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Law Student Web Forum: Free Speech Gone too Far?

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the sticks-and-stones dept.

The Internet 264

The Xoxo Reader writes "Today's Washington Post carries a front-page article on the internet message board AutoAdmit (a.k.a. Xoxohth), which proclaims itself the "most prestigious law school discussion board in the world." The message board has recently come under fire for emphasizing a free speech policy that allows its users to discuss, criticize, and attack other law students and lawyers by name. Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far, or is internet trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion of the legal community?"

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Obvious metaphor? (0, Flamebait)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274870)

Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far, or is internet trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion of the legal community?

Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far, or is slashdot trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion of the slashdot community?

*heh*

Re:Obvious metaphor? (4, Insightful)

AchiIIe (974900) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275034)

> Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far...

There is no such thing as "limits on free speech" or "Free speech going too far". It either is free speech or it is not.

If it is libel that's a different thing, there are laws that regulate that.

A: We are a free country, free speech
B: Lawyers are assholes
A: You are stepping bounds on your freedom of speech, offensive comments are not included in it
B:

Re:Obvious metaphor? (2, Insightful)

nkv (604544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275522)

There is no such thing as "limits on free speech" or "Free speech going too far". It either is free speech or it is not.
Providing and guaranteeing it is one thing. It being something good and beneficial for society is something else. The latter requires a mature and well informed public. Otherwise, it becomes a brawl where whoever has the loudest voice wins.

Re:Obvious metaphor? (1)

Shads (4567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275664)

I would disagree with that-- if the outcome was purely determined by who yelled louder that would be true, but outcomes are rarely determined by that in any medium, let alone online.

OTHERWISE SINCE YOU DIDN'T BOTHER YELLING THIS WOULD MAKE ME WIN!

*rolls eyes*

Re:Obvious metaphor? (5, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275712)

I would disagree with that-- if the outcome was purely determined by who yelled louder that would be true, but outcomes are rarely determined by that in any medium, let alone online.
OTHERWISE SINCE YOU DIDN'T BOTHER YELLING THIS WOULD MAKE ME WIN!
THINK AGAIN, YOU BUTTMUNCHING LOSER!!!!!

Re:Obvious metaphor? (1)

Shads (4567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275902)

Arrrggg... the !!!!! and ad hominem attacks got me. You win.

Re:Obvious metaphor? (2, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275788)

There is no such thing as "limits on free speech" or "Free speech going too far". It either is free speech or it is not.

Trouble is, true free speech also requires intelligent listening.

If we could rely on people not to make important decisions without looking critically at the evidence, laws on defamation would not be necessary.

If your employer fires you because a.n. blogger accuses you of kitten huffing, then it is your employer who should be held accountable - not the teenage troll who doesn't know any better.

Re:Obvious metaphor? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275042)

*heh*

Don't be afraid to use the original "hehe". It's not going to make you sound like a baby. Relax, man. Saying "heh" just makes it sound like even you don't find yourself funny. Weird how this phenomenon started. Everybody used to be cool with hehe's and smiley faces of all kinds. Thesedays it seems the best people can muster is a stifled, pathetic "heh". Quite sad, really.

Yeah (5, Informative)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274910)

Sitting behind a computer, typing, you don't hold back as much as when you talk to a persons face ... (I've seen a study about that, but i can't find it anymore) so yes, we'll have to accept trolling, it's inevitable.

Re:Yeah (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274966)

Seconded. I've noticed people seem to change quite a bit when they're talking through a keyboard.

Re:Yeah (1)

space_in_your_face (836916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275428)

I also noticed that my guitar skills [kempele.fi] change when expressed through a keyboard.

Penny Arcade (1, Redundant)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275118)

Penny Arcade covers this with this comic [penny-arcade.com] .

Re:Yeah (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275330)

what the fuck would you know?

When Free Speech goes to far (4, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274922)

There are laws that deal with free speech going too far - they're called 'libel' and 'slander'. You'd think law students would know about this.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275048)

as long as they are posting the truth, they cannot get nailed under these laws.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (1)

nadamsieee (708934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275182)

There are laws that deal with free speech going too far - they're called 'libel' and 'slander'. You'd think law students would know about this.

Making statements of fact (i.e. telling the truth) it is not defamation, libel, or slander [expertlaw.com] .

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (3, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275572)

> Making statements of fact (i.e. telling the truth) it is not defamation, libel, or slander.

Why does society need to be protected from people making truthful statements? (Aside from issues of trade secrets and national security - which I doubt apply here).

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275616)

You are citing US law, in other countries 'But Its The Truth' is not always an absolute defence, because the intentions can be taken into account.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (0, Offtopic)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275188)

public void Ballmer(Developers developers) throws Chair

Shouldn't that be:

public void Ballmer(Developers developers) throws Chair, HissyFit, Perspiration ?

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275230)

And those are largely stupid laws in light of the right to free speech. Also, those laws are in light that prior dominant forms of media did not give equal weight to all perspectives such that a false claim could not be as easily countered; it's rare that a newspaper or tv news gives truly equal time to, say, an alleged criminal versus the prosecutor (to demonstrate unequal weight in the news, not that this applies directly here).

Furthermore, do you honestly believe these thoughts aren't already present, whispered between colleagues, or present in cliquish groups? The reality is that in professional schools such as law and medicine, the institution returns to something more like high school environment than college or a post-doc. I've seen people destroyed by whispered rumors, that I'd much rather have the asses stand up and state them so that they can be shut down or seen for what they are--a bunch of bellyaching or mean-spirited asses.

Not to mention, most institutions have policies where such cases are dealt with behind closed doors and information suppressed; private universities have historically kept many things under wraps. For example, the medical school I attended frequently ignored transgressions. Any transgression they felt was high enough might go on your record, but that had was held private and not under general review. At the U of Chicago, which I also attended, I know directly of at least 3 cases where things where shoved under the rugs that were brought to the attention of the institution--2 were not legitimate (1 was a prof mocking another prof who was in a huff because she was in the wrong room and was being unprofessional about giving up the space--she turned around and called his actions sexist, despite 90+ people saw the ongoings; the other was one student badmouthing another student amongst friends and when the one being harmed stood up, "privacy" concerns came up--it's not a private issue (even by law) if you're telling a slew of friends who then distribute the info outward), while 1 was relevant (lit a fire in his dorm room with scorch marks on the ceiling and still he was boasting about it publicly).

I'd rather have statements out in the open, so the people can address them. As a person who has been attacked and frequently returned the favor for my views, I'd much rather be able to address them and see the underbelly of the people and/or institution than be blindfolded and unaware; my perspective of various institutions have been shaped by these perspectives and I'm better for it, because I see how nasty people can be--if you naively think that a computer allows an indifferent perspective and people to unleash what they wouldn't say otherwise in public, you'd be wrong, as they still think and say those things, often deliberately in circles and kept from you.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (4, Informative)

baptiste (256004) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275268)

It's not just libel and slander - it's stalking. These guys go after any woman asking that her picture be taken down from these contests like a pack of rabid dogs. They were following these girls into the gym and at class taking cellphone pictures of them, etc.

Check out http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/03/07/w apo-calls-out-law-school-pervs/ [feministe.us]

Problem is, guess how much traction any of these women would get going to the police trying to get them to go after these guys.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275660)

Problem is, guess how much traction any of these women would get going to the police trying to get them to go after these guys.
A lot I'd imagine. I mean it's not like law school graduates are above the law.... oh wait.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276008)

Like what /. posters participated in several times in the past, like here:

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/06/03/00 46227 [slashdot.org]

Or when /. posters advocates someone shouldn't have protested, now everyone knows because it's been /.?

So you are advocating /. be put down?

Free speech includes the good and the bad. Laws in this country have gone the way of that quote which I'll bludgeon here--give me 6 lines from anyone, and I'll find a reason to hang 'em. Anyone can apply any law if they so require, and frequently this is abused, versus a strict standard evenly applied.

Please note--I don't have a problem with the law school forum. If people are being dicks, they themselves may be the target next. Over time, this forum will fall into disrepute, much like a lot of stuff on /. has over the years.

Your "stalking" claim is really disingenuous; I really think you are trying to cloud the issue and make it about sexism when really there are laws that protect against harrassment. If a black man stepping out of his home can have his picture taken and used by a newspaper for any reason without pretext, someone snapping pictures of women is hardly a crime either; if it's done in concert as you attest, that is not a free speech issue but decision making on the individuals part who exit the forum and partake in going after someone. Such issues have already been addressed by the Supreme Court in the past re demagogues preaching hate speech.

People are harrassed everyday, it may hurt like hell, but it goes on on large and small scales, mostly hidden. My thoughts are that forums like these simply put the nasties out front, even gives people the ability to hunt folks down and apply the law to them if necessary, since people who do this often slip up or are defeatable.

I personally think that because the forum has no such rules, it will become known and fall into a wasteland of crap, much like MySpace--no one takes it seriously anymore, and it's more indicative of the immaturity and stupidity of the speaker than the target.

Complain to the Bar Examiners (4, Interesting)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276014)

If your a law student, and you are having a serious problem with another student that is documented and you have witnesses, most States have character & fitness committees that you can complain too:

http://www.pabarexam.org/FAQ/handbook/Character_Fi tness/Page_03.htm [pabarexam.org]

Taking this action would prevent them from becoming licensed to practice law.

In case you don't already know, Attorneys don't have full free speech rights. Attorney's have a Code of Professional Conduct which limits the things they can say, since they are Officer's of the Court. Any sort of behavior or speech which would tend to cause the entire legal profession to be seen in a bad light, would probably be grounds for punishment by the disciplinary board.

Re:When Free Speech goes to far (2, Insightful)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275422)

Sure, but what about the "grey" area of: it's not libel or slander, but it does violate the personal privacy of the the object. These aren't "public" persona's, after all.

Personally, I'd lose the anonymity of the writer aspect of it, and leave it alone. Free speech is one thing, but if you are going to write it, you should be held accountable for what you say (ummm... Write).

But too address the original commentary, free speech in and of itself doesn't go too far, but there are always people who will abuse a system, the more free the system, the more likely the abuse, it's just human nature, there is always someone out there with ethics and/or morals that don't meet the basic set of expectations that idealists seem to have.

What about Dangerous Information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276272)

I don't think it falls into the categories of libel and slander:
What if I post some woman's home address or phone number?
What if I post the security-code to get into her garage?
Is that legal? anyone?

1997 called... (3, Funny)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274924)

It wants it's forum software back...

That really is the most god awful website i've seen in years, and putting aside the fact that the presentation is horrendous, I'm concerned that this is what passes for my fellow law students.....

Re:1997 called... (0, Offtopic)

dave420 (699308) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275114)

Check out the HTML. You'd think they could do better.

Re:1997 called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275218)

The W3C validator only picks up 2696 errors....

Re:1997 called... (2, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275442)

You know, apart from all the ads, and the excessive clicking needed to actually get to the post contents, which it shares with most modern forums, this is actually a very nice and readable layout. At least compared to phpbb and its ilk with a million useless stats printed all over the page, along with avatars and signatures and other usesless visual clutter that ends up leaving room for two or three actual sentences of user content per screen.

Re:1997 called... (1)

gadlaw (562280) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276132)

Immoral, immature, illiterate and outdated. A sad commentary. About what law school was like when I went.

freedom and responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18274926)

freedom without responsibility leads to abuse. It's like the old saying 'your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose starts'.

also, open message boards arent really free speech, because the most privileged (that is, those that have the time/resource) can sit around all day flooding the messageboard, effectively shouting over other peoples speech.

Good (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274932)

The message board...allows its users to discuss, criticize, and attack other law students and lawyers by name.

What's wrong with that? Are people not allowed to talk about other people in public anymore?

Re:Good (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275074)

Not under English Law at the very least: one should not defame an individual in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of them.

Re:Good (1)

plumby (179557) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275108)

Doesn't that involve you saying something that's not true (or more precisely, under UK law, something that you can't prove to be true)?

As I understand it (IANAL) there's nothing legally stopping you making factual statements, however harmful, about someone in public.

Re:Good (3, Informative)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275136)

But that's not the issue here - there is nothing wrong with criticising others in public, but if you actually read the article (it's a lot to ask, i know), there's a lot more at stake than make factual claims about an individuals shortcomings.

Re:Good (1)

plumby (179557) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275742)

I appreciate that, but was replying to a post that seemed to be claiming English Law didn't allow people to talk about others in a negative way in public. It does.

If you've been slandered (or libelled in this case) then the relevant laws are applicable whatever the policy of the forum's owner is. The only issue that I can see from the article is that it's letting anonymous users post these comments, and at that point I'd assume that the owner becomes responsible for proving that it wasn't him that made the comment.

Re:Good (3, Informative)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275162)

It's actually a bit more complex than that. See for example: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/C-46/bo-ga :l_VIII-gb:s_296//en#anchorbo-ga:l_VIII-gb:s_296 [slashdot.org] "> these sections from the CCC.

Essentially, it's libel if you caused to be published something you don't reasonably know to be true ...

that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.

So, yes, you can talk smack about people. It just has to be true and in the best interest of the audience. For example, if you commited a petty offence, say shop lifting, 10 years ago. And I go around your book signing tour [say you wrote a book on gardening or something] writing reviews that revealed this fact and caused you harm. That could be considered libelous, since while true, is not in the best interest of the public (e.g. who cares) and it causes you harm (section 298).

Tom

Re:Good (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276110)

For example, if you commited a petty offence, say shop lifting, 10 years ago. And I go around your book signing tour [say you wrote a book on gardening or something] writing reviews that revealed this fact and caused you harm. That could be considered libelous, since while true, is not in the best interest of the public (e.g. who cares) and it causes you harm (section 298).

Well, section 298 doesn't apply to this matter, since that's Canadian law, not US law. In the US, truth is an absolute defense against claims of libel. US libel laws are far more permissive than those of Commonwealth countries, and notably more permissive than those of the UK.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275314)

Polite people generally don't criticize in public, at least in the circles I am in, but hiding behind a pseudonym and possibly many kilometers away makes it easy I guess.

People on the internet who personally attack others anonymously are cowards of course (witness the default /. username), often hiding behind phrases such as 'free speech' and 'it's my right'. How many of these people would have the courage to voice the attack in person when they won't even supply a real name?

I think we would be a lot better off if we all had to publish a digital ID when we write messages, at least we would know who we are talking to and make us think twice before sprouting off.

Steven.

Re:Good (1)

TMarvelous (928161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275844)

What's the meaning of harassment again?

whatever (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18274938)

Like any forum, if they let the trolls take over the forum stops being read by anyone who actually cares because it's too annoying to dig through the junk posts. They can either take care of their forum and protect their free speech, or they can let it spiral into a troll-fest. Either way, the trolls eventually loose since they get filtered or the forum becomes sub-par.

Slander anyone? (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274950)

allows its users to discuss, criticize, and attack other law students and lawyers by name.

There is a fine line between expressing one's opinion and slander. IANAL, but if I would bet some of the free speech will cross into the "communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation." (wikipedia).

Won't it be ironic if lawyers discussing lawsuits start slandering each other on a lawyer based blog and end up suing each other.

Re:Slander anyone? (3, Funny)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274976)

Won't it be ironic if lawyers discussing lawsuits start slandering each other on a lawyer based blog and end up suing each other.

Break out the popcorn and pull up a chair.

Re:Slander anyone? (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275044)

Nice and easy, put down the chair... Please... I don't want anybody to get hurt.

Re:Slander anyone? (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275006)

Actually, it's libel in this context.

Re:Slander anyone? (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275274)

I would point out that unlike software companies (ie Microsoft - which is regularly panned by name) Lawyers generally do business under their legal name - rather than under a company facade. There are lawyers - such as John Edwards - whose business is largely chasing ambulances. Criticising what they do, and the effects on society is important, and names are a critical part of lawyering.

AIK

free speech is free as in open, not irresponsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18274962)

People should be free to speak their minds, and should be held accountable should they use their name or position. However, anonymity should be respected for the tool it is, while unsigned comments should receive the respect they, individually, deserve.

Personally, I find affluence and authority to be the least open and receptive when it comes to respecting feedback and the rights of others. Indeed, I find that it is the people with the most to lose, who most try to suppress anonymity and the freedoms of others.

flamewar (3, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274970)

"The cure to bad speech is more speech,"
can anyone say 'flamewar' ?

Welcome to the Interweb, law students (2, Interesting)

jakoz (696484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274992)

This is about 0% different to any other forum on the web. Law students might kick up a stink about it, but that's what they do. They want to change the world. But I have one in the extended family... the thing about them is that 95% of the way they change the world is for the worse. What can they do? They can break down the laws that hold society together. They can even (*gasp*) help to make new ones. It is their job. If they did it well, they get a pay raise ("hey... I can make PARTNER one day!") and a slap on the back. And society is generally the worse off for their efforts. Their shortsighted personal run for glory helped them, so everything is fine. Good for them if they get upset. The only difference between them and everyone else is that they naively think that they can do something about it. The forum should just make all posting anonymous and move their servers offshore, just to stick it up them. ...and yeah.... there are a few good lawyers. But the vast majority of people on here, as in real life, don't respect what you do...

perhaps (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274996)

Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far, or is internet trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion of the legal community?

I have not read the article so I'm taking a blind shot at this.

If the "free speech" takes the form of slander or threats it has gone too far. If not I don't think there would be a problem with it.

Blind trolling of message boards can devalue their legitimacy, that's something any administrator of such a forum has to deal with in his own way.

Anonymity on the Internet is worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275004)

Experience has shown that anonymity on the Internet does more harm than good. Of course there are a few cases where you MUST be anonymous because your job/life is at risk, but unless you're a paranoid über hacker, they will eventually find you who are (IP, logs, ...). Otherwize, it's at best an incentive for trolls, at worst an easy tool for libel.

So kids, when you're posting something on the internet (even here on /.), think as if you were publishing an article on a newspaper : everybody may read your stuff, even people you don't expect to read, so if you hurt someone you have to deal with the consequenences.

Free speech gone too far? (2, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275018)

If,

A) You're talking about an forum (electronic or otherwise) designed to promote freedom of expression, and holding that as one of your primary ideals,
and
B) You ask whether this is freedom of speech gone too far,

The answer is always, "no". Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

Article = dumb. I RTFAs, but not in this case.

An interesting contrast (4, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275036)

When I write letters to my local newspaper I have to provide a name and address, and they verify I am who I say I am before they publish my letter (and my name is attached). Another example can be found in the television/radio media where commercials have to specify who paid for them. Free speech is one thing, but anonymous free speech is a whole other matter. I believe that if someone is criticized (or praised for that matter) in a public forum, the name of the person doing the criticizing/praising should also be public.

Re:An interesting contrast (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275414)

Well, there are sound historical reasons for protecting anonymity; sometimes anonymous free speech is the only free speech, because if people know who you are, Bad Things will happen. Much of the writing and discussion that led up to the American Revolution was done under pseudonyms, sometimes obvious, sometimes not; otherwise the result would have been a whole bunch of hangings and no USA. Whether that would have been a desirable outcome or not depends on your perspective, I suppose. ;)

Obviously this isn't one of those cases. These law students are idiots, and law firms that make hiring decisions based on their flamefests aren't any better.

[shrug] I'm one of the few people on /. who doesn't use a pseudonym, and my name isn't an especially common one; anyone who wants to find out what I think can do so with a couple of minutes of Googling. I've noticed that since I started using my real name online in most places, my own online writing has become more civilized; the reason I'm not especially concerned about losing a potential future job over something I said online is because I try not to say stupid things online, and anyone who'd refuse to hire me based on polite, reasonable expressions of opinion isn't someone I'd want to work for anyway. But this is a self-imposed condition, and if I were a whistleblower or a revolutionary, of course I'd try to remain anonymous, and be damned glad that there are ways to do so.

If I didn't make it clear above, I am in no way comparing these idiot law students to Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Just saying that the same conditions which allow anonymous communication of genuine importance will inevitably be exploited by morons; it's a price we should be willing to pay.

Re:An interesting contrast (1)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276284)

You might be interested to know that Common Sense [wikipedia.org] by Thomas Paine (just as an example) was written anonymously. You think that should have been illegal?

Jack Thompson (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275040)

I think this lawyer - Jack Thompson - is an arrogant ass. Discuss.

Ad Hominem (2, Interesting)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275046)

Discussion of others is fine. Criticism of others is okay, too. But I thought lawyers were taught good argument techniques, and that ad hominem attacks aren't part of making a good argument.

But maybe that's why I'm not a lawyer.

Credibility? (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275050)

Someone anonymous can blast you all day and you shouldn't care, because you should know that nobody else really cares what the asshole thinks. An anonymous person has zero credibility. Now, if there's very general concensus about someone or something, even amongst an anonymous crowd, you MIGHT take what they say into consideration. And that's completely after using your own brain to figure it out for yourself.

Re:Credibility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275914)

Here's the thing, though, if an employer Googles you and the top results (AutoAdmit has great page rank) are huge threads talking about how you're a stupid bitch who needs to be raped, they just might choose a less controversial candidate.

Legal employers are extremely risk averse, and the entire legal profession is driven by reputation and prestige. It doesn't matter whether the allegations are credible; it just matters that they're made.

This isn't an issue of free speech... (4, Informative)

jdcool88 (954991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275070)

While Internet forums do fall under the region of "free speech", some of the things mentioned in the article are definitely illegal activities.

In scores of messages, the users disparage individuals by name or other personally identifying information. Some of the messages included false claims about sexual activity and diseases.

The chats sometimes include photos taken from women's Facebook pages, and in the Yale student's case, one person threatened to sexually violate her. Another participant claimed to be the student, making it appear that she was taking part in the iscussion.
Let's see, defamation, sexual harassment, threats, identity theft - how much do you need? It's one thing to troll, but a completely different thing to personally attack someone.

No balance. (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275082)

You can't throw names and "facts" in the wild and hide behind anonymity.

There's simply no balance in this, and open to abuse. If you wanna call names, put your name behind your words, and if this is free speech, the laws will protect you from further repercussions.

Of course, laws aren't perfect, but total chaos is a lot less perfect.

Re:No balance. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275928)

Hey bitch, why don't you suck me you crybaby fuck.

You're such a whiny sack of shit, morons like you make me sick you faggot.

-1 Troll (4, Funny)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275094)

is internet trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion

No trolling isn't necessary to have insightful discussions.

PS. Macs suck.

As a law student ... (1)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275104)

... my fellow students are about all that keeps me sane. I can't imagine attacking them.

Re:As a law student ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275240)

Wait until after you graduate, pass the bar exam and have them in the position of being the opposition in court. Then you'll attack them with all the venomous, flaming invective you can muster- only somewhat politely and spelled a lot better.

I mean, it's hard to use, "ZOMG! U R TEH GAY H0M0 L00ZZOR! LAMOR!!!! LOL!!! " as a valid argument.

Re:As a law student ... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275492)

... my fellow students are about all that keeps me sane.
Them, and your collection of singing potatoes.

Are Law Firms Stupid? (5, Insightful)

vic-traill (1038742) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275150)

The inference in the article is that the protagonist got minimal call-backs and no offers as a result of what was said in postings (possibly anonymous) about her on the AutoAdmit law school admissions discussion board.

Goggling an applicant and finding pictures of them on their myspace site, smoking blunts and self-copulating is one thing.

If law firms reject otherwise stellar applicants on the basis of anonymous postings on a cheesy discussion forum, then they are stupid beyond words. Can you hear it?: "Oh she's top of her class at UPenn, just *blew* the doors off the interview, goddamn articulate, but I heard an anonymous rumour she cheated on her LSAT".

She best start looking for other employers, 'cause you don't want to work for people that have their heads so far up their ass that they'll pass up on the next Clarence Darrow because of what some anonymous shill said on the fscking Internet.

Re:Are Law Firms Stupid? (1)

Stone Pony (665064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275436)

That was the first thing that occurred to me, too. Maybe what it signifies is that competition is very strong and the companies involved can afford to be very risk-averse, and shy away from even a hint of controversy.

If what you say is true... (2, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275198)

Why wouldn't they be allowed to make truthful, but pointed comments, about others? In general, the sort of people who can't deal with this sort of thing are not big fans of freedom of speech. Given the fact that there is a law professor at Uni Wisconsin Madison who is being attacked for "racist speech" when no one even has any direct quotes yet of what he even said, let alone any context, I think the legal profession and education system need to be opened up to the real world where hurt feelings are your problem, and you have to respond to others instead of crying to mommy bureaucrat. How about all free speech fans start a new movement, a new underground movement to thicken up people's skin or terrorize them into not attacking free speech? Everytime someone gets teary-eyed over hearing someone make a "bigoted" comment, says something they don't like, or anything else like that and they seriously try to stop that person from working or having an otherwise peaceful life... *POW* right in the kisser. Do it again, *POW* right in the kisser.

I'm not entirely joking. I'd love the irony of a "brownshirts for the first amendment" >:)

The point has been missed. (2, Insightful)

Funkcikle (630170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275252)

That website is not about "free speech" in the slightest. It is about generating ad revenue for its owners: revenue which would decline if users who deliberately set out to act like cocks were not offered safe harbour.

Really, it just combines a few popular online subjects - law career discussion and outlandish bigotry/racism/general abuse. Go look at any extremist forum, for example. You'll see hundreds of thousands of posts, each one serving up Google adverts.

And the site owners aren't championing free speech in fear of what all those law students could do if they felt their rights were collectively infringed - they are worried about traffic leaving the site. Simple as that. Applying strict moderation isn't going to bring out Gary Bupkis from Moronica State University all aflame in anger about his constitutional right to call Sheila Labiastein from Jeronimo College a filthy cock-sucking kykecunt who couldn't get into a university as prestigious as his which he pretends is Harvard or something...he's going to toddle off to some other online forum and passively boost ad revenues there.

Don't attribute to nobility what is clearly just commercial greed.

You're kidding, right? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275286)

allows its users to discuss, criticize, and attack other law students and lawyers by name. Is this an example of free speech and anonymity gone too far, or is internet trolling just a necessary side effect

First off, discussing/criticizing/attacking others by name isn't necessarily trolling. Sure, even a reasonable discussion criticizing named parties will be viewed by those parties as not just attacking but also trolling. That doesn't make it so. The LACK of names and specifics is what makes many discussion boards so meaningless; without real-world examples, most discussions are just the proverbial angels dancing on the head of a pin.

If there's any crowd that would both benefit from and be able to not get too insulted by gloves-off commentary, it SHOULD be lawyers.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

GamblerZG (866389) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275746)

Sure, even a reasonable discussion criticizing named parties will be viewed by those parties as not just attacking but also trolling. That doesn't make it so.

What does make it so? What he hell is trolling anyway? (Don't give me wikipedia article link, the definition there is volatile at best.) So far I've seen the word used only as a meaningless negative label. Instead of identifying some behavior as bad and explaining why it is bad, people just point fingers and yell some slang word.

Trolling!
Flamewar!
FUD!

That is kindergarten level of discussion, if you can call it discussion. Unfortunately many websites *ahem* descend to it rather often.

The definition of trolling (2, Insightful)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276082)

Ooooh! That's a good question.

I'm only going to dash off a quick response here because if I take the time to explore the topic fully I won't get any work done today. To be fair to the spirit of your inquiry, I'm not going to look at Wikipedia before I write this.

My working definition of trolling is "deliberate ignorance." To me, a troll isn't really a troll unless they (apparently) deliberately ignore obvious facts in evidence that contradict them. Admittedly, even this is a fluid definition. In an anti-gun-rights forum, saying "Guns kill people" isn't trolling because everyone agrees. In a pro-gun-rights forum, the same statement (out of any clarifying context) is a troll because, obviously, no gun can pull its own trigger.

For another example that moves beyond the realm of religion, I once had a discussion online about appropriate speed limits on the highway. I wanted to be open and genuinely communicative, so I tried to define terms and find common ground. I made a simple statement that two objects could never collide if they traveled the same speed and stayed on parallel courses and that traffic accidents could only happen if one of those two conditions was not met. This is so simple that it should be no more controversial than the notion that gravity makes things fall down. Yet the person I was talking to staunchly refused to agree to even this most basic statement and continued to wail emotionally about the human cost of traffic accidents. At that point, because he was unwilling to stipulate to obvious facts that would give us a common ground from which to proceed with discussion, I could only brand him a troll and abandon the conversation.

Trolls don't listen. They put their fingers in their ears and hum when presented with facts, as opposed to logically arguing their points by showing how my interpretation of those facts is flawed. That's deliberate ignorance and the hallmark of a troll.

Yeah, there's more to it, especially the part about how you're not really trolling unless you're trying to elicit a response. But I gotta go to work, now. Thanks for the good question.

Why do we care? (-1, Offtopic)

singingjim1 (1070652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275288)

Lawyers are the lowest form of life in the universe so who gives a shit if they trash each other on some worthless forum? They're just exercising their penchant to lie, cheat, and steal to prepare themselves for their careers. I wish they would just start killing each other instead of acting like the pussies they are by only saying bad things about each other. Then we'd really have something worth discussing and cheering for!

Too far (2, Insightful)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275336)

You can't really think that freedom of speech has gone too far. It can't go too far. It is either FREEDOM of speech or no freedom of speech at all there are no mid points.

Re:bullshit (2, Insightful)

2fakeu (443153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275588)

as with everything freedom can go to far. your freedom ends, where the freedom of someone else begins. remember? there's only so much room for one person and there's billions of others too, that deserve some freedom.

does you definition of "freedom of speech" include the freedom to break laws/oaths too? like a doctor who's breaking his oath telling everyone of his funny patient stories, because he feels he can go as far as he wants with his freedom of speech? if it would harm another one's freedom you are not entitled to use your's. there's always compromise, even if some americans seem to be completely blinded by their constitution. remember, after all it's just a piece of paper with some words on it written by some other human, who lived ages ago (like the bible). just because it says so, you're not allowed to go rampage on others. that 's what common sense, ethics and morale is all about. think before you speak.

Re:Too far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275670)

FIRE! There's a FIRE in this theater! Everybody run for your lives!

an ironic answer! (2, Funny)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275376)

"or is internet trolling just a necessary side effect of a policy that otherwise promotes insightful discussion of the legal community"

Possible answers which suit the FA:

1.Yes! And anyone who thinks differently doesn't understand what the internet is all about!
2.Insightful discussion? We're on slashdot, for gods' sake!
3.What' you mean; legal community? Their are online illegal communities too?
4.Goatse rulez!

Seems like its more about sexism than free speech (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275398)

Having read the article, it seems more like its a case where a bunch of guys who happen to be in law school talking about who they think is hot or not than it is about free speech. I've not been to the site in question, so I don't know what other kinds of conversations go on there, but the article seems to mainly be about sexism and objectification of women than it does about first amendment issues.

Re:Seems like its more about sexism than free spee (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276128)

Having read the article, it seems more like its a case where a bunch of guys who happen to be in law school talking about who they think is hot or not

As a former law student I can assure you that was a VERY popular pasttime. On both sides of the gender gap.

Brilliant commentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275420)

It's good to see the "most prestigious law school discussion board in the world" producing such gems as this thread [xoxohth.com] .

Not allowed to hurt someone's feelings? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275432)

So this has made it all the way to law schools?

If the speech does not libel or slander then who should care what is said?

If people on forums are worried about what is said about them then they need to either get out or shape up.

Pretty soon it will be a hate crime to say anything bad about anyone, then what right to speech will you have?

Free Speech? (1)

MEForeman (930504) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275448)

The thing that has always fascinated me about the American judicial system (really, any truly established judicial system has this problem.. such as the entire EU, Japan, etc) is that the decisions are often not made by the judges at all. Yes, it's the judge's name on the decision, but the work is done by the law clerk, who is often still in law school. We see who the poor advocates are and since no lawyers ever get disbarred (unless they do something truly horrid, like lie on the stand. See e.g. William Jefferson Clinton), we get annoyed at how bad some attorneys are for their clients. Until you've sat in the court room and watched some attorney put on a show for his client and completely blow the case (which anyone who has spent more than 1 week in a court room has seen), you cannot understand the desire to out the person as a bad advocate.

As long as you can back up your trashing of people, I think it's ok to do it. Why is doing something that's "not nice" such a horrible thing? Sometimes you gotta be not so nice in order to get a bad attorney to stop being an attorney (or even become a not-so-bad attorney).

Sounds like... (1)

fitten (521191) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275488)

This sounds like just an effort to become a popular site by being a drama-fest, a "Jerry Springer" site. I'm sure they'll be branching out to other areas (different jobs) soon enough.

let me be an insensitive clod here... (0)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275536)

Single Female Lawyer, Fighting for her clients, Wearing sexy mini skirts, And being self-reliant ...Single Female Lawyer Having lots of sex...

"most prestigious law school discussion board in t (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275726)

which proclaims itself the "most prestigious law school discussion board in the world."

After being on Slashdot it is.

There isn't a "free speech" issue here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275780)

As a lawyer and as someone who runs a message board (not related to law though) I have to say there isn't a free speech issue here. "Freedom of Speech" only applies to public fora. A private forum such as someone's message board is not a public fora. The owner of a private forum generaly (sure, there are exceptions) has the right to limit speech as he or she chooses (i.e. to stop trolling, off-topicness, etc. etc.). On the forum I moderate we occassionally get people proclaiming their "free speech" rights are being infringed when they are warned or banned. However, its a private forum and they have every right to go to any public forum or to simply find another private forum that allows their conduct.

stop using pointless tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275938)

use meaningful descriptive words that describe the story. tags aren't your personal humor section

Re:stop using pointless tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276072)

and yes that was redundant but i'm tired and it's early. you can hardly use the same excuse. ("yes" and "no" have what to do with a story on a law forum's controversial policies?)

what if this was a site for middle-school kids? (1)

Nukenbar2 (591848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276010)

I'm not trying to ring the bell that says "Think about the children," but I wonder what everyone's opinion of this website would be if its discussion group was a middle-school and a majority of the kids were calling out the fat / poor kids...

Is this anything new? (1)

uncmathguy (936555) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276012)

While this site might take libel comments to an extreme, it is not as if this is the first site to publicly post negative (and likely false) statements about named individuals. Consider: http://www.myprofessorsucks.com/ [myprofessorsucks.com] . Some of the bad reviews of professors are really bad; "he suggested I come over to the grad dorms to talk about raising my grade," for instance. Any employer reading that might think twice about hiring that professor.

Of course, this issue will go away soon enough. We just need to wait until law firms realize that these postings cannot be taken as a reliable source of information about prospective employees. I suspect universities already feel that way about MyProfessorSucks.com.

"Free speech NEVER goes too far!" (4, Insightful)

Z0mb1eman (629653) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276048)

Before you jump on the "obvious" answer, take a look at this thread (found only after 2 minutes of looking... I'm sure there's far worse on the site).

http://www.xoxohth.com/thread.php?thread_id=510699 [xoxohth.com]

Names, pictures, personal information, and enough sexist and racist comments to make my head hurt. Now tell me you'd be happy if that thread was the first thing that came up on Google for your name.

Free speech is one thing. To my untrained eyes, that looks like sexual harassment, and I'm sure there's some slander in there to be found. Even worse, from some of the comments I got the impression this type of thread is a popular "sport" on that forum...

Re:"Free speech NEVER goes too far!" (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276174)

sexist and racist comments may be distasteful to most people, but they are definitely protected speech. we're not germany, you know.

Re:"Free speech NEVER goes too far!" (1)

themoors (1018768) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276258)

I've never had reason to hire a lawyer, if this site is in any way representative I hope I never do.

Forums Can't Choose Their Interactive Audience (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276230)

Here's what I've found when you respect freedom of speech; either you have people debating other people's (sometimes by name) ideas, or you have people attacking other people. The audience will naturally lean one way or the other, and it is very difficult if not impossible to change things from a forum of personal attacks to a forum of ideas if that's already been lost. A forum cannot choose its audience before it arrives; they are stuck with whatever comes along. So if the law forum is using people's names when naming ideas and positions, that's fine. If it's naming names to destroy people's character and reputation, it can only be ignored by people of good will, until a new law forum pops up with a better audience.

this guy agrees with you book burners (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276248)

"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
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