A brief warning concerning defamation on the Internet - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
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A brief warning concerning defamation on the Internet

Defamation suit tests online anonymity
Two Yale law students file suit against online message board, including subpoenas for 28 anonymous posters.
By Reuters
Published: June 17, 2007, 11:43 PM PDT

It bills itself as the world's "most prestigious college discussion board," giving a glimpse into law school admissions policies, post-graduate social networking and the hiring practices of major law firms.

But the AudoAdmit site, widely used by law students for information on schools and firms, is also known as a venue for racist and sexist remarks and career-damaging rumors.

Now it's at the heart of a defamation lawsuit that legal experts say could test the anonymity of the Internet.

After facing lewd comments and threats by posters, two women at Yale Law School filed a suit on June 8 in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., that includes subpoenas for 28 anonymous users of the site, which has generated more than 7 million posts since 2004.

According to court documents, a user on the site named "STANFORDtroll" began a thread in 2005 seeking to warn Yale students about one of the women in the suit, entitled "Stupid Bitch to Enter Yale Law." Another threatened to rape and sodomize her, the documents said.

The plaintiff, a respected Stanford University graduate identified only as "Doe I" in the lawsuit, learned of the Internet attack in the summer of 2005 before moving to Yale in Connecticut. The posts gradually became more menacing.

Some posts made false claims about her academic record and urged users to warn law firms, or accused her of bribing Yale officials to gain admission and of forming a lesbian relationship with a Yale administrator, the court papers said.

The plaintiff said she believes the harassing remarks, which lasted nearly two years, cost her an important summer internship. After interviewing with 16 firms, she received only four call-backs and ultimately had zero offers--a result considered unusual given her qualifications.

Another woman, identified as Doe II, endured similar attacks. The two, who say they suffered substantial "psychological and economic injury," also sued a former manager of the site because he refused to remove disparaging messages. The manager had cited free-speech protections.

"The harassment they were subjected to was quite grotesque," said Brian Leiter, a professor at University of Texas Law School. "Any judge who looks at this is going to be really shocked, and particularly shocked because these appear to be law students."

The suit is being watched closely to see if the posters are unmasked, a step that could make anonymous chat room users more circumspect. It also underlines the growing difficulty of protecting reputations online as the Web is used increasingly to screen prospective employees and romantic partners.

"They can't hide behind anonymity while they are saying these scurrilous and menacing things," said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles.

He said the site was not liable under federal protections that are more lenient on Web sites than TV and newspapers. Prosecuting the manager could also be difficult because he did not write the posts, Volokh added. But the anonymous posters look liable and their careers could be jeopardized, he said.
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"This ought to be a warning to be people that if you say things that are not just rude but arguably libelous and potentially threatening and perhaps actionable on those grounds then their identity might be unmasked," he said.

Finding and identifying the posters--including one called "The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah"--could be tough but is not impossible. The process involves subpoenas issued to Internet service providers for records, and then more subpoenas to companies, institutions or people identified on those records.

"I've said in my blog the most vile posters on that board are two subpoenas away from being outed," said Leiter. "This led to much amusement by the anonymous posters on the board.

"But they are about to find out that this is how it works."
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 09:36 AM
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Bot, your mama is so...

Well it had to happen, a few ruin it for the rest, same ol', same ol'. The moderators should have removed blatant attacks, especially after so long. Who the hell uses internet forums anyway? That would be a hoot. Still some governing will be enevitable, besides, the advertisements almost own it now anyway.

And...

Just like all news stories I am sure we are not hearing the little tidbits that make or break a decision in the name of creating interest among readers.

Last edited by Shane; 06-18-2007 at 12:18 PM.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 09:46 AM
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The suit is nothing "new" legally. These people defamed actual private citizens by name. You can't do that, and you can lose your anonimity because you are subject to subpeona. I had a hassle with some asshole named Lebenz (I think that was his name) where he used my real name to call me a 'psychopath'. I was assured by my attorney that I could sue him up the ass, which I should have done, just like these people are doing. I got a pretty good education on the subject in the process. You cannot defame another anonymous poster. You can defame an actual person, it is as simple as that.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 09:50 AM
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did anyone tell these guys that their Lawyers they take it in the butt
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 09:56 AM
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Oh, and by the way, Botnst is a Nazi.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
Oh, and by the way, Botnst is a Nazi.
But the brown shirts are correctly starched and well pressed.

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Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 11:02 AM
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And he's added about 35,000 more words to Mein Kampf.

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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
The suit is nothing "new" legally. These people defamed actual private citizens by name. You can't do that, and you can lose your anonimity because you are subject to subpeona. I had a hassle with some asshole named Lebenz (I think that was his name) where he used my real name to call me a 'psychopath'. I was assured by my attorney that I could sue him up the ass, which I should have done, just like these people are doing. I got a pretty good education on the subject in the process. You cannot defame another anonymous poster. You can defame an actual person, it is as simple as that.
But, you are a psychopath.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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Anybody can sue anybody and most lawyers will take a suit even if it's a bit frivolous because .... that's how lawyers make money--lawsuits. So just because some lawyer says you have a case doesn't mean you necessarily have prayer of winning it.

If your logon name is the same as your actual name then ...
#1 You're self-describing a fool and ...
#2 How could anybody know whether it is or is not your name?

In the specific case posted above, if those women were so stupid as to identify themselves on line then who would want to hire them as a lawyer? If they did not self-identify then they probably have a chance of winning.

In either case, the jack-assed MoFo's who defamed them over the course of several years oughtta have some serious abu graib time with the girl's relatives.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst
Anybody can sue anybody and most lawyers will take a suit even if it's a bit frivolous because .... that's how lawyers make money--lawsuits.

Case in point John Edwards.........
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