There goes your anonymity....
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Thread: There goes your anonymity....

  1. #1
    Old Fart
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    There goes your anonymity....

    The battle of online privacy took an interesting turn this week, and with all the election news this one kinda slipped past this member. It seems that AOL came out on the losing side in its legal effort to keep the identity of one of its subscribers under wraps. It seems that the Virginia Supreme Court has decided that AOL cannot hide said members identity, as a company in California is seeking to file libel charges against him (or her) for derogatory statements made by this person about that company on an internet bulletin board. It will be a mess for awhile due to the fact that the original complaint was filed in Ca., and the Va. S.C. says it is up to Ca. to sort out the first amendment implications. What it all boils down to is that when the dust has settled it may be possible to file and prosecute libel cases centering around posts made even in such places as AntiOnline. Given that possibility, personal character attacks on the internet are not only in bad taste, they may well in the future get the attacker in 'hot water' as well.

    For more on the story, click here.
    Al
    It isn't paranoia when you KNOW they're out to get you...

  2. #2
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    And when were personal character attacks on the Internet (or anywhere, for that mater) ever in good taste? The only difference is that now people are accountable for thier remarks. We are everywhere else... why should the Internet be any different?
    Government is like fire - a handy servant, but a dangerous master - George Washington
    Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force. - George Washington.

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  3. #3
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    I think the whole thing's a bunch of crap.I've always been against libel,because there's this little part of the constitution that says something about my right to say whatever I want when I want known as the first amendment.Then you have the invasion of privacy issue.You are garunteed your privacy as a member of AOL,and exceptions shouldn't be made because some company has a few million dollars to throw around,especially when the person is excersizing his right to free speech.
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  4. #4
    Gray Haired Old Fart aeallison's Avatar
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    Exclamation Point!

    Allen you stated this:

    What it all boils down to is that when the dust has settled it may be possible to file and prosecute libel cases centering around posts made even in such places as AntiOnline. Given that possibility, personal character attacks on the internet are not only in bad taste, they may well in the future get the attacker in 'hot water' as well.
    And oh so true it may be, but this guy has a very valid respnse too:

    Re: Unfortunately this jibes with the real world..

    I feel that some of you seemed to have missed the point. The Constitution is meant to protect the innocent, not the guilty. If you post in a news paper information about an illegal drug pickup then the news paper would be compelled to provide your personal information to the authorities, as you are taking part in illegal activities. In this case, this person was posting false information about a company in order to effect it's stock prices. This is an illegal activity. This person is a criminal and his identity should be released. Kudos to the court for demanding this information.

    The 1st amedment is not a license to take part in illegal activity that could cost investers millions or others their lives. We have the right to free speech. But not at the expense of others.




    Name: Michael Kellabrew
    Posted At: 19:06 GMT 11/06/2002
    I really hope that our first ammendment rights will ultimately remain ours, and not be turned into another "piece - o - sh*t" by some fanatic like the Brady Bill tried to do. I don't know the whole story, but, if I were AOL, I would want to be sure these folks are really crooks, and not just a few peeps sitting around shootin the breeze...
    I have a question; are you the bug, or the windshield?

  5. #5
    Senior Member roswell1329's Avatar
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    Originally posted here by gghornet
    I think the whole thing's a bunch of crap.I've always been against libel,because there's this little part of the constitution that says something about my right to say whatever I want when I want known as the first amendment.
    Actually, there are a LOT of things you can't say in this country. You cannot yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre. You cannot yell 'bomb' in an airport. You cannot say 'I'm going to kill the President'. The basis behind libel is that you also cannot state, with the appearance of fact, something about someone that is not true. For example, if I were to run an ad in the New York Times that Microsoft is killing babies in Ecuador and clubbing baby seals in Alaska, I would be guilty of libel. I have to support libel in a capitalistic society, because one's reputation greatly affect their business. If I were starting up a small ISP, and some idiot ran a full page ad in the local paper that said, "Newly established RoswellISP is actually a Satanic Nazi cult that brainwashes it's members into performing sexually deviant acts at their annual charity dinners!" I would be kaput. I could try to argue against that, but the air of my untarnished reputation would be gone. I would fight forever to get out from under that stigma. How would you feel if someone rented a billboard to run the message, "DANGER: gghornet is a serial rapist and child molester! Under law we are required to report this violent sexual predator is living in your midst!"? It would be tough to get anything but disgusted looks and resentment from your neighbors ever again. Libel is there to protect people. I'm not happy about some places it's applied, either, but it's there for everyone.

    Then you have the invasion of privacy issue.You are garunteed your privacy as a member of AOL,and exceptions shouldn't be made because some company has a few million dollars to throw around,especially when the person is excersizing his right to free speech.
    Hmmm...check the Constitution again. See if you can find the word privacy in there anywhere. Better yet, check out Cornell Law's Constitutional Search:

    http://www2.law.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/...y?realquerydlg

    I'm afraid privacy is nowhere to be found. While we have established some laws to protect certain areas of life where sensitive, personal issues must be brought to light (like between you and your doctor, or between you and your spiritual leader), one of those areas is not an AOL-customer priviledge. The law does not recognize any such protection. AOL may guarantee that they will do anything they can to protect your privacy, they don't state with fact that they will be successful in the end. Sure, you may find a judge somewhere out there willing to stretch the line to include online bulletin-board/web-forum communiques, but I'd be willing to bet you'd be hard pressed to do so. Those are obviously meant as public forums, just as if you were standing in Washington Square yelling at the top of your lungs that Starbuck's uses strychnine in their cream. However, that would be slander, not libel.

    I agree that the application of this law sucks sometimes, but we gotta take the good with the bad. That's the only way it works for everyone.

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  6. #6
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    then we have companies like ewatch, run by a guy named skinner, that search the web for anybody (news or person) that writes about the company and provides a detailed dossier about the person. then they can use that to file charges if they don't like what that person has to say. and all this for around $5,000 a screen name in 7-10 days. for an extra couple grand, they can send it to the company in 48 hours. northwest airlines used it in 1999 to identify employees who participated in a "sick out" that almost stopped flights for christmas. those employees have been fired and the court is cooperating.

    gghornet> now other things you cannot say are. i had a bad experience with my phone service. this company treated me like crap. you cannot warn people away from companies that are unethical because you're not allowed to say they are unethical.
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    LOL.Check my quote again.I didn't say the constitution garuntees privacy,I said AOL garuntees the privacy of your personal information,and exceptions shouldn't be made because some company doesn't like what this person said about them,unless they have some kind of concrete proof that what he said affected their business.

    Another thing.How can anyone prove,even if AOL was to give up this guy's user name,that it wasn't someone else using it(either from his end or a skiddy that stole his user name/password).Until these things are worked out,I don't think anyone has any right to this person's personal information.In this country you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,and from what I see nobody has even the slightest bit of concrete evidence against this person.On the Internet a user name is about as good as saying "Well the bank robber said his name was Fred."I don't necessarily believe he didn't say those things,but where's the proof.
    [shadow]I don\'t believe in anarchy.If you\'re not smart enough to beat the system it\'s your problem. [/shadow]


  8. #8
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    you bring up a good point, gghornet.
    which reminds me of a recent occurance in cleveland where someone was guilty until proven innocent. there was a 5 part expose in the city paper The Plain Dealer ran which tells the story of Michael Green who was accused and sentenced to 13 years of prison for a rape he did not commit. after hearing of certain legal help that uses dna testing to prove innocence (became really popular after the OJ trial) eventually, Michael Green was let out of prisonand the real rapist turned himself in (they did a dna test BEFORE they put this guy in)
    so i guess what i'm trying to say is in our judicial system, we are supposed to be innocent til proven guilty but it ends up happening the other way around most of the time.
    just like water off a duck\'s back... I AM HERE.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member problemchild's Avatar
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    I didn't say the constitution garuntees privacy,I said AOL garuntees the privacy of your personal information
    AOL and its policies are subordinate to the laws of the United States and the 50 states. They cannot guarantee a right that is contrary to law. There has never been any legal guarantee of absolute privacy, and if AOL guarantees one and the courts disagree, that's their fault. They can't guarantee a right to engage in illegal or tortious activity with immunity from the legal system any more than you can promise to hide bank robbers in your basement.

    I haven't read their TOS myself, but I'm highly skeptical that AOL provides a blanket guarantee of absolute privacy. There is usually an exception which states that they will comply with legal process.

    even if AOL was to give up this guy's user name,that it wasn't someone else using it(either from his end or a skiddy that stole his user name/password).
    That would be a valid defense that he could raise in the courts. The fact that the person may or may not have a defense doesn't prohibit the action from being brought. If that becomes the basis for bringing legal actions, plaintiffs would have no recourse because everyone has some kind of excuse or defense. The opportunity to be heard in open proceedings is a basic principle of civil procedure.

    There is also one other thing to note: Libel is defined as a false and injurious statement of fact. Statements of opinion are immune from libel and slander suit. If I say that I think so-and-so is a stinking piece of **** not worth the gunpowder it would take to blow him to hell, I am immune from suit because an opinion is subjective. But if I say that so-and-so molests border collies in his back yard, that is an objective statement of fact that can easily be proven true or false and is therefore subject to a lawsuit. If I can prove the truth of the statement, that is an affirmative defense and I can have the action dismissed.

    So as long as what you say is true, you have no problem. This guy made statements about the company's stock, and if it was false and injurious to the company's stock value, he should be sued.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member roswell1329's Avatar
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    Originally posted here by gghornet
    LOL.Check my quote again.I didn't say the constitution garuntees privacy,I said AOL garuntees the privacy of your personal information,and exceptions shouldn't be made because some company doesn't like what this person said about them,unless they have some kind of concrete proof that what he said affected their business.
    I didn't mean to sound attacking at all. My apologies if that came across. I just wanted to clarify a few things. I understood that part about AOL shouldn't make exceptions, but the original post stated that AOL was trying to protect this guy's privacy, but was having difficulties under pressure from the courts. It sounded like you were under the impression that AOL was voluntarily offering this information. Unfortunately, they're being compelled to deliver it by the court. My point was simply that AOL has no legal standing to protest this action. No exception has been made by AOL, because there is no law that recognizes privacy for AOL users for what they post online.

    Another thing.How can anyone prove,even if AOL was to give up this guy's user name,that it wasn't someone else using it(either from his end or a skiddy that stole his user name/password).Until these things are worked out,I don't think anyone has any right to this person's personal information.In this country you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,and from what I see nobody has even the slightest bit of concrete evidence against this person.On the Internet a user name is about as good as saying "Well the bank robber said his name was Fred."I don't necessarily believe he didn't say those things,but where's the proof.
    I'm not sure how they go about this, but I imagine they could trace times that the user was logged in, and then check his LUDs to see if the call to connect to AOL was made from his home. Then they could attempt to disprove any alibi he may give for not being at home at the time. If he was at home when the call was made to connect to AOL, and his name was logged in when the post was made, he would have a tough time arguing his way out of that. Juries have convicted on less.
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