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michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the why-you-need-Publius dept.

The Courts 160

acomj writes: "In a blow to "anonymous cowards" everywhere the NYTimes has a story on a court ruling anonymous speech is not a protected right. I'm a big proponent of the "consider the source" when reading anonymous posts..." The Times story covers several related cases. The typical procedure for these cases seems to be to file a suit alleging defamation, use the legal powers granted by the court to discover the identity of the speaker, then simply drop the suit and fire the speaker - the lawsuit is only a pretense. This seems like an abuse of the judicial system to me.

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Re:nytimes generic account (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#700751)

sl4shd0t sl4shd0t works for sl4shd0t

NY Times Log / PW (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#700753)

Here's a log / password for NY Times... asdfpiguy / asdfpiguy

Speech is just a sequence of ascii characters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#700754)

Critics of the ruling say it could have a chilling effect on free expression in Internet chat rooms.

Sometimes I launch my artificial intelligence bot loose on IRC. I would pay big bucks to see the face of the judge when he sees what his subpoena has uncovered!

Dammit, thought I closed that <B> tag. :P (1)

isaac (2852) | more than 13 years ago | (#700756)

Didn't mean to shout.

Re:Supreme Court Precedent (1)

grahamm (8844) | more than 13 years ago | (#700757)

Why should the identity of the writer have any bearing on whether or not the writing is libelous or defamatory?

Re:Fuck it... (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 13 years ago | (#700758)

So get a clue and create a login. It doesn't hurt. NYTimes will even remember your username and password for you - you make one up, falsify some details and bingo, you can read all the articles you like.

Or you could act childishly and live in ignorance - you seem to be doing a fine job so far.


Re:Non NYTimes link and Defamation (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 13 years ago | (#700759)

Regarding whistleblowers, in the UK there is a whistleblowers hotline - just ring a free-phone number from any phone and spill the beans. If the company has been acting illegally or contravening any of the myriad of UK and European employment laws then they'll get investigated and officially slapped.

Added to that, even if the company does find out who made the call, it's illegal for them to sack you - although you'd probably be better off looking for a new job anyway if you value things like promotions and bonuses.


Define Truth (1)

Nater (15229) | more than 13 years ago | (#700762)

It used to be the philosophy of some ancient Athenian Greeks that the truth was anything one could convince someone else of. In many ways that's a fact today as well, regardless of whether people admit it.

Suppose I say Nasty Statement X about CEO Joe Sixpack of Acme, Inc. and his company. I wouldn't have said X if I didn't think X was true. However Mr. Sixpack was rather annoyed that I revealed X for whatever reason and since Acme was involved, he billed the corporate lawyers (not like his own were as cheap as mine, anyway). So here we are in court "discussing" Nasty Statement X and Mr. Sixpack wins for Acme. Because he and his corporate lapdogs proved (read: convinced) a judge or a jury or whoever that X was false, when in fact I said it in truth.

Is this not a possible scenario? Is it unlikely? No and not really. Considering the mass of wealth, influence, and "credibility" that has gilded the upper escelon of the corporate world in particular and the value they place on not having certain facts revealed... It's pretty fucking likely.

Now, finally, is this definition of truth not what certain Athenians believed during the time of the ancient Greek democracy?

Re:Throw away accounts (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 13 years ago | (#700763)

... if [you] really want to engage in what is considered in the U.S. to be defamatory ...

You can hide all you want, but you cannot escape responsibility for your actions. You have the right to free speech, but you cannot walk all over the rights of others.

Of course, the best strategy is to always speak the truth.

Shouting in a crowd vs. the net (1)

sunF (40105) | more than 13 years ago | (#700765)

if you shout a horrible statement in a crowd should a lawsuit be allowed? now, since there did happen to be a news camera with a mike that caught you? you are no longer anonymous, stupidity is no excuse from the law ;]
perhaps we should just install cameras with mikes everywhere, just in case a terrorist is talking about doing something evil somewhere.

i like to consider posting anonymously or yelling in a crowd with slightly modified apperance (a bandana) as being ok, and legal. i believe within the creation of the US this has always been true. without freedom of anonymous speech there is always the fear of reprocussions from differing views.

the problem is when you begin talking about harm. the corp should see harm before harm effects them. a good manager tends to find an external source to the problem. if kellogs sales are down recently, why not blame exxon for using a tiger? that explains why the excessive expenses of marketing are costing corps millions more than employees or equipment. i shouldn't say corp names w/o posting anonymously? but if i did post anon, would it matter now?

Non NYTimes link and Defamation (1)

gizmo_mathboy (43426) | more than 13 years ago | (#700767)

First off, Yahoo has the article&l t;/A> as well. []

What surprised me in the ruling (from what is so far available at NYT and Yahoo) was that it wasn't determined whether or not the remarks were defamation or not. I don't know if ALL anonymous speech should be allowed, but there has to be conditions when it should be allowed.

Where do whistleblowers go? What about employees that want to tell others of the working condition at their job? What about anyone that just wants to rant?

I find it irresponsible of the judge not to consider if the speech was inappropiate or not. I find this especially interestin since I've just about finished Lessig's "Code: and other laws of cyberspace". A must read for anyone that wants to understand how the future of the internet and other technologies might be determined.

Re:Hacking the Legal System (1)

Obadusni (54715) | more than 13 years ago | (#700768)

The question, though, is, "How can you defend what you say and still protect your anonymity?" You can't.

If you really want to be anonymous, you have to make sure that no one can trace what you say to you. This could be difficult. Or, you have to make sure that someone along the trail you leave (ISP's, newspaper publishers, etc.) are willing to defend what you say and your right to anonymity for you.

So, if you really want to say something anonymously, you can. You just have to make sure you really are anonymous (and don't expect the law to help you out on that one).

Re:Non NYTimes link and Defamation (1)

hussar (87373) | more than 13 years ago | (#700771)

You make a good point about the remarks not being first ruled as defamation. That fact would seem to me to be essential to any ruling to subpoena the identities of the poster. Without a judgement that an injury has occurred, how can you legally search for someone that caused the non-injury. In effect, they are being denounced (and potentially punished) for a "crime" that did not occur.



Expectation of accountability (1)

hussar (87373) | more than 13 years ago | (#700772)

Anyone who posts online should have an expectation that he or she could be called on to defend what they have written. Just because what a person writes is posted on the Internet somewhere shouldn't give it any special priveleges in comparison to, for example, a letter to the editor or any other public pronouncement. That the courts could be used to find anonymous posters so that they can be fired, does at first glance seem to be an abuse. But, the posters should also not post without expecting that they can be held accountable for what they write. Anonymity is, in any case, an illusion supported by the tradeoff between the damage done by the statement made and the amount of resources the injured party is willing to spend to find out who caused the injury.



Re:If anonymity is the cause of repeated stories.. (1)

Paradise_Pete (95412) | more than 13 years ago | (#700773)

This is why I see no value in ACs

Whadaya mean? They're worth eleven.

(Or one, if eleven would put you over 21.)


Re:Protect The Weak (1)

Paradise_Pete (95412) | more than 13 years ago | (#700774)

I didn't say it was a nice thing to swallow, but it is probably in this case the best thing

Once you give it up you don't get it back. So, you can resist and resist and resist, but if eventually you shrug your shoulders and say "well, this time I guess it's ok..." then that's one more bit of freedom you've surrendered, until one you realize you've none left to give. And then it's too damn late.


Re:So even this path is blocked. (1)

Paradise_Pete (95412) | more than 13 years ago | (#700775)

That's pretty good.


Re:What the? (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 13 years ago | (#700776)

Whats the difference?

Here is my problem wih this.

Alice has a problem with her employer, Bob's Widgets. She posts something on slashdot anonymously complaining about them.

Now, it might be defamation. It might not. Thats for a court to decide right?

Well so Bob's Widgets brings a lawsuit charging defamation. BEFORE they can rule on whether Alice is guilty of defamation they must first identify who she is (using the powers of the court), so she can provide a defense.

Now Alice is exposed. Whether or not what she said was defamitory. So even if it was ruled that she was within her rights to say what she said, her anonimity has been compromised - and Bob's can now take action against her (termination probably) at any time.

So how exactly does this "protect" "Anonymous Free Speech"?


Re:Blablabla (1)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 13 years ago | (#700778)

Well of course ACs have an effect. Without it, why would anyone post anything as AC, or live for that matter? You can't live without having an effect, and if ACs should never have an effect, they'd all have to be dead/nonexistent. The logics don't add up well. You might as well defend having to wear ID-tags and be recorded wherever you go, abolishing cash because it's anonymous!

Why is it that you think impressions and ideas are somehow dangerous just because you can't establish their origins? Anonymous discussions allows for freedom of prejudice and fear of reprivals. It's an essential "right" in a democratic society that many powerful people want to get away with. Not because they want to protect people, but because they want to stay in power.

You are correct that I'm gossiping here, something I've underscored with my title of the post. This means I might be incorrect at some issues, but you can be incorrect after heavy in-dept analysis too. Ever played chess? People who play fast games learn the game faster and better than those who analyse for hours something they don't truly understand / see patterns _for themselves_ anyways. So it doesn't necessarily mean that AC had any special control over me by his nasty "impressions". I'm not saying he wasn't trolling or something like that though, I only got the words and my experience to judge from.

I didn't even notice I replied to an AC, but I noticed there were some ACes in the discussion. I judge their post on the merits of their words, which when free of goatsex-links, may be pretty reasonable.

In general _I_ have to judge the words people post, nobody should be able to convince me to believe anything just because they're rich, famous and powerful. You have to evaluate every word, especially from so-called trusted sources. If people fail to realize that, they're sheep who has it coming to them until they do.

Basically, the reason there are so much wars and struggle in the world is because people don't stand up for themselves. They think that just picking the right leader to follow will solve all their problems. In this light, I have much respect for people who refuse to play ball with governments and corporations, even when they're wrong.

The only right leader is yourself.

- Steeltoe

Blablabla (1)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 13 years ago | (#700779)

What credibility does an anonymous poster have? None. None whatsoever. Thus, applying defamation and libel laws to anonymous speech is clearly an overstep by the legal entities.

Your talk about responsibility is without any logical strain of thought at all (sounds like a bad copy from something you heard on TV). If you are granted anonymous speech, how can you have responsibility for what you say? True anonymity should allow you to say whatever you like, but people shouldn't generally believe you. Even if they can track you down, for you're not saying those things in public in -your own person-. I think there should also be the option of filtering out anonymous speech, making it a personal decision to view all the goatsex-links or not. ;-)

One thing is to be defamed or slandered by someone famous and credible, quite another by Anonymous. People don't need protection from this, they need to be educated in how to use and understand the internet. Education will free the people, laws like this will repress them into staying clueless AOL lusers.

For those who think that really free speech is harmful, consider how harmful the absence of free speech can be. The libel/slander laws are not that different from being put in prison for political views. Any company may claim huge losses for whatever you say about them in public, and if they're legal entities shouldn't these laws apply to companies too?

- Steeltoe

Re:Educate newbies, don't castrate everyone else.. (1)

Sir_Winston (107378) | more than 13 years ago | (#700780)

Ho-hum, a flame based on one misplaced word in a 659-line USENET post. I'm absolutely crushed. Clearly, in my haste in trying to complete such a lengthy discourse in time to participate in my *life*, something a troll such as yourself clearly lacks, I said "incredulous" instead of "incredible." If you look closely, you'll also discover such horrible secrets as my numerous typos.

Oh, and I wasn't bragging about my linguistic abilities--although my girlfriend *does* say I give great French lessons--I was pointing out the irony that someone as articulate as he was, was articulating a viewpoint based on a false definition of "anonymous."

Now, I'll go back to giving my girlfriend those French lessons, my friend. You--and your hand--can go slither back under whatever trollish rock you call home. ;-)

John Locke... (1)

TCiecka (108224) | more than 13 years ago | (#700781)

John Locke would roll over in his grave if he heard this. His treatise on government (which is the basis for a large amount of democratic theory) would have been unprotected if published today. Can you honestly deny the right of the people to speak their mind about government without fear of injury? Specifically, John Locke would have been executed if the king of Britain had determined his true identity, his revolutionary words were against the very basis of a monarchy based goverment. Does this new ruling mean that we as citizens are losing the right to criticize our own goverment without fear of retribution?

Yes! A Fact /. Needs to Hear! (1)

J. Chrysostom (125843) | more than 13 years ago | (#700784)

Yea, the 9th amendment gives you the right, but what most people fail to realize is that rights do not exist in vacuo. Rights are irreducibly tied to responsibilities -- you cannot have rights without responsibilities.

Thank you Dr. Tom! I'm always glad to see someone telling things like they are, when the majority of posters completely disagree. This idea of the tying of rights and responsibilities is also related to the concept of natural law --- that certain laws are natural products of humn social interaction, and thus cannot be disregarded.

For your reading pleasure, I give you a quote from Pope John XXIII:

For every fundamental human right draws its indestructable moral force from international law, which in granting it imposes a corresponding obligation.
Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) 1963

There's always delayed forwarding by freenet posts (1)

sanemind (155251) | more than 13 years ago | (#700789)

People could always post their message's, with addressees, to some distributed cryptographic storage medium like freenet or whatever may come along to outcompete it on merit. Then, some noble altruist offering the service could post them all in batches. Sort of a slow anonymous remailer, with the remailer having no way of even knowing the IP address of the originator.

Re:People need the government's help here (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 13 years ago | (#700790)

Anne Marie wrote:
There, two men are being prosecuted for obscenity because they've used computers to create realistic snuff films portraying fabricated and fictitious violence
Ah, so in Canada they have 3D rendering software that's so good that it can make people and scenes indisinguishable from the real things. Wow! I can't wait to see Toy Story 3!

If, on the other hand, you only mean to imply that computers were used as video production systems-- editors and video recorders, than what is your point in including "used computers?" A Macintosh with iMovie or a couple of BVU-850's or VO-5850's (yeah, those are very old 3/4" VTRs, but I've been out of the biz for a while!)-- they accomplish the same thing. I don't see the connection of computers to video in this case.

If on the other hand you mean only to speak of the content of their production, well that's different. One poster already said that perhaps these guys should cite the rest of the movie industry as doing similar things. Certianly Quinten Taratino could find himself on similar legal grounds if he went to Canada. I'm sure that Pulp Fiction got a much larger audience than anything these two guys could muster.

She then goes on to say:

Without government intervention to declare these films false and criminal, people might think them real and might act upon the impulses generated by viewing them.
Here we go again. Big momma Washington is going to tuck us in and make it all better.

First of all, of course these films are "false!" Just about everything you see in any movie is "false." Do you think that the stunts performed in Mission: Impossible 2 were "true?" If real people really did the things portrayed in movies today, they'd die. No government told me this. I don't need a social worker to remind me that it's "only make-believe." To single out one movie, even one of such infinitely bad taste, is a bit of a straw man, isn't it?

How can a photograph be criminal? A photograph? A photograph might be classified in order to guard national security, but I find it difficult to imagine how a simple photograph, no matter what its content, could in itself be criminal. Has it been doctored and is, therefore, libelous or slander?

Secondly, we already have a system in place to handle people that "act upon the impulses generated by viewing" this movie. It's called the criminal justice system. People that do bad things go to jail. Or worse. No new laws or systems are required to handle this new situation.

Again, she continues:

It's the same with anonymous speech.
Oh, wow. You're now saying that producing anonymous speech is equivalent to producing make-believe snuff films? Now that really is bizarre. I really am not sure what to say.
But it's a natural part of human nature to assess anonymous speech with some value when ranking memes.
Uh, isn't that the "consider the source" idea? Reading something posted anonymously causes me to read more critically. Why were they posting anonymously? Could they get in trouble for speaking thusly? Is what they are writing only to insult or inflame? Do they merely want to praise the virtues of warm breakfast food? :)



Re:Anonymity vs Free Speech (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 13 years ago | (#700792)

Yeah, and I guess that those three founding fathers who wrote the Federalist Papers anonymously were irresponsible dirtbags.

You idiots and your talk of "responsibility" just sound like a bunch of whiny Republicans. Funny thing is, you talk so much about it because you are the very same people who knocked up their girlfriends, snorted coke, and drove drunk. Now you are "older and wiser" and can preach your responsiblilty bullshit to the rest of us, right? Anyway, this crap about "responsibility" has nothing to do with the argument at hand.

More importantly, what you really fail to realize is that the crucial part of this story is that people's anonymity can be stripped away without them even acting irresponsibly! A person could say something perfectly truthful and sincere, but the offended party could claim that it wasn't and then, through the courts, expose that person's identity and destroy them (in the case of the NYT article it would mean the person's job.) This puts the kabosh on truthful free speech too.

The companys that use such tactics to silence truthful individuals are the very fucking definition of irresponsible!

Re:Anonymity vs Free Speech (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 13 years ago | (#700793)

"You shouldn't have to have anonymity to be immune to a corporation destroyihng you..."

Yeah, bud, but this is where your argument runs right into the wall of reality. In an ideal world we could speak the truth without fear of reprisal. Unfortunatley, speaking the truth can get you fucked. That's why anonymity is important.

"'re hiding behind anonymity because you lack the real rights."

I'd argue this point but I don't even know what the hell you are trying to say. What are you talking about not having "real rights"?

Re:Net should remain as it is (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 13 years ago | (#700794)

What you don't seem to get dude is that I do have the right to be anonymous without the fucking internet. I could go to Kinko's and print out 6,000 flyers spewing out nonsense about some corporate honcho (as long as it wasn't libelous) and pay some kid (maybe you) to go hand them out for me and tell him not to tell anyone where he got them from. Guess what? No one could force him to tell them!

Thruth is not anonymous (1)

irjvik (167361) | more than 13 years ago | (#700795)

When you're telling the Thruth, it never hurts to write its name.
That's called Free Speech I think...
A Corp can sue a few individuals, but if they're right, the Corp will suffer enough income losses to forget them.
Please remember :
- Democraty == power to the people
- Corporate Republic == power to the Corporations.
Choose your lifestyle.


Speech and Anonymity... (1)

MPCM (171133) | more than 13 years ago | (#700796)

Freedom of speech is protected. The difference is the right to remain anonymous if you speak anonymously.
No one said you couldn't have freedom of speech, they just said you can't do it anonymously (which I don't like either).

Re:Protect The Weak (1)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 13 years ago | (#700797)

Your metaphor is AWFUL. It kind of reminds me of that scene in Cryptonomicon where the acedemia guy says, "On the information superhighway, who will have access to the on-ramps?" and Randy screams, "The information superhighway is a fucking metaphor!"

I've never seen slippery slope arguments to hold water anyway. Like, "This guy says we shouldn't give kids allowances! If we don't stop him soon, we'll be legalizing child abuse and pretty soon we'll be cooking our own newborn children and eating them with ranch dressing!"

Maybe that's a ridiculous example, but I don't think it's a hell of a lot more ridiculous than "If Vietnam becomes communist, soon England and then the U.S. will follow suit! Why? Well, it's a slippery slope!"

Anonymous speech should be a protected right. (1)

The Evil Beaver (175641) | more than 13 years ago | (#700798)

With the way people and orginizations (including governments) come down on people who speak out against them, even though these people have every right to do so, it is unfair and thoroughly evil not to protect anonymous speech. If we have freedom of expression, then why are there libel and slander laws? People will want anonymity if they wish to defame someone, which, under freedom of expression, is their right if they feel that such defamation is justified.

nytimes generic account (1)

aint (183045) | more than 13 years ago | (#700804)

slashdot needs a nytimes acount so we all can use it and be 'anonymous'.

-- .sig --

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#700805)

Yes they will. Just create multiple throw-away accounts, one pointing to the other (Yahoo mail confirmation goes to Excite mail account, which then gets thrown away). If you do it right, the only thing anyone can find is the IP address you used - of course, that's something that can always be traced, so don't use this to do any securities fraud.

Anonymity is something to be guarded (1)

Syllepsis (196919) | more than 13 years ago | (#700807)

Obviously, a truly anonymous posting is immune to this sort of litigation. People should be more concerned with the services they use, as these posts cannot be considered anonymous if AOL or Yahoo can trace their point of origination.

These court descisions show that a corporate entity can be forced by the govt to break what anonymity a user thought was secured. A bigger question is will it be made illegal to communicate anonymously?

In order to communicate with true anonimity over the internet, the IP address must not be present at the receiving end, making the protocol ill designed for anonymity. Although expoiting wingates can overcome this, telnetting in and out is clumsy, especially for the web. Perhaps someone could set up a service to forward forms to specific web servers, w/o logging the user IP. This could allow anonymous web postings, but it is questionable whether the govt would allow it to exist.

If you wish to communicate anonymously, you must make sure that the origination point of the message has been properly lost. On the other hand, should it be legal for services to lull people into a false sense of anonymity?

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (1)

BalkanBoy (201243) | more than 13 years ago | (#700810)

Mixmaster remailers 'guarantee' virtual anonymity. Private Idaho is one of these programs that utilize cypherpunks at or


Whistleblowers (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 13 years ago | (#700811)

In the past, you could send an anonymous letter exposing what a company or the government is doing. This is necessary for accountability because people can "blow the whistle" without fear of retribution, which history shows can be quite severe, thus our current ineffective whistleblower laws.

You also can publish a book anonymously.

Some are simply hoping that these rights can be removed from the new electronic media before a history there is firmly established.

Re:Protect The Weak (1)

yasth (203461) | more than 13 years ago | (#700812)

First, I am not a troll.

Seccond I didn't say it was a nice thing to swallow, but it is probably in this case the best thing, and as for slippery slopes, well what more can be done than to slide done, climb out and repeat until there is no more mud left?

It is not about Anonymous Coward (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 13 years ago | (#700814)

As I read though the information, it reads not as "Anonymous Coward" be where, but "Every One" be where.

If some "handle" (like mine: jackb_guppy) can not be identified with a real person in a click or two, then any trumped up charge will get access to your information.

So the fall back will be sites like /. to display all information about each poster when ever someone clicks on a User Information button, this will save time and money. Then with a little coding - all your information is loaded in to spam mail program or your credit report.

Is not technology helpful?

Re:Hacking the Legal System (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 13 years ago | (#700815)

US corporations are *bound* by all sorts of rights. In fact, AFAIK they are bound by *exactly* the same responsibilities that bind a private citizen. They have to pay taxes. They have to abide by their contracts. They have to exercise due care in their dealings.

And while a rich corporation may ruin someone's life without consequence, so can a rich person. If it's just a bad deal, then it isn't murder. If it is murder--well, the corporation gets raped as the gov't searches for the murderers.

BTW, if you don't think that you have the right to manipulate the legal system to the full extent of your ability to do so, would you mind voting for who I tell you to? I mean, since you're not using it anyway... (Yay, flamebait!)

Re:Whistleblowers (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 13 years ago | (#700816)

And in all cases, if there is a breach of duty (civil or criminal) then you are compelled to come forward.

A anonymous letter is just a "tip off", and doesn't mean anything. You'll be *LUCKY* if they even read it.

An anonymous book is made by a deal with a publisher.

*ELECTRONIC* anonyminity is something else entirely--the scale is simply far above the acceptable limit, and the "right" has been abused to the point of absurdity.

First Amdendment, my friend (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 13 years ago | (#700817)


Yes, anonymnity is a great shield when there is an oppression against new ideas.

However, this should only go far enough to get those ideas read--no more.

Why? Becasue we have the First Amendment, which binds the US Congress (and through, IIRC, the 14th all the states) to not make any laws restricting the expression of the people.

The rationale of hiding from the government is wrong... and the rationale of hiding your identity is still valid, as the act of anyomnity is still legal...

but it isn't a protected right, and can be pierced by those wondering if someone has violated a legal and binding agreement in which they voluntarily renounced some part of their first amendment right.

Military types are bound by contract (among other things) against speaking about secrets, which is a repression of the 1st but a voluntary one. High-paid employees may very well have done the same, and should be bound by that agreement until a court rules their contract void/voidable for some act of the corporation.

Trust the courts; if you don't, you've either got to trust a herd or a politician, or no one at all!

Take the 5th (1)

CukO (215293) | more than 13 years ago | (#700823)

Well I guess Anonymous Cowards should "take the 5th" and not say anything.

Re:Hacking the Legal System (1)

Alley Viper (223881) | more than 13 years ago | (#700824)

It depends.

If a "reasonable" person could believe that your billboard was correct, then you could be sued for libel in the United States (see the Falwell vs. Hustler decision).

Free speech, as much as a lot of people hate to admit, is NOT a boundless right.

Re:you know (1)

Alley Viper (223881) | more than 13 years ago | (#700825)

Take the Federalist Papers... written by no less than three different people, all using the pseudonym "Publius."

However... (1)

xonix7 (227592) | more than 13 years ago | (#700826)

...once anonymous speech is banned by some kind of forced ID on users sending messages/communications on the internet, how will it make a difference whether the person is slandering/libeling or simply sending a message that is counter-culture? You can't selectively ban anonymous speech. It doesn't work that way.

Re:Net should remain as it is (1)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700828)

You have a good point about culture, and I will admit that there are definitely good and bad sides to anonymity. However, I think that human culture has existed for a long time in all its richness without everyone being anonymous in everyday conversation, and that the anonymity itself doesn't add this culture you're talking about. If people have the right to not fear retribution of any sort (true free speech, which is what I'm suggesting should be the issue) without being anonymous, this will all survive.

Re:Whistleblowers (1)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700829)

without fear of retribution

What I am saying here, is that the right we should defend, is the right to do that without fear of retribution without needing to resort to anonymity. Until then, channels should exist for this. True free speech however, is the real issue, because with it, anonymity isn't needed, and without it, anonymity doesn't stand a chance as an actual right, and will become something we achieve through technical means as a last stand.

Re:Net should remain as it is (1)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700830)

I would like to use your comment as an example of a case where anonymity is pointless.

Your post is well thought out, contributes to the discussion, and is an honest opinion. Why not attach your name to it?

I suppose it's not actually a real name on slashdot, it's an identity created for this particular virtual environment. All it really means is that you can tie my posts with earlier posts and there is a somewhat consistent entity that appears to be posting all these. So I suppose I may be missing a point which is what is anonymity really? Anyways, I wouldn't have a problem with posting these under my real name. Although, I wouldn't want anyone to be biased against me because of who I really am, but then isn't that the right I say I'm fighting for? To not have any prejudice against me despite all knowledge of my "real" self? Yes.

Okay, then. Just to establish the real point is to be able to have all the rights associated with anonymity, without needing the anonymity itself.

This is really some odd philosophical rambling written as I think each thought and not edited but posted for the general consumption of slashdot in case anyone cares to respond and contribute...feel free to ignore it.

Patrick Carlisle

Re:Anonymity vs Free Speech (1)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700833)

First, to contradict your first paragraph, I'm 17 and consider myself liberal. Now that that's out the window...

What you people don't realize, is that you're hiding behind anonymity because you lack the real rights. You shouldn't have to have anonymity to be immune to a corporation destroying you because you have a truthful and sincere disagreement. This is what I am saying.

And yes, I completely agree with you on your last line. These companies are incredibly irresponsible. If I could vote....I'd have really crappy choices. Damn, so much for that.

Re:What the? (1)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700834)

Well the article said that ISPs have to give the information out revealing people's identity.
Complete anonymity on the internet is a myth unless you really know what you're doing. The information is always somewhere.

So even this path is blocked. (1)

ishrat (235467) | more than 13 years ago | (#700836)

Now where does an unhappy employee go if he is unhappy? This seemed the only way to let out the steam. Remember that long post from an employee of slashdot. By the way, did slash also resort to something similar?

Re:Irrelevant Ruling 1, Intrinsic Anonymity 0 (1)

Zedi Knight (235950) | more than 13 years ago | (#700837)

True, But do you really think that the government gives a flying fuck about the open source movement?

Governments don't like people to have anonymity, it makes them hard to control(regulate)

Re:Protect The Weak (1)

JurriAlt137n (236883) | more than 13 years ago | (#700838)

So, my dear troll, because there are a few morons let's treat everybody as a moron?

Other Troll: No, my dear anonymous coward, because the majority of the world's population can be considered morons we treat everybody that way.

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (1)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#700839)

So you're advocating security-through-obscurity, then? That's certainly contrary to prevailing slashdot wisdom.

Re:Throw away accounts (1)

Throw Away Account (240185) | more than 13 years ago | (#700840)

Hey, thanks for the endorsement! Now can you get the moderators to mod me up?

Re:What the? (1)

Throw Away Account (240185) | more than 13 years ago | (#700841)

There are anonymizing services out there that don't keep logs. Using several to access each other gives you a trail that at best will be impossible to reconstruct (because the data doesn't exist) and at worst will take months to trace back to the public library terminal you used.

Lamers will perish under their own lamitude(?) (1)

GeneralEmergency (240687) | more than 13 years ago | (#700842)

If a company you work for is so uptight and controlling that they will actually use lawyers to HUNT YOU DOWN you probably didn't really want to stay working there anyway.

And more to the point, this is a company that will fail in the market place, especially once /. pubs the story and NOMORE infotech peeps will interview with them.

"A microprocessor... is a terrible thing to waste." --

If you want to be anonymous... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#700844)

Use Freedom by zeroknowledge. They are even starting a linux beta within the next week or two. They can't come after you, because even the company itself cannot find out who you are.

one little problem (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#700845)

There can be no trust without disclosure.

Large numbers of dissidents in dictatorships have been trying to get their message across - an effort that sometimes costs their freedom and lives. I'm sure they would wholeheartedly agree with you, if they only could.

anonymous speech in countries such as china is a tool feared by the govt., and they have been trying hard to crack down on it. Recently the Chinese authorities jailed a dissident for anonymously sending out email addresses of possible dissidents. I'm sure they share your ideals and would give you a pat on the back. :)

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (2)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 13 years ago | (#700851)

So you're advocating security-through-obscurity, then? That's certainly contrary to prevailing slashdot wisdom.

"security through obscurity" actually has a meaning that you might want to look up. Hint: it has nothing to do with what you're commenting on.


Anonymous or not anonymous, that is the question (2)

Schoos (4736) | more than 13 years ago | (#700852)

I don't like the thought of having to submit my personal data every time I create an account for sites like /., or to get the wheather forecast, or a news digest, or whatever, simply because of the reason that I don't know what they are doing with my data.

On the other hand, when take part in discussions like here on /., or the German "Heise Newsticker",
I use my name (ok, here it is a nick name, its a bit older, this account), because I want everyone to know that it is me how says/writes these things.

The right of Free Speech is meant for those who want to stand up and say "Hey, there is something wrong with ..." and they shouldn't fear the power of the gouvernment afterwards, because it dislikes this oppinion. Also, your neighbour or anyone else can't get you sentenced for saying that he has done something bad, if it's true (As you see, the right of Free Speech doesn't include the right do lie). And if everything is true, then you can speak with your name, for yourself. That is what our ancesters have fought for.

But (a but has to come now): I can understand people that want to be anonymous towards the public, and that people should be allowed to post
here or elsewhere in an anonymized way: the owner of the web site must know the editor of an article, but does not need to give away the data about him, except in serious cases, like it is with journalists today.

And this would prevent a lot of flamebaits, offences, and work for getting the data about the editor from the various log files.

Re:If anonymity is the cause of repeated stories.. (2)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 13 years ago | (#700853)

If I got an anonymous death threat? I'd pass it onto the Police and probably do little more. If I thought I knew what it might be regarding I might decide to modify my behavour, but otherwise I would treat an anonymous death threat as a bluff or hoax. Basically I'm not going to let someone else make me live in fear for the price of a postage stamp. They have to put more effort into it than that.

Re:The key problem with this ruling... (2)

Cire LePueh (26571) | more than 13 years ago | (#700857)

I think we will find that this gets overturned, precisely because of the whistleblower scenario and the recent (relatively speaking -1995) judgements refered to in the post by Effugas. I wonder however, how much the court composition has changed, and how this will fare in todays climate at the Supreme Court level? Any Supreme Court watchers out there care to render an opinion?

Re:People need the government's help here (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 13 years ago | (#700858)

There, two men are being prosecuted for obscenity because they've used computers to create realistic snuff films portraying fabricated and fictitious violence (not that normal porn isn't violent enough as it is),

The obvious defence for them to use would be to list every film and television company in Canada, these companies have produced plenty of portrayals of violence.

Without government intervention to declare these films false and criminal, people might think them real and might act upon the impulses generated by viewing them.

These being the same people who think there are imortals running around chopping each other's heads off with swords?

Re:Protect The Weak (2)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 13 years ago | (#700865)

The best protection is to warn people of the obvious dangers of strangers on-line. We teach children not to trust strangers, we don't lock them up in a closet for their own good. Now its time to teach adults not to trust strangers. Its a simple lesson that can be easily understood by even the lowiest technophobe.

No fancy legislation required.

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (2)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 13 years ago | (#700866)

Make sure to get one of those magical international subpeonas. The key word here was off-shore.

Re:Anonymity vs Free Speech (2)

dsplat (73054) | more than 13 years ago | (#700867)

Anonymity is not equal to free speech. Anonymity just gives you an excuse to shrug off all responsibility for what you say and, in the case of the internet, do.

I recommend a book that refutes this argument in detail: The Unwanted Gaze : The Destruction of Privacy in America by Jeffrey Rosen. He points out that much of what we do depends on an expectation of privacy. What matters is that we may be watched. It alters our behavior. We avoid activities that might draw the disapproval of our neighbors, even though our neighbors have no legitimate interest in those activities.

You can create a hotmail address with just an IP (2)

EyesOfNostradamus (75825) | more than 13 years ago | (#700868)

It doesn't ask for any other E-mail address when you register (at least it didn't last time I created a hotmail account). Which means that you can create that hotmail account through an anonymizing Web proxy, or from a "pay cash" cybercafe, or from one of those free and unattended "Internet kiosks" that you find in supermarket, without leaving any identifying info at all. Once you have an e-mail address, this opens you the door to lots of other services which require a verified address.

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (2)

Johnath (85825) | more than 13 years ago | (#700871)

Not if one engages in the 'extra work' the poster alludes to. Consider creating a hushmail account (no IP information attached or logged) from an internet cafe, and using that to sign up for the hypothetical 'offshore account'.

Within a few months there will probably be a more direct way through HavenCo's sealand facility. You just know that within their first month of full-tilt business, someone is going to buy some rackspace and sell anonymous shell access by the barrelfull. You can bet that said privacy activist won't hand over the logs willfully, and it's hard to subpeona sealand - even if international law rejects their sovereign status, it would be a far uglier process than most anonymous flaming would justify, I'm sure.

And of course, while we're at it, the internet cafe is rather superfluous anyhow - anonymizing proxies, bless their souls, exist by the dozen now, and even more numerous are the misconfured wingates and squid proxies of the world that leave no logs and ask no questions.



Re:Blablabla (2)

hussar (87373) | more than 13 years ago | (#700872)

You are assuming away any effect anonymous posters have, but they do, in fact, have an effect on the discussion. The fact that what you wrote was in response to an Anonymous Coward indicates that you thought AC's comments were at least credible enough to be commented on.
There is also the effect that comes from people passing on their impressions on an issue that they came by by simply scanning the tenor of comments rather than by any in-depth analysis. This could be referred to as a "gossip effect."


Re:Supreme Court Precedent (2)

ecampbel (89842) | more than 13 years ago | (#700874)

You are misstating the impact of this decision. The court is not banning anonymous speech. The decision merely reinforces previous case law that has determined that defamation of character (slander/libel) is an exception to free speech.

Slandourous accusations have never been protected by the First Amendment. If I were to level untrue accusations against you, your family or the company you work for should that speech be protected based solely on the fact that I posted the accusations anonymously? The law should not change depending on whether speech is anonymous or not. Either way slanderous speech is illegal and the victims of the speech should have the opportunity to confront those making the untrue speech.

I do agree that it is a little scary that a court can grant a subpoena to ferret out the identity of an anonymous poster without any proof that the poster's speech is indeed defamation. However, I would imagine that often speech could not be proved slanderous unless the identity of the speaker is known. A judge should have some discretion in determining if the accuser's charge is substantial enough to warrant taking away the anonymity of the poster.

Read the article, only affects slander/libel (2)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 13 years ago | (#700878)

Of course anonymous speech should be held to the same standards as a publicly known speaker. Slander, Libel, and insighting violence, etc. are all exceptions as we know.

Well according to the article on Excite [] the ruling only affects defamation of character which is (slander/libel) and is already an exception to free speech.

Second Law of Blissful Ignorance

you know (2)

nomadic (141991) | more than 13 years ago | (#700880)

What's interesting is the "founding fathers" of the US did themselves write under pseudonyms occasionally.

Reasons for some of these suits. (2) (142825) | more than 13 years ago | (#700882)

The Boston globe talked about this [] back in 1999. There are some reasons for dropping it, but many of the cases are used to get the identity of the user. If you are accusing someone of violating a non-disclosure, but then find out that this person is not covered by it. Or if you accuse someone of employment harassment and find out that they are not an employee of the company.

But in many cases, companies use this to get the identity of the user and then fire them.

This is a thin line. Where do we place it?

People must take responsibility for what they post.

We are all to be barcoded and watched by satellite.

Fuck it... (2)

blixel (158224) | more than 13 years ago | (#700883)

If I can't just click on an "article" hyperlink and read the article, it's not worth it. I haven't read 1 single NYT post yet.

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (2)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 13 years ago | (#700884)

Each step along that trail can be subpoenaed, which is what's being discussed here.

Not if you plug six laptop computers into a public phone bank like in the movie Hackers!

Re:Hacking the Legal System (2)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 13 years ago | (#700885)

No, the Bill of Rights does require responsibility

I have the right to a gun. I have the responsibility to use it only for defense.

Your rights end where mine begin. And vice versa

Re:Well, duh (2)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 13 years ago | (#700886)

You missed a couple of points

It's not THAT hard for /.'er For the average internet user though?

So the communications get tracked to the owner of the server(you), who promptly gets subpenoaed for the records. If they don't exist, there is a chance that you might be held responsible

Re:Throw away accounts (2)

plumby (179557) | more than 13 years ago | (#700887)

Of course, the best strategy is to always speak the truth.

Is it?

Have you heard about the McLibel [] case?

The truth is often irrelevant in libel allegations. If you made a statement, however factual, about a multinational corporation, and they threatened to sue you for libel if you didn't retract it, would you be prepared to spend years, and large sums of money, single handledly attempting to prove the allegations against the full force of their lawyers, and facing huge fines if you lost? Or would you just quietly give in?

And could you guarantee to be able to PROVE that everything that you said was true? In a libel case, it's up to you to prove that they are true, not for the prosecution to prove that they are false. In the McLibel case, many of the original statements made by the defendant were proved to be true (as far as the judge was concerned), and non of the others were proved to false. Yet they lost the case.

If you don't want to get sued, the best strategy is normally to not say anything bad, truthful or not, about anyone with more money than you.

Re:If anonymity is the cause of repeated stories.. (2)

BalkanBoy (201243) | more than 13 years ago | (#700888)

So essentially, if you got an anonymous death threat, since you have no way of verifying its authenticity or source, you can not trust it. Hypothetically, two days later, someone runs you over with his car. You're now dead. Was the threat unreal this time around because it had no verifiable source at the time you read it?


Protect The Weak (2)

yasth (203461) | more than 13 years ago | (#700889)

This protects those who can't determine what is anonymous, and what isn't. While in the real world it is quite possible to ignore the anonymous scrawls in the bathroom stall, in the digital world the anonymous person can scrawl in big letters on a billboard, for all to see, and in many cases only differentiated from the identified posts by the attribution.

The experienced user does not have trouble with this, but those who are still not completely used to the Internet's style can't tell the differnce. And, with the sole differnece between moderator and anonymous poster generally being a short thing to the side in small font it can be difficult to tell who is real. The rulling may not be the most palatable one, but it is probably best for the majority of the population.

The Soviet way of thinking (2)

w00ly_mammoth (205173) | more than 13 years ago | (#700890)

This point is basically made so often it's remarkable. Basically - if you are not guilty, you have nothing to hide, so you need have no fear of disclosing.

This principle was/is used by govts. with an authoritarian bent to intrude into all areas of private life, property and communication. Let's try applying these principles.

* If you earn an honest income, why should you hide it from the income tax officials? People shouldn't be free to just walk to an ATM and anonymously deposit/withdraw money or transfer it overseas in complete privacy - it could be illegal money.

* If you lead an honest life, there's no need to hide behind the anonymity of your private doors. Why, in good societies like the old communist regimes, people DID lead honest lives, which is why they didn't mind officials walking in to make sure everything was OK. It brought responsibility back into the system. Recently, the Russian govt. has been trying to pass a law that permits officials to look at all internet communications - the tapping would be live, but they would actually look at material only after approval by a judge. Makes sense, since people won't post crap online.

* If you conduct all your telephone conversations and correspondence responsibly and legally, you have nothing to fear from people tapping/reading into it. With the right to mail letters or use a phone, comes responsibility, such as not mailing death threats or harassing people. If communication is open and freely looked at, people will behave more responsibly instead of conducting stupid gossip or slander.

I'm sure most of you have noticed that the internet is full of garbage. Quite a lot of that garbage wouldn't be there if it weren't for the anonymity that exists.

I'm sure most of you have noticed that magazines are full of garbage. Quite a lot of that wouldn't be there if only the good stuff were permitted to be published.

And so on, ad nauseum. I'm tired of the "If you have rights, you need to have responsibilities" argument when applied to speech/communication. No, if you have priviliges, you need to have responsibilities - such as driving a car.

Besides, if we didn't have the freedom to create the 99% trash that people publish/post/write, much of the world's great literature/music/art would not exist.


Anonymity vs Free Speech (2)

Elendur (228338) | more than 13 years ago | (#700891)

You're all focusing on the wrong thing. Anonymity is not equal to free speech. Anonymity just gives you an excuse to shrug off all responsibility for what you say and, in the case of the internet, do.

The internet does not need anonymity. I'm sure most of you have noticed that the internet is full of garbage. Quite a lot of that garbage wouldn't be there if it weren't for the anonymity that exists.

I'm not talking about just anonymity from the government (although it is obviously a large part of the issue here), which as I already mentioned in an earlier post doesn't exist unless you really know what you're doing, and possibly not even then. I'm talking about the regular every day not knowing who that anonymous coward is on slashdot. Dang, that guy posts a lot. He must never sleep.

Neither of these forms of anonymity need to be protected. In the first case (government), because it's not even the issue. The government decides whether to expose you or not, but the real issue is free speech. The right to say what we want, even when everyone knows who we are. The second anonymity (anonymous coward)...well the name given to them on slashdot is fitting. Knowing someone's identity forces some responsibility. If free speech is protected, as it should be, they can still say what they want, but most of them won't say what they don't really need to say, which would eliminate the problem of the internet being 99% complete trash.

The real point here, is that free speech, not anonymity, is what needs to be protected. The right to stand in the middle of everything, when everybody knows exactly who you are, and say what you have to say. This right exists without anonymity, you just have to put a little more thought into what you say. The mentally healthy person however, doesn't need fear the opinion of the masses when they have something actually important to say.

Free speech. Not anonymity. Make the distinction.

Irrelevant Ruling 1, Intrinsic Anonymity 0 (2)

grovertime (237798) | more than 13 years ago | (#700893)

When will the lawmakers learn....anonymity is the cornerstone of the open source generation. It's like the verbal equal to the hit-and-run. Removing our right to anonymity is like making us all meet face to face....and let's own up to it - most of us would be wallflowers at that dance.

  1. Where Your Vote Should Go []

Throw-away accounts won't save you (2)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#700894)

Throw-away accounts leave electronic paper-trails as to how you created them (which email addresses you had the registration info sent to, going backwards in time to a primordial address traceable to you). Each step along that trail can be subpoenaed, which is what's being discussed here.

People need the government's help here (2)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#700895)

Just look at Canada, for example. There, two men are being prosecuted [] for obscenity because they've used computers to create realistic snuff films portraying fabricated and fictitious violence (not that normal porn isn't violent enough as it is). Without government intervention to declare these films false and criminal, people might think them real and might act upon the impulses generated by viewing them.

It's the same with anonymous speech. You may pretend you understand what is credible and what is not, and you may even be right. But it's a natural part of human nature to assess anonymous speech with some value when ranking memes. Only through law can we save people from themselves and reestablish which memes have value and which are credible; law is a pillar of legitimacy and credibility in an uncertain world.

If anonymity is the cause of repeated stories... (3)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 13 years ago | (#700896) this one [] then get rid of it I say.

Much as this is a repeat I just want to say -- There can be no trust without disclosure. Anonymity's all well and good, but unless the information presented can not be verified by an independant source then it should be summarily dismissed and similarly not considered worth worrying about. (This is why I see no value in ACs)

Throw away accounts (3)

Cire LePueh (26571) | more than 13 years ago | (#700897)

All the more reason to keep and use multiple throw away accounts, especially with telnet access. Of course another question that comes to mind is the case of the Internet Cafe type scenario. Although this has some potential for impact, it seems to me that if someone really wants to engage in what is considered in the U.S. to be defamatory actions all that is required is a minor amout of extra work...telnet into an offshore throwaway account for instance...or head down to a cafe.

Foolish stockbrokers shouldnt be making the law (3)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 13 years ago | (#700899)

Lets see are they trying to force a third party ID check down our throats? A handle without an email address attached to it (or a fake one) is the same as anonymous speech. How many of us have one of those? Non-obvious spam blocking text puts you in that category. Scared yet?

They want to put ID profiling in the power of the moderators? Say I run a Christian Coalition webpage on my home machine effectivly making me the ISP/Moderator and we have a weboard and a few of them get into slandering a well known homosexual.

Now, someone else logs in and says the exact same thing about the members of that group. Guess who gets the lawsuit? It sure ain't my god-fearing people, its that nasty boy who don't like our 'straight talk.' In other words, slander is only slander when someone sues you. Do you think I'd turn in my own members after a good post on what evil things Harvey Firestien puts in certain parts of his body and his 'deal' with little boys?

The sad part is this is all because of some "tips from the internet" style of stockbroking which there is no excuse for. You believed someone on-line whom you've never met or even seen, you fell for it, now you have to deal with it. Just like the real world.
Its called checking your sources, especially if you're in the get rich quick game.

Educate newbies, don't castrate everyone else... (3)

Sir_Winston (107378) | more than 13 years ago | (#700900)

I'd post a lengthy explanation of why it's more important to protect basic freedoms than to protect idiots who should learn about the Net before they run out into traffic and get run over on the information superhighway, but I said it well enough in a discussion on alt.privacy.anon-server. It was in response to a man who blamed anonymous remailers as responsible for threats made by an anonymous person to some woman he knows.

I won't repost it here because it's a good 659 lines, but here's some linkage to it on DejaNews (I still can't bring myself to call them Deja...sigh...):[ST_rn=ps]/threadmsg_ct.xp?AN= 661727467&CONTEXT=971767337. 1064960 22 []

If that link expires, go to the main Power Search page at [] and type "carbonymous" into the author field, and that will show it and a few others.

ummm... (3)

fluxrad (125130) | more than 13 years ago | (#700901)

personally i find the idea that anonymous speech is not protected under the first amendment to be ludicrous.

Of course anonymous speech should be held to the same standards as a publicly known speaker. Slander, Libel, and insighting violence, etc. are all exceptions as we know. - But to say that your speech is not protected simply because X person didn't know it was *YOU* that said it is absolutely absurd.

then, of course we get to the question - if someone can find out that you DID in fact make such statement, is it really anonymous speech anymore ;-) And of course, truly anonymous speakers may obviously speak with impunity.

oh well, i guess now i can sue the penis bird AC's for causing me mental anguish (tm).

After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network

Is some anonymous coward really that credible? (4)

ttyRazor (20815) | more than 13 years ago | (#700903)

All this boils down to a simple bit of advise that people seem to forget every time they look at a computer: "don't believe everything you read". The flood of lawsuits like this all work under the assumption that anything joe-schmoe AOL user says is as authoritative as if Alan Greenspan himself decreed that so-and-so company "sucks ass". Guess what lawyers, people have these conversations privately all the time, and not all of them are professional stock analysts. The reason why you have the option to sue in the first place is because someone with credibility might say something false against you and others might actually believe it in a way that measurably hurts your reputation and your ability to do whatever you do.

Re:Throw-away accounts won't save you (4)

Cire LePueh (26571) | more than 13 years ago | (#700904)

While this is definately true, throw aways can provide anywhere from a small to large layer of protection. While there is an electronic trail with any account system, the tail becomes harder to follow by intelligently using accounts (both net access and email) to cover your true identity. The trail does exist, but each layer makes it a bit harder to track if done well. If nothing else simply from the coordination of access and amount of technical info/support needed. Add offshore telnet accounts and the trail can deadend depending on the level of cooperation the foreign access point is willing to provide, in a civil situation it may very well be none. (or if pockets get lined...complete.) Historically this method has been one of the many used successfully by black hats for years. It has bitten those that relied solely on this method and did enough damage, or ticked the wrong person off enough to go after it tenaciously.

Either way it does not invalidate the value of the internet cafe/public library/school computer lab/etc/etc. Either as a sole device, or a step in the anomymizing chain. To combat this would take actual physical surveilance at some point by someone involved.

Another question that comes to mind is the time frames we are talking about here. Even if a university lab keeps records of traffic of the network, they tend to look for certain flags...not the type of activity we are talking about. I know of two locations near me that regularly dump to /dev/null their general access logs and traffic logs. Not the best policy maybe but one their admins have in place.

Not a First Amendment Issue! (4)

IntelliTubbie (29947) | more than 13 years ago | (#700905)

The statement that the court ruled that "anonymous speech is not a protected right" is false. Anonymous speech enjoys the same protections under the First Amendment as any other speech (see this post [] ).

However, some speech is not covered under the First Amendment: libel, obscenity, fraud, shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, etc. This ruling says that the right to the anonymity of speakers does not extend to non-protected speech. So, while I can criticize Microsoft's policies anonymously with impunity, I can't slander Bill Gates and hide from prosecution behind a shield of anonymity.

Interesting (4)

rackrent (160690) | more than 13 years ago | (#700906)

Does anyone else find it ironic that the NYT link to a story regarding anonymity requires registration to view the document??


Excite news's article (4)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#700907)

Excite News has an article [] on one of the cases discussed by the NYT.

Supreme Court Precedent (5)

Effugas (2378) | more than 13 years ago | (#700908)

Actually, I'm curious how this court reconciles their decision with the Supreme Court's relatively recent rulings directly supporting the right to speak anonymously. [] To quote Justice Stevens:

"quite apart from any threat of persecution, an advocate may believe her
ideas will be more persuasive if her readers are unaware of her
identity. Anonymity thereby provides a way for a writer who may be
personally unpopular to ensure that readers will not prejudge her
message simply because they do not like its proponent." Stevens
concluded "Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a
pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of
advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of
the majority. "

See the above link for further details; essentially, it's rather difficult for the courts to ban anonymous speech when some of the founding papers of this country(the Federalist Papers) were released anonymously, in an environment that was intensely harsh against such speech. To wit:

The obnoxious press licensing law of England, which was also
enforced on the Colonies was due in part to the knowledge that
exposure of the names of printers, writers and distributors would
lessen the circulation of literature critical of the government. The
old seditious libel cases in England show the lengths to which
government had to go to find out who was responsible for books that
were obnoxious to the rulers. John Lilburne was whipped, pilloried
and fined for refusing to answer questions designed to get evidence
to convict him or someone else for the secret distribution of books
in England. Two Puritan Ministers, John Penry and John Udal, were
sentenced to death on charges that they were responsible for writing,
printing or publishing books.

(If you haven't noticed--England has retained some of the more brutally harsh and heavily enforced Libel laws [] in the industrialized world. Tradition.)

I'm actually pretty intensely interested in what the appeals court had to say that would appear to contravene established precedent. Is the court saying it's OK to call the government inept, but not a corporation? Consider what that implies.

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Reseach

The key problem with this ruling... (5)

isaac (2852) | more than 13 years ago | (#700909) that it orders the message board operator to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster *before* it has ruled whether the remarks were in legal fact defamatory. This is the dangerous precedent. Even if the statements in this case are defamatory and not protected under the First Amendment, future plaintiffs will be able to point to this court and say "Look! You have to reveal the identity of this Anonymous Coward first, then rule on my claims of libel/defamation", then single out this individual for retaliation once his/her identity is revealed, even if the anonymous posts are protected speech. (This is one of the favored legal tactics of Scientologists seeking to squash critics, in case you've been under a rock.)

Hopefully, this decision won't stand; it only serves to legitimize the nasty practice of identifying anonymous critics and whistleblowers via subpoena, for the sole purpose of seeking retribution.


Hacking the Legal System (5)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 13 years ago | (#700910)

Yea, the 9th amendment gives you the right, but what most people fail to realize is that rights do not exist in vacuo. Rights are irreducibly tied to responsibilities -- you cannot have rights without responsibilities. It works the other way around, too -- you cannot have responsibilities without rights. You want one without the other? Tough! It doesn't work that way. You want to slander me and hide? Fine, but I have the right to look for you, within the bounds of the legal system, and you are responsible for what you say, whether you do it in the clear or not.

Naturally, some people are better at hacking the legal system than others.

This does NOT mean that you don't have the right to post anonymously -- you do -- and a clever person would leverage this to get such cases thrown out of court (any system can be hacked, even the legal system). But you cannot relinquish the responsibilities that go with anonymity!

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