Apparently, Free Speech Doesn't Apply to the Interwebs


37-year-old former model is featured on an obscure, long-stagnant blog on Blogger in which pictures of her feature captions like "psychotic", "skank", and "ho". She pursues a ruling from the court to force Blogger to divulge the identity of the blogger on grounds that with the identity of the blogger, the model would be a plantiff in a defamation action (this is called a pre-action discovery). Here's the actual case. Or, if you want to cheat, here's CNN's take on it. After much deliberation on the exact nature of the captions, the judge rules that Google (owner of Blogger) must give the identity to the defendant.

I read the whole case, and I'm telling you there are serious flaws with the arguments, many of which are simply due to misunderstanding of the internet and blogs. The core argument that the judge has to make here is whether or not the blog is in fact defamatory. According to the official definition, there are 3 factors that go into that decision: 1) The statement must be false, 2) the statement must have been published without the consent or at the behest of any third party (thus putting all the negligence on the publisher), and 3) the statement must cause special harm.
The defendant argues that 1 can't be proven because the language used in the blog is general slang used all over the internet, and should be taken literally. The Judge goes on to basically ignore that defense and show that "skank" and "ho" are descriptive words that paint somebody as being "sexually provocative." Therefore, those terms are factual, and thus "false." Whatever. That logic doesn't really make sense to me, but I'm not a Judge, so I can't really argue. 2 is a non-issue, it was his blog, and he wrote it. 3, which says there needs to be special harm, is satisfied by the fact that the defendant is trying to label the model as "sexually promiscuous."

Congratulations, your honor, you have successfully argued that it is illegal to insult somebody falsely on the Internet. Next time someone put up a comment on my youtube video that says "lolz, WTF this is gayfag. ur momz a ho", I'm going to sue for defamation. After all, it is flase beyong any reasonable doubt that my video does not have a sexual orientation geared towards members of its own gender. People will stop watching the video when they see such riffraff populating my comments section. Special harm.

The defendant's argument that the Internet, and the blogosphere in particular serve primarily as a forum for people's opinions, and that information gleaned from personal blogs should therefore not be assumed to be fact, is countered with a swift 'holier than thou' kick in the behind.

"The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions"

In other words, free speech on the Interwebs needs to be regulated because people's feelings might get hurt. And seriously, if you're a model, and you can't handle some anonymous punk calling you a "skank ho," then you really need to find a different profession.

There's a serious lack of perspective here. This judge obviously has not been on the Interwebs in a while, and probably still uses Internet Explorer (gasp!!!). When anonymity becomes a way life, so does stupid people calling you "gayfag." You learn to live with it, or you leave.

False accusations leading to real damage, financially or otherwise, are a different story. Defamation laws do apply to the Interwebs, but only if it's real defamation. This judge obviously needs to take a good, long tour of commentsville and realize that moderating the entire Interwebs is simply illogical and a clear breach of free speech.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

You said "skank ho," LoL

I totally agree though. You are a gayfag. LoL

Ok, but seriously... People are way to sensitive. The logic of the judge does make sense, though his seeming lack of knowledge of how the Interwebs work is what leads him to an incorrect judgement. Maybe he should start reading our blogs. That oughta help him out...

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