Monday, June 18, 2007

Annonymity is on trial

Anonymity will be on trial in the AutoAdmit defamation suit...because some mother f__king sexist law students got their jollies by cyber-trashing two women law students. I blog anonymously. If I named names maliciously exposing identities of others, and particularly if I attached false statements to the reputations of such others or made threatening or demeaning remarks, I would not deserve what little protection anonymity gives me.

The problem is one of how to judiciously pull back the covers, how to expose only those who have been abusive. I hope the judges are wise enough to value the rights of the pamphleteer, the writers on the wall and smart enough to see the difference between indefensible personal attack and public denunciations that would not take place if officials had easy recourse to retribution. That retribution can even silence the powerful.

Ann Althouse, a law professor with a blog, does her level best to be even handed about this AutoAdmit suit. Unfortunately her best is framing her remarks with this introduction: "Now, we have a fine opportunity to see how people think about free speech on the Internet when the politics are turned around. "'d get the impression that misuse of freedom of speech to attack people is hardly any thing to worry about compared to a threat to freedoms. She hints by example that small claims court is the right place to shush one's attackers. I too value those rights yet I do not dismiss the the harms done under their guise. There is even a strain of opinion out there that the plaintiffs have no substantial complaint. I do not think you can take that stand without tacitly condoning lying about others and threatening them. One ought to be careful going on record in support of trolls.

The web has made anonymity cheap. Both care and common sense will be needed to prevent it being lost because it has been cheapened. The medium is new, the problem of cowardly sexists is ancient.

What should be on trial? Not anonymity, not any honest freedom. There is no such thing, nor should there ever be such a thing as the "freedom to threaten and harm another" and particularly so if nothing but the gender, race or other distinction of the attacked person is smudged with the stigma of the attacked.


nicolle said...

honest freedom in anonymity is on trial. there's just something significantly less real about what someone says anonymously, cloaked behind the veil of not having to reveal their identity. there's something inherently less credible about it, too, and it's just not worth anyone getting flipped out over--whether they're the harasser or the harassed, or a third party just stumbling across it.

trolls are going to do it anyway--and honestly, i don't have a problem with trolls anonymously lying about people. the targets should ignore it, and anyone who stumbles across the anonymous forum should take the troll for what he is, and take the lies for what they are--stupidity not worth a second read.

GreenSmile said...

Hi Nicolle.
I see the range of seriousness or alarm with which persons other than the targets of the threats and slanders take those harassing comments as reflecting a range in capacity for sympathy. That, I would admit is essentially an emotional reaction and not likely to get strong legal play except in questions of whether the targeted persons had other reasons to take seriously the threats made against them, i.e. assessing state of mind. You and I are not the victims here, or rather the alleged victims so our different inclinations toward sympathy are not too important.

Though the matter may not be directly brought up in the charges before the court, one implied question is whether or not the plaintiffs are victims, whether they can demonstrate actual harm was done them. If it emerges that they can prove that [and I think you are saying "thats a big and dubious IF"] harm was done, then we are in a realm beyond mere trollery. But if the harm is that some law firm took seriously the denigrating lies that were posted on AA when they should have known the remarks were false, the firms failed to "take a troll for what he is". Who would be to blame then for the two law students who did not get intern jobs?

well, its a case to watch as far as I am concerned.

JahTeh said...

I've been reading through the feminist blogs and comments and it's appalling at how much hate towards women there is in America.
A friend is coming home from America and he won't even put his opinion of where he's been in an email because he doesn't trust your government.
That's not to say I trust ours either.

GreenSmile said...

interesting remark in that it leads me to wonder if indeed the US has an especially misogynist culture, at least when it is on line, as compared to UK, Oz or Canada. Other places matter as well but I'm interested in the most comparable situations so that IF there is a difference, causes might be easier to ascertain.

JahTeh said...

It could be a number of reasons, lefties go to leftist blogs and the 'rightwingdeathbeasts' keep to theirs, our feminists blogs don't have the volume of traffic and the fact that 80 percent of the population still doesn't know what a blog is.