our country's founders had the motto of 'peace, order, and good government.'. Slightly different motivations than Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness......

I'll bet your trains run on time.

anonymity. (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847842)

I'm Spartacus.

Re:anonymity. (2, Informative)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848382)

This isn't really off topic and should not be modded as such. Someone needs to mod it back up. If you will remember, when Spartacus and his rag tag slave army was defeated by the Roman army, the general demanded that Spartacus be turned over. Spartacus said, "I am Spartacus." whereupon everyone else also yelled the same thing. I think that is an appropriate allusion here. Who posted these anonymous emails? Get it yet? Surely this is not too deep for /.

Judge needs education regardin teh intra-web-tubes (0, Flamebait)

tommyatomic (924744) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847852)

Me thinks that this judge and or the attorneys involved in this exercise in stupidity; need to be re-educated.

Basically if someone exercises their right to free speech and anonymously posts lies about you on the internet they are a TROLL. If someone exercises their right to free speach and anonymously posts an unfortunate truth about you on the internet you will just have to live with it. It's not something that anyone needs to sue over.

I dont know which this is, but I truely do not care. If I post that your mother intimately cosorts with farm animals and it isn't true then I am a TROLL. If it is true then it is unfortunate but hopefully nothing more.

This crap only makes the news because of how retarded it is.

Re:Judge needs education regardin teh intra-web-tu (4, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848124)

Basically if someone exercises their right to free speech and anonymously posts lies about you on the internet they are a TROLL. If someone exercises their right to free speach and anonymously posts an unfortunate truth about you on the internet you will just have to live with it. It's not something that anyone needs to sue over.

If I were to anonymously, repeatedly, and convincingly (perhaps I'm a REALLY GOOD TROLL) outright state that you are a rapist and the only reason you are not in jail is because of some technicality, what recourse do you have? If it is persistent enough that it makes it to the point where you have trouble getting job interviews and acquaintances are reluctant to invite you anywhere, haven't you been genuinely harmed (assuming that it isn't true)?

I agree with you that it's easy to overreact and suing for a handful of comments (I haven't read any of them) is overboard. But that doesn't mean legal action is never valid.

Re:Judge needs education regardin teh intra-web-tu (1)

realsilly (186931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848134)

Deliberate lies in print, even on web-pages is Libel.

libel /labl/ Show Spelled [lahy-buhl] Show IPA noun, verb,-beled, -beling or (especially British) -belled, -belling.
-noun
1.Law.
a.defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.
b.the act or crime of publishing it.
c.a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.
2.anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents.

Just because someone is trolling, doesn't mean that they aren't committing Libel.

Re:Judge needs education regardin teh intra-web-tu (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848282)

If you troll hard enough that you commit slander or hate speech you are subject to the relevant laws. IP addresses are logged and can be subpoenaed. I'd have no problem with bringing trolls to account for polluting the forums.

anonymous posters order investigation of judges (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847854)

what are their motives? whois telling them what is right/wrong? they DO know the implications of not keeping track of us. too much freedom (especially freedom of speech) can be dangerous (to them?) they say. they prefer the term freedumb.

never a better time to consult with/trust in your creators, who are completely familiar with everything we do/say/think, & still manage to love/care for ALL of us. some of our behaviors relating to how we treat ourselves/each other have come into question. nothing new. get ready to change. see you there?

Unleash the Kraken! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847860)

He will ferret out those pesky free speechers hiding behind anonymous!

Anonymous "Coward" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31847876)

Try to disclose me why don't ya.

What makes them think they even keep records? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#31847968)

Seriously, maybe the forum keeps IP on file. A big maybe, just for an IP address. Real name and other info has about as much chance of being stored as Steve Ballmer switching to Slackware.

So go ahead, Mr. Forum guy. Send the judge everything you have. It'll identify them about as well as what they already have.

Crappy Summary and Links (3, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848000)

The linked article is pretty bad and the original story had the comments in question removed. I did a little Googling and the upshot is, it looks like some people made allegedly libelous comments, so the people they defamed are suing and the identities were ordered to be revealed by a judge. So, I don't really see how this is any different than a normal libel case in the US. Freedom of speech has never been an unlimited right. It ends when it infringes upon other individual rights and libel and slander laws are pretty common examples of this.

This is the most comprehensive article [metronews.ca] I found on the topic, but even it does not list any examples of the allegedly libelous comments.

Re:Crappy Summary and Links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848164)

This is very true. I don't know what the original comments were, but if they were actual libel, then the law was broken and it seems reasonable for the site to give up the identities so the law can be enforced. If it was libel, this is not the end of anonymity, it simply means the Internet is not a place where it's ok to break the law as long as you're anonymous. If you make the decision to break a law, you should expect to deal with the consequences at some point. IF the comments were legally declared to be libel.

If the comments in question are NOT actually libel, then this is certainly a scary precedent to set.

Heated Opinions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848034)

This summary is on fire.

Screw molson-munching free-speech hating kannookie (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848092)

judges ... I mean history teaches that's why We shot-the-bastards in 1776 and ran-outa town their tar+feathers puzzy *zzwhole.

"Anonymous" on the internet (4, Interesting)

DarksideDaveOR (557444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848136)

Posting anonymously on the internet is much like yelling something from the middle of a crowd. Most of the time no one cares who yells it. Even if they do, chances are they may not be able to track down the person who did the yelling. But if you're going to go out and shout things, you should be prepared for consequences (like the guy next to you decking you), even if there's a sign at the perimeter of the crowd saying "All shouting is anonymous."

If someone cares enough to track you down for posting something stupid online, and you've made it POSSIBLE to track you down (instead of using a disposable e-mail and an internet connection that doesn't link back to your name), then maybe you deserve to pay some price for your comments. Especially if there's no legal protection behind the "Post Anonymously" checkbox.

The real crime here... (4, Funny)

kaizendojo (956951) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848220)

..isn't even what's going on in the Halifax Fire Department, it's what is going in the Halifax School System as evidenced by the comments:

Erlyer this month to kids stabe a nother kid all because he would not give up his cell phone while waiting for a bus on Alderny. One of the young teens was arrested and now his mother and brother are crying fowl

Holy jumping Jesus! I know it's Canada, but seriously folks...!

Re:The real crime here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848422)

Yeah, that's really awful. The grammar and spelling anyway.

Quite ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848232)

In China, people are also "held accountable" for what they say on discussion boards and in public.

In America, it is felt justifiable to punish people socially for comments about race. In China, it is felt justifitable to punish people socially for comments about the government.

I don't see any reason why comments about race are inherently more punishworthy than comments about governments.

You have Freedom and Anonymity backwards (1)

jd.schmidt (919212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848234)

Anonymity doesn't cause Freedom, Freedom allows Anonymity. If the information exists, it is within the rights of the Judge to order it.

If there is a problem, it is that the information exists in the first place. That is what you should focus on.

Of course that might make tracking death threats a little harder, but that goes hand in hand with Anonymity.

Posts in question were removed. (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 4 years ago | (#31848402)

Frack. Nothing worse than slowing down to see the accident and the wreck has already been cleaned up. No blood stains, nothing. Lame.

Good (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31848414)

Anonymity on the internet should not be allowed.

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