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Internet Defamation Suit Tests Online Anonymity 249

Posted by kdawson
from the nameless-and-hope-to-stay-that-way dept.
The Xoxo Reader writes "Reuters reports that two women at Yale Law School have filed suit for defamation and infliction of emotional distress against an administrator and 28 anonymous posters on AutoAdmit (a.k.a. Xoxohth), a popular law student discussion site. Experts are watching to see if the suit will unmask the posters, who are identified in the complaint only by their pseudonyms. Since AutoAdmit's administrators have previously said that they do not retain IP logs of posters, identifying the defendants may test the limits of the legal system and anonymity on the Internet. So far, one method tried was to post the summons on the message board itself and ask the defendants to step forward. The controversy leading to this lawsuit was previously discussed on Slashdot."
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Internet Defamation Suit Tests Online Anonymity

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  • nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:11AM (#19549185)
    The women who filed this suit have no case. I also have it on good authority that they are terrible students who neglect their studies, sleep around, take drugs and will no doubt become awful lawyers not fit to pass the bar.

    Furthermore, if they don't have sex with children, embezzle money, practise cruelty to animals and throw firebombs at orphans as a recreational activitiy, then my name is not Anonymous Coward.
    • Satire, thy name is Annonymous Coward
    • Re:nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

      by Robber Baron (112304) on Monday June 18, 2007 @08:52AM (#19550091) Homepage

      I also have it on good authority that they are terrible students who neglect their studies, sleep around, take drugs and will no doubt become awful lawyers not fit to pass the bar.
      In other words they'll be just like every other lawyer!
  • Serving the summons? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:17AM (#19549217)
    IANAL, but honestly, I can't see how this could move forward unless the identities are revealed. How else are you going to serve a summons to "LawGuy69" and "LegallyBlonde11111one"? The laws regarding serving summons are pretty explicit.
    • by carpe_noctem (457178) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:26AM (#19549289) Homepage Journal
      IANAL also, but my father is (well, an attorney, anyways), and I seem to recall that part of getting "served" is that it must be shown that you received your summons. It is fairly common to hear of stories in the legal profession of people trying to dodge getting served, and people serving said papers doing mischevious things to try to pressure their targets to comply.

      Posting a summons on an internet message board would probably do a lot to get people's attention (which, IMHO, seems to be kind of the root cause of this case to begin with), but there's no legal way to prove it was read unless the defendants post in thread. Which, even then, sounds rather lame to me..
      • Doesn't there have to be proof the one being served have read the summons? Isn't that the whole point of a sheriff serving the papers directly to a person, or someone receiving some sort of certified mail with a kind of receipt?
    • Thats not the way the law works. When you piss me off I sue you and anyone else even remotely connected to the 'incident'. Should these claims be proven libelous all the pressure falls on the administrator because they are actually known. So the court awards in my favour and the buck for liability stops with the administrator who now is highly motivated to find out who the original posters were so he can pass on the bad news and will be wasting no time in logging IP addresses from that point forward and als
    • by will_die (586523)
      Depends on the state, but from what I have read, most states just require that the summons have a way of uniquely identifing the person, most common being the name and residential address of the person.
      You have had instances where DNA, from a rape, has been used then once the owner of the DNA was identified they served that person. I would guess this would be the same kind of thing, they have filed with the court that they are suing LawGuy69, then they would request that a judge give them the right to ide
    • It's Libel (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Erris (531066) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:38AM (#19549401) Homepage Journal

      I can't see how this could move forward unless the identities are revealed. How else are you going to serve a summons to "LawGuy69" and "LegallyBlonde11111one"? The laws regarding serving summons are pretty explicit.

      From what the article said, there's a clear case of libel here. The remarks were untrue, malicious and there's considerable damage. It's surprising that people would take an internet forum attack seriously, but lawyers are slow learners. If the people responsible for that little fuck fest are unmasked, they are going to be made to pay. In cases like this, the damage is what counts even if it now looks foolish.

      The unmasking should be easy, if StanfordTroll and friends really are law students. I doubt they have a botnet, so they should be easy enough to root out from records the ISPs keep. If they are not really students or are more sophisticated than average, there's a more interesting story here. I would not put it past either political party to engage in these kinds of attacks for political ends.

      The rub is not the burning of the trolls but the lack of anonymity for whistle blowers and others actually reporting news that might embarrass the powers that be.

      • The rub is not the burning of the trolls but the lack of anonymity for whistle blowers and others actually reporting news that might embarrass the powers that be.

        So you might as well burn the trolls. Those other bad things are happening and cases like this and worse have already been used as excuses to violate your privacy. The rest of us might as well get something good out of it while we work to restore real privacy on the internet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sethg (15187)
        I think it's a safe bet that a most if not all of the defendants in this lawsuit have had off-board contacts with one another and know each other's true identities. So the plaintiff's lawyer can approach the defendants that he has identified and say: "If you don't roll over on your buddies, then two things are going to happen. First, all the damages we win in this case are going to come out of your pockets, while they get off scot-free. Second, you are going to be scrounging to find someone sleazy enough
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jhjessup (936580)
        Clear Case of Libel, eh? Let me go back and check my syllabus outline on this one... Libel = Printed Defamation = Tort = First Year...

        "Defamation is a false and defamatory statement which is intentionally or negligently published to third persons, is understood by those third persons as relating to the plaintiff, and is actual and proximate cause of damage to plaintiff's reputation."

        According to my outline (based on Prossor and Keaton on Torts and Gilbert's Law Summaries), "Damage" is presumed to exist if plaintiff is 1) accused of a crime, 2) of having a loathsome disease, 3) of being sexually promiscuous, or 4) of doing/being something inconsistent with his or her business (something that incline others to not deal with him in his business).

        So,

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mrbluze (1034940)

      The laws regarding serving summons are pretty explicit.

      Better make sure the kids are in bed before you go looking at them, methinks.

    • by glassesmonkey (684291) on Monday June 18, 2007 @08:08AM (#19549631) Homepage Journal
      All the court has to do is subpoena all the RAM on the server. Surely that will reveal the evil do-ers IP addresses! O.. wait... This sounds familiar...
  • What is even more surprising is that they allege that these law firms took those troll seriously.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jellie (949898)
      Why not? We post disparaging remarks about Gates, Ballmer, the RIAA, or whoever we feel like it. Sure, it's a way to express our opinions without having to leave our parents' basement, but what's to say that some of these posts don't have any merit? I looked at the site, and a lot of it is just racist, sexist, whatever-ist crap. If spoken in public, it's probably slander.

      For one of the women (I'm not sure if she's one of the plaintiffs or someone else), they apparently posted the Facebook and Flickr picture
      • There is a difference between shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater and shouting "So and So is an incompetent whore!" in a crowded theater. One is a criminal offense, and the other is an actionable civil offense.

        Now most people agree on criminal offenses. It's very specifically spelled out in law, precedent, and even the constitution.

        Civil offenses are a grey area. You can take the person to court, if you can figure out who they are, but you can't send the cops to their house without the support of a judge,
        • The question will be, can you claim common carrier status when you're protecting the anonymity of your posters?

          No, because ISPs generally are not common carriers to begin with.
          • If that were the case, then file sharing, for example, could be legally laid at the door of the ISPs, along with the burden of stopping it. The RIAA wouldn't have to bother suing individuals, they could sue the telecoms.

            Generally speaking, postings on the internet are assumed to be the property of the poster, and not of the site itself. This is clearly the assumption the litigators in this particular case are working under, as they are still attempting to sue the posters, rather than the site.
  • From TFA: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sunburnt (890890) * on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:31AM (#19549329)

    The site's founder, Jarret Cohen, the insurance agent, said the site merely provides a forum for free speech. "I want it to be a place where people can express themselves freely, just as if they were to go to a town square and say whatever brilliant or foolish thoughts they have," Cohen said.

    Except that isn't what you've created, you naive jackass. There is no anonymity in the town square: people speaking their "brilliant or foolish" (or slanderous and defamatory) thoughts are identifiable, and the repercussions for their actions can range from social disapproval to legal sanction. Blanket anonymity creates the exact fucking opposite environment from that of the town square. What Mr. Cohen has created rather resembles a public toilet. This is the same problem with news articles that rely entirely on anonymous sources to divulge personal details about the subject: how is the content any more credible than the random scrawlings of an interstate rest area?

    Anonymity is one thing if there is the possibility of unjust sanction for free speech, as in the case of whistleblowing. But if major law firms are, apparently, making decisions about others' character based on a bunch of anonymous cowards on online forums, it just goes to show that no amount of expensive education can cure idiocy.

    Of course, Congress is mostly a bunch of lawyers, and it's fun to imagine leading politicians being brought up on specious charges. Perhaps I'll have a change of heart if the president gets impeached, and the impeachment cites "A reputable source named Sunburnt on an anonymous Internet forum, who repeatedly asserts that the President secretly collaborates with the North Korean government."

    • Re:From TFA: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:51AM (#19549485) Homepage Journal

      Except that isn't what you've created, you naive jackass. There is no anonymity in the town square: people speaking their "brilliant or foolish" (or slanderous and defamatory) thoughts are identifiable, and the repercussions for their actions can range from social disapproval to legal sanction.


      You are 100% correct. When are people going to learn that typing stuff and putting it out on the public Internet is the electronic equivalent of shouting things to the world? There is no anonymity; everything can be traced back to somebody given the time and resources. If you say something in writing and allow it to be published to the world in order to damage someone's reputation, that's libel. Pure and simple. Hiding behind a pseudonym doesn't make it legal or right. If you can't stand by what you say, then don't say it, least of all in a public forum!

      Thank you, we now return to you to your normally-scheduled incoherent Slashdot ramblings.

      • by Sunburnt (890890) *

        When are people going to learn that typing stuff and putting it out on the public Internet is the electronic equivalent of shouting things to the world?

        See, now I just feel cynical. I think most already know this, and are in fact eager to share their thoughtful gems with the world-at-large. MySpace, Blogger, Livejournal, etc...it seems that one can make a fair bit of cash by encouraging folks to seek the attention of anonymous others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) *

      how is the content any more credible than the random scrawlings of an interstate rest area

      There is really no reason to bash our nation's fine rest areas, sir. Since the bathhouses closed, they're the source of 90% of my dates.

    • you're confused (Score:4, Interesting)

      everyone is anonymous on the internet. you and i aren't posting as anonymous cowards, but we're still anonymous: all you know of me is my moniker, and a few tid bits of information about who i am that i choose to disclose which may or may not be true

      therefore, all that is important is the speech we make. who we "are" is no more, or ess, than the words we say. i kind of like this idea: a complete meritocracy of ideas. attaching my speech or your speech to an "identity" won't make it any more or less responsible. so the line in the sand that you are drawing is a red herring: there is no public toilet posting board versus philosopher's lounge posting board. all posting boards are pretty much a special combination of interstate rest stop and town square tha toyu find on the internet. go ahead and view this thread with the cutoff point of -1 for posts. cheek to jowl with some high level intellignet and witty comments, you will find the most utterly retarded and ignorant asocial negative bullshit

      in other words, welcome to the internet. you should try to familiarize yourself a little more with your chosen subject matter. there is no such thing as an identity on the internet. it's all without accountability and recourse. which makes it truly free speech

      free speech brings out the good the bad and the ugly in human nature. so rather than some rather naive and idealistic individuals expecting that all human speech somehow become only good on the internet, maybe instead some of you, like these litigious law students, need to develop a higher level of tolerance to simple pointlessly negative and useless juvenile snark. it's not going away, no matter what you do. so just get used to it

      using your analogy, when you use a rest stop on the highway, and you see the retarded commentary on the walls, does it devastate you? emotionally damage you? no. you just roll your eyes and forget about it 10 seconds later. so why would the snarky juvenile idiocy damage you on the internet?
      • Re:you're confused (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sunburnt (890890) * on Monday June 18, 2007 @08:58AM (#19550149)

        everyone is anonymous on the internet. you and i aren't posting as anonymous cowards, but we're still anonymous: all you know of me is my moniker, and a few tid bits of information about who i am that i choose to disclose which may or may not be true
        Right. Now, if you should disclose anonymously that you have been giving my prospective bosses fraudulent information that negatively affects me materially, prepare to lose that anonymity at a judge's order, unless you're technically savvy enough to truly conceal your identity. I doubt that last condition applies to a bunch of idiot law students.

        go ahead and view this thread with the cutoff point of -1 for posts. cheek to jowl with some high level intellignet and witty comments, you will find the most utterly retarded and ignorant asocial negative bullshit

        I always read Slashdot at -1, in fact, and you're absolutely correct.

        in other words, welcome to the internet. you should try to familiarize yourself a little more with your chosen subject matter. there is no such thing as an identity on the internet.

        Thanks for presuming that I am unfamiliar with the Internet, but your contention is incorrect. One's real ID is certainly traceable in most instances from an online posting, given the proper court authority and technology.

        Also, we do have some form of ID on Slashdot. Mine's "Sunburnt (890890)". When you read a post and see my ID at the top, you might recall previous posts of mine and think, "Hey, this guy's usually pretty sharp and probably onto something here, I should credit this more than most other posts" or "Hey, this guy's usually a total jackass and is probably lying about everything in this post." On the other hand, if I post anonymously, you can't even look at my comment history to make such a determination. The concept of anonymity can be applied to varying degrees in diverse situations.

        so rather than some rather naive and idealistic individuals expecting that all human speech somehow become only good on the internet,

        How did you get that conviction out of my comments? I'm a bit too misanthropic to ever expect such a thing.

        maybe instead some of you, like these litigious law students, need to develop a higher level of tolerance to simple pointlessly negative and useless juvenile snark...when you use a rest stop on the highway, and you see the retarded commentary on the walls, does it devastate you? emotionally damage you? no. you just roll your eyes and forget about it 10 seconds later. so why would the snarky juvenile idiocy damage you on the internet?

        RTFA. The plaintiffs are specifically alleging material damages as a result of the posts in question. If anyone in this situation needs to adjust their credibility detectors, it's probably the hiring managers who apparently take this sort of juvenile shit-slinging seriously. (Not hard to believe, given their profession.)

        • Right. Now, if you should disclose anonymously that you have been giving my prospective bosses fraudulent information that negatively affects me materially...

          how does it affect you materially? juvenile snarky commentary about your sexuality affects you materially? are you a prostitute? if i say something negative about your tits on the internet, that's going to affect your job as a lawyer?! how?

          now let's say some hypothetical retarded hiring manager is just as juvenile as one of the posters, and it DOES aff
          • by Sunburnt (890890) *

            how does it affect you materially? juvenile snarky commentary about your sexuality affects you materially?

            It certainly seems to have done so to the plaintiffs, but that's the matter in front of the court, isn't it?

            no, i have a better idea: grow the fuck up. your fascist every-comment-must-not-be-anonymous attitude reveals an immaturity on your own part: a fragile ego. this is your personality defect, this is your character flaw. and we who are secure enough in ourselves to roll our eyes at retarded juvenil

            • Have a nice day, you illiterate shit.

              that comment doesn't bother me at all. because i am mature. you can attack me all you want. because my ego doesn't depend upon the negativity one finds easily on the internet. your ego seems to though. and amazingly, what you wrote about me being an illiterate shit is preceded by:

              I was unaware that mischaracterizing another's attitude, swearing at them, and giving a dime-store psychoanalysis of their personality based on a Slashdot comment were hallmarks of "MATURITY" an
              • that comment doesn't bother me at all. because i am mature.
                You know, I've been watching you for quite a while, and I'd be willing to apply a lot of adjectives to your online antics, some good, more bad. But "mature" and "secure" aren't remotely among them.

                Little hint: following "that comment doesn't bother me at all" with a 500 word rant on why your opponent sucks... tends to undermine your assertion a bit.
                • call me a fucking illiterate moronic piece of shit retard

                  doesn't bother me. really

                  but suggest to me there should be no such thing as anonymous posting on the internet?: that bothers the hell out of me. it's oppressive, and controlling, and it was what i was babbling on about. i wasn't mindlessly attacking the poster, i was MINDFULLY attacking the IDEA

                  understand?

                  furthermore, you are attacking me about my past behavior. huh? WHATEVER my past behavior, good or bad, because i was wrong in the past means i can't
                • by Sunburnt (890890) *

                  [F]ollowing "that comment doesn't bother me at all" with a 500 word rant on why your opponent sucks... tends to undermine your assertion a bit.

                  Indeed. Still, something can always be learned from unpleasantness, and I think I'll take this fellow's suggestion,

                  it does not serve women's rights to empower juvenile retards on the internet. and you do understand you empower them by reacting to them rather than ignoring them, right?

                  and "serve women's rights" by ceasing to "empower" his retarded juvenilia.

        • Also, we do have some form of ID on Slashdot. Mine's "Sunburnt (890890)". When you read a post and see my ID at the top, you might recall previous posts of mine and think, "Hey, this guy's usually pretty sharp and probably onto something here, I should credit this more than most other posts" or "Hey, this guy's usually a total jackass and is probably lying about everything in this post." On the other hand, if I post anonymously, you can't even look at my comment history to make such a determination. The con

          • by Sunburnt (890890) *

            What you're getting at is the distinction between anonymity, in which you have no identity, and pseudonymity, in which you have a persistent identity that need not be traceable to your everyday identity, but which still allows you to build up a reputation and be recognized as an individual by others.

            Pseudonymity - good word, that. Just goes to show that there is a descriptive word for every shade of grey.

            More frustrating, to me, than other poster's facile assumption that being upset by abuses of anonymity

      • using your analogy, when you use a rest stop on the highway, and you see the retarded commentary on the walls, does it devastate you? emotionally damage you? no. you just roll your eyes and forget about it 10 seconds later. so why would the snarky juvenile idiocy damage you on the internet?

        To be fair, future potential employers won't drive by that rest stop to see if there's anything written about you, and use that as part of the hiring decision.
        • and support my notion

          #1: future potential employers who use juvenile commentary on someone's sexuality in a hiring decision are just as retarded and juvenile as the comments themselves, and therefore:
          a. aren't worth working for.
          b. actionable in a court of law WAY more than the juvenile commentary is.

          #2: if you took a future employer out to that hypothetical truck stop and he/she saw that commentary, then what do you imagine happening? "oh, thanks, we can't hire this person. some retard scrawled something re
      • using your analogy, when you use a rest stop on the highway, and you see the retarded commentary on the walls, does it devastate you? emotionally damage you? no. you just roll your eyes and forget about it 10 seconds later. so why would the snarky juvenile idiocy damage you on the internet?

        What if an anonymous blog entry appeared on some forum with a WMV of you rubbing one out on the jon to a copy of your moms Sears & Roebuck maternity lingerie catalog? (apologies to Sam Kinneson for stealing this) Now
        • we're not at that level, are we?

          i think if someone walked down the street and yelled "jackass" at you the most prudent course of action is to ignore them

          and i think that if someone hit you on the head just walking down the street, ignoring them would be pretty stupid

          in other words, the issue is more complex than "ignore always" or "respond always"

          you have to gauge the severity of the attack. if the attack approached the level of your analogy, perhaps a response is appropriate. but for the severity of everyt
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Really?

      so If i am in the town square and start screaming about how you are a crazy silly walking fool you can positively identify me?
      I think you do not even have a clue as to how hard it is to identify a person from memory or even photograph if you do not personally know them. Then add in I can wear a wig and a fake beard and even make it nearly impossible for even close friends to identify me from a photograph.

      That is no different than right here in the internet. I don the wig, beard and glasses when I
      • Re:From TFA: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sunburnt (890890) * on Monday June 18, 2007 @09:36AM (#19550551)

        so If i am in the town square and start screaming about how you are a crazy silly walking fool you can positively identify me?

        If you started slandering me in public, I can identify at least which physical person is doing so, and probably get a police officer to tell you to quit disturbing the peace.

        I think you do not even have a clue as to how hard it is to identify a person from memory or even photograph if you do not personally know them.

        Not the point. The point is that you can be apprehended - a body can be associated with its speech. Posting anonymously on the Internet is more like leaving a boom box with a slanderous recording in the public square: while the speaker may ultimately be identified, it's immeasurably harder.

        Then add in I can wear a wig and a fake beard and even make it nearly impossible for even close friends to identify me from a photograph.

        You must have been watching a "Jeeves and Wooster" marathon.

        I use the anonymous buttons. This allows me to talk about subjects that will get me labeled as a terrorist or political dissident.

        Sorry, but you're just plain wrong. Unless you go to greater lengths to concel the place from where you're posting, the FBI or Secret Service can certainly find you from an anonymous post if you're noticed and deemed a possible threat worth investigating.

        Posting anon on the net is EXACTLY the same as the town square wearing a wig or other disguise. it is not what you so carefully paint to be incredibly different.
        I wonder how much time you must spend on the Internet to be unable to recognize the differences between a physical and an online presence?
        • by RexRhino (769423)

          Not the point. The point is that you can be apprehended - a body can be associated with its speech. Posting anonymously on the Internet is more like leaving a boom box with a slanderous recording in the public square: while the speaker may ultimately be identified, it's immeasurably harder.

          But how do you propose to stop anonymous postings on the internet? It is all fine and dandy to say how bad it is, but without fundamentally changing the technology of the internet to allow global tracking of individuals (something that would be hard to achieve, and would have other undesirable effects), and also creating a global law enforcement body with the power to go after people over "bad speech" (which is pretty damn scary), there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

          It is up to people doing hiring

          • by Sunburnt (890890) *

            But how do you propose to stop anonymous postings on the internet?

            You're not alone in mistakenly inferring this from my posts, but that's not what I propose. I propose that people who use a format they believe to be anonymous (not knowing, as I'll bet these law students didn't know, that there is little real anonymity on the net for the non-tech-savvy) to slander others should be open to the same sanction as people who do attach their own name to slander.

      • The difference is that if you put on a wig and a false nose and started ranting like a loony in the town square, most people would ignore your loony rantings because you're that loony with a wig and a false nose. There's a built in credibility check.

        It isn't like that on the web. Things on the web seem to get automatic credibility, or at least more credibility than they should. I have no idea why, but it probably dates back to when we lived up trees.

        The net is different to in-person communication (just a
    • by RexRhino (769423)
      So do you suggest a global ban on anonymous web postings? You can complain about the damaging effects of people posting anonymously online, but short of some pretty draconian China style technology controls, there is nothing you can do to stop it.
      • by Sunburnt (890890) *

        So do you suggest a global ban on anonymous web postings?

        No, and I'm dismayed that many posters have hastily inferred such from my distaste for anonymity. I suggest that people who slander or defame others using something they mistakenly assume to be anonymous should be sanctioned in the same way as people who attach their own name to slander or defamation. The problem here is that the idiot law students somehow believe that Internet forums provide anonymity.

  • Hmmmmm consider say Zippy (the rudimentary Emacs psychiatrist) ... well what if an upgraded was programmed to be rude & offensive... and registered as a user to a bulletin board. Yes it mightn't pass a full Turing test but would it manage to libel ? Who'd be responsible ?
    • I think a lot would depend on what the software was intended to do. If it went through the board, figuring out which strings were online handles, and randomly selecting targets for abuse, it would be a whole different situation than if you'd preprogrammed it to attack and annoy a specific individual.
  • laws, problems, infringement on our personal freedom as in the "real world." The Web used to be an escape from all the bullshit of the daily grind, and now it is just as bad. At least there is still one place were it has been spared the stupidity of the masses : u****t.
    • by Sunburnt (890890) *

      At least there is still one place were it has been spared the stupidity of the masses : u****t.

      Are you kidding? It's still always September on U****t.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      u****t
      Perhaps I'm not cool enough to get this, but these are the only words I can think of (and by think of, I mean grab from an online crossword cheat-bot), and none of them seem to fit:

      UMLAUT UNBENT UNBOLT UNFELT UNHURT UNJUST UNREST UNSEAT UPBEAT UPLIFT UPROOT UPSHOT URGENT UTMOST
      • u****t

        ME TOO!!!!

        I was going to make a comment as to you need a low enough Slashdot ID to know what U*****T is, but :

        ClaraBow (212734) Knows
        Sunburnt (890890) Knows
        I Am Defragged (982459) Doesn't Know
        His name cannot be s (16831) Definitly Knows, but won't say :P

        Seems something is out of place. I suspect that ClaraBow has a sufficiently low ID, and Sunburnt must have forgot his original Slashdot ID, and has created another one.

        One could easily argue that it's been September around here forever too.

        Damn kids.

  • while these women may be a tad bit litigiously minded, (caveat: i actually don't know what was said about them), they ARE Law School students for crying out loud. which tends to suggest that writing new case law rather than actual bruised egos is the order of the day

    hey ladies: random pointless negative asocial retards is pretty much par for the course on internet posting boards, especially when done anonymously. if you post with any regularity on the intertubes, you will get trolled, violently and personal
    • The problem isn't that the subjects of the messages might be offended, it's that some less-than-genius hiring manager might see and believe the messages. You can't sue someone for offending you, but you can sue someone for lying about you and costing you employment.
      • something about these women's breast sizes? any company with a manager who would hire/ not hire them because of snakry comments on their sexuality is:

        1. a company that the woman doesn't really want to work for. if the hiring manager is that stupid, do you really want to work for a company that puts someone that ignorant in the position of hiring manager?

        2. a company you could happily sue if it was because of that reason that they weren't hired. and these women have shown they have no problem suing over litt
    • I dare say these women will get MUCH more negative press from this lawsuit than from a bunch of lame anonymous messages on some no-name message board. Would YOU want to hire a woman so sensitive as to file a defamation lawsuit over some lousy message board posts? Can you imagine what it would be to actually have to WORK around her (talk about walking on eggshells)?
      • Walking on eggshells? WTF? I wouldn't be afraid to work with any of these women.

        Try this: If you find yourself in the position of working for a company which has just hired these women, here are the steps you can take to avoid a lawsuit:

        1) Forget to start a thread on the internal company bulletin boards entitled "Stupid Bitch to join MegaDominationCorp."

        There is no step two.

        All these women have demonstrated is that there is a certain, very high threshold of career-ruining slander that they're not willing
        • by elrous0 (869638) *
          Doesn't matter what you prefer to see them as, it only matters what they ARE. Defamation lawsuits are rare; and they usually indicate a touchy, hypersensitive, or even mentally unstable plaintiff. If that's the kind of person you want to work with--knowing that they're sensitive and not at all shy about filing a lawsuit for a perceived slight--you go right ahead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
      hey ladies: random pointless negative asocial retards is pretty much par for the course on internet posting boards, especially when done anonymously. if you post with any regularity on the intertubes, you will get trolled, violently and personally. it's a given. it's just hot air from ignorant asocial losers

      Or as I say, never attribute to bigotry, what can be explained by misanthropy.

      On a more serious note, Dahlia Lithwick on Slate wrote an article [slate.com] that may be of interest here, about how female law students
  • Phew (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:38AM (#19549397)
    So far, one method tried was to post the summons on the message board itself and ask the defendants to step forward.

    Wow.. so did it work?

    If not, they gotta try to post the Internet summons in the form of a "IT'S NOT A JOKE. YOU WON. CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE" banner. Maybe throw in a "FREE TRIP!!!" next to it.

    That works. Every time.
    • What amuses me is that they've asked the trolls to identify themselves by e-mailing their contact information to the lawyer representing the plaintiff. This seems like the perfect opportunity to defame even more people...
  • by HuskyDog (143220) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:45AM (#19549447) Homepage

    Can someone please explain to me why allegedly prestigious law firms would use anonymous and clearly libelous postings as any sort of basis to decide whether to employ someone? Especially when many of the comments appear to be unrelated to legal ability (breast size, sexual orientation etc).

    Surely, if these women are indeed excellent graduates, they will have completely non-anonymous references from prestigious law professors saying so. Why would a potential employer need anything else.

    Perhaps this problem could best be solved by some sort of automated system which publishes random derogatory comments about all law graduates. Then, these law firms would not be able to employ any new graduates and would eventually go out of business!!

    • The same reason that employers google potential applicants?
    • by Hrothgar The Great (36761) on Monday June 18, 2007 @08:48AM (#19550055) Journal
      If you were the most brilliantly qualified candidate ever to apply for a position at a big company, I doubt they would use random anonymous message board comments in their decision of whether or not to hire you; after all, they've learned enough about you through your resume and your interview - they don't need any further information.

      Unfortunately, in the real world, most people applying for jobs, especially for nice jobs at big companies, have to compete with many other people with very similar qualifications. A manager might see some of these defamatory comments (some of which, according to the article, were work related) and decide not to bother with you because they have five other candidates without that baggage. That seems to be what happened in this case.

      I'm not saying I agree with this as a hiring practice, by the way. I think it's bullshit, and you wouldn't catch me doing it if I were in a position to hire someone. It's unquestionable that it does happen out there, though.
    • by faloi (738831)
      The law firm doesn't have to look at the posts for them to be considered.

      Let's say you're in charge of hiring, and still have some contacts at the college you're looking to pull from. You call your buddy and tell him that Doe I looks good on paper, what's the story from the school's perspective. You get a long story about various misdeeds from your buddy. Maybe all you get is a cryptic "I wouldn't recommend them" which is probably more in keeping with hiring law/practices. You elect not to hire based o
    • The law firms probably did not rely on this website at all when making employment decisions. Interviews at law firms last for a few hours at most, and no one bothers to Google the applicant's name because there's really no incentive to do so (with sexual harassment training and everything, you don't want to get stuck sending photos of the applicant's revealing Facebook photos).

      Discovery in this case against the plaintiffs will be interesting. The firms she applied to would probably have to answer why they
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oizfar (1116999)
      you don't get it. The girls aren't actually worried about their jobs. They're graduating from yale law, they can work anywhere they want even if the libel was on the front page of the new york times. they are "testing" the limits of internet anonymity as the title suggests. This is the kind of geek thing that law students screw around with before they get into the real world and have to sue people for money instead of intellectual curiosity.
  • by Technician (215283) on Monday June 18, 2007 @07:47AM (#19549463)
    New generation, next chapter. When I was a kid, the flame wars were on CB radio. Being anonymous and untouchable made some pretty tough bullies who were unafraid to stir the pot and hit below the belt. It has simply moved online now. In the old day, a Radio Direction Finder was the great equalizer.

    In the new day, insulting comments have greater than a 15 mile range and are still there days/weeks/months later. It's harder to catch the abuser and the damage is greater. The AC bully is still with us. IP logging helps some.

    There is a disconnect from the abuser and the victem. The victem sees just the grafiti on the forum and does not have the advantage of the raw transmission to obtain the source data such as login info and IP address. That is why that abuse info has to be required from the site owner if it was ever logged.

    Online humiliation of posting an abusers IP address doesn't have the same impact as announcing a radio abuser's street address. I had more than one online radio bully call my DF bluff and had the misfortune to find out I wasn't bluffing. When that realisation became clear, he tried keying on the top of me. I was very patient and simply re-broadcast when he un-keyed. After 40 minutes, he went silent in defeat.

    Unfortunately, the only way to clean up the mess is either moderation, or validation. Un-moderated forum space permitting anonymous posting is a bully's paridise. A flame war can quickly fry the place. It has spilled into the legal system. I don't post on un-moderated boards. /. permits, AC posts, but they are subject to moderation which helps keep the GNAA and goatse to low levels and personal flamewars almost non-existant.
  • AFAICS, Privacy is a conditional right. You have to behave in order to enjoy it. Do bad things and you will lose it. That's the basis for police search warrants. The same or worse holds in the civil law sphere -- discovery and depositions are frightening things.

    The justification for privacy is simple: prevention of prejudice. But it is a shield against unfair blows, not a tank where you can launch attacks from protection.

    Anonymity has some tradition (Federalist Papers) and protection in the US. But

  • Surely if they want the real names they should be willing to give theirs up.

    Perhaps a double standard, perhaps I just don't know the relative case law.
  • With a forum name like Xoxohth, I'm not sure you want to know who the anonymous posters are. There are some things that Man Was Not Meant To Know.
  • by Sgt_Jake (659140) on Monday June 18, 2007 @11:23AM (#19552163) Journal
    So, I like to believe there's some kind of cosmic balance regarding the justice of things. What would be really cool here, is if someone would collect all the pseudonyms of the jack-asses posting things like pictures, rape threats, etc. and so on, *and* collect all of their comments to basically make a 'my space' profile of those pseudonyms. A clearing house of that users particular online personality.
    Then figure out who that pseudonym belongs to. Offer a reward of 10 paypal bucks, an i-five, you know - stupid schwagg that should be more than enough to out the guy by his acquaintances, who undoubtedly also think he's an asshole. Confirm it of course, as best as you're able - maybe get a few pics of the guy along with his schedule, a pic of him taking a pic of one of his targets would be funny as hell, and then come back to Slashdot with the results. A "Hall of assholes who post on AutoAdmit".
    Guaranteed those dicks will have a hard time getting a job (or staying in law school if some of those comments are to be believed). And it's not really actionable since all you did was tie his anonymous pseudonym to his real name (again, you'd need a really solid source for who he is), and by God, you didn't promise him any such anonymity.

    Now I know, we'd all be in trouble if someone did this to us (for example, my own essays on the transcendent joy of seeing goatse... /retch/). But the thing is, when someone tells you to leave them the hell alone, and you don't, and then someone fsck's with you and you tell them to leave you alone, and they don't... that, my friends, is cosmic justice. Oh - and funny.
  • I ran through all the links, and found Jill Filipovic's Flickr site (it's easy, just paste it into search). After wasting about 15 minutes of my life, possible flaggin the corporate wirewall for "questionable search strings", and being reacquainted with how stupid people can get....I'm sorta on the fence on this one.

    After reading Jill's own words, seeing what she was exposed to, I understand her frustration. I can't empathize because I'm not female and subjected to constant oogling, but I can sympathize if she feels wronged. Obviously she does because she is suing. Obviously, as a law student, she realizes the consequences and did more than just spout, "IAMNAL, but blah blah blah" like most people would. If she felt scorned, she knows the suit will increse the actions of the unjust. Hence the really vile emails and comments she is now getting. I don't care how bad a person is or isn't, no one deserves to be called "a diseased AIDS infected cum bucket..."

    On the other hand, these are just idiots posting on a message board similar to ours. I wish all boards had our moderation (and meta-moderate). Would it stop it? Nah, but I can decide on days with little time to read the meat (read 2+), or on days with not much to do see the "nice rack" comments (reading -1) which of course would make me pull up the pics since I'm def interested in any pics described in that manner :) (sorry if THAT offends....) Back on topic: I hire people, and I'd give NO consideration to the rantings of a message board. This is why I found it offensive the MessageBoard admin guy didn't get a job because of his simple affiliation with the message board. That's just plain stupid. CowboyNeal isn't responsible for MY comments, whether I'm a freakin genuis or a certifiable retard.

    So where does that leave us? A meager attempt by the law to do what's possibly moral in the eyes of a few. We know they got it dead wrong with DMCA, but right with attempted murder. Yes, I picked extremes, but you can see my point. Morally, is it wrong and they should be sued for calling her what they did? I guess if you had to nail me to the wall one way or the other, I'd say I agree with Jill. Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable agreeing with anyone who associates with variations of the word "feminist" but she might also be using it in a different construct/context. The reason I am comfortable is that free speech has responsible constraints. If you disagree, post a very public attack on $cientology with personal info about yourself, and then tell me in 6 months how you feel. I have a feeling you'll think Jill might have a point.
  • Interesting Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjohnson (62583) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:45PM (#19555613) Homepage
    When you're getting sued, the plaintiff's lawyer can send you instructions to preserve all existing and future material with possible evidentiary value in the proceedings. Failure to do so after receiving those instructions is horrendously bad from a legal perspective.

    So if a website is purposefully not logging IPs to avoid identifying anonymous posters, and they receive such a notice, does failure to start logging IPs count as failing to preserve material with possible evidentiary value?

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