Just Because You Don't Like Something Online, Doesn't Mean We Should Blame Third Parties

from the thinking-through-the-liability dept

Last Thursday and Friday were a pair of very interesting conferences about secondary liability in the Bay Area. On Thursday, there was a one day event all about secondary liability, and on Friday there was the (already mentioned) one day symposium all about Section 230 (which is a law having to do with secondary liability) put on by the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. This is a big and important topic -- even if it may sound boring if you don't follow specific legal issues. As multiple people pointed out at both events, having strong protections against secondary liability are a large part of what allowed the internet to become so successful. Without these kinds of protections, the simple risk of running an internet company would be quite high, and would certainly limit much of what we see online.

However, not everyone appreciates the reasoning behind secondary liability protections, and a trio of (separate) speakers at Friday's event all focused on their own reasons for disagreeing with the basic premise behind Section 230, with two of them even suggesting that the law should be changed. What troubled me was that I think all three were confusing and conflating different ideas, and doing so in a way that puts some basic First Amendment principles at risk.

Ken Zeran

The first was Ken Zeran, who is famous for his role in Zeran vs. AOL -- the seminal lawsuit that more or less helped define the protections offered by Section 230 of the CDA. Zeran, an artist and a journalist, sued AOL after he was subject to a series of bullying attacks via AOL. Basically, someone anonymously posted some offensive comments (basically speaking out in support of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings) and included Zeran's phone number. After asking AOL to remove the posts, and having more posts come back, Zeran sued AOL for negligence in failing to remove all such comments. He eventually lost the case, as the court found that AOL, as a third party, was clearly protected under Section 230.

Zeran speaking was a big deal, because for almost fifteen years, he has refused to speak out about the case, turning down all media requests. In fact, he noted that he initially turned down Eric Goldman, who organized this event, but after thinking about it, and realizing who else would be there, he wanted to take part, and read a statement. That statement, however, was quite a doozy. While you can understand why Zeran is upset about Section 230, he seems to have conflated anonymity and the fact that some people do bad stuff online with the idea that (a) anonymity is automatically bad and (b) that anyone who allows anonymity is equally bad.

He called the internet an "engraved invitation for anonymous crime," ignoring the fact that it's really not that anonymous and there are all sorts of tools for uncovering people who have broken the law (something Zeran never did with his own attacker -- who he says he believed was just someone who chose him at random). Zeran did a lengthy bible quote about the "Good Samaritan" in response to the fact that part (c) of Section 230 mentions how it's about protection of "Good Samaritan" efforts. His argument is that Section 230 actually encourages the opposite behavior, in that it encourages service providers to do absolutely nothing to protect people (like himself) online, because they have no liability.

Unfortunately, Zeran is slightly misguided here. He is correct that third parties have no liability, but he is totally misunderstanding the context. Section 230 was put in place due to an earlier court ruling, which said that if a service provider did any editorial work, it could be held liable for the speech of its users. The inevitable result of such a ruling is that service providers would do absolutely no filtering/monitoring whatsoever, because doing any such thing opened them up to liability. What Section 230 does is allow them to monitor and filter what they feel is appropriate, without facing liability. It actually encourages more filtering and monitoring by service providers, by protecting them for their good faith efforts to cultivate the content they host.

From there, Zeran went on to propose an amended version of Section 230, which basically would make any website liable if it didn't take down content when contacted by law enforcement claiming that the content was violating the law. This raised a lot of eyebrows in the room, as it basically hands a ton of power to law enforcement to censor content at will -- something we've noticed law enforcement has a history of violating. Of course, this ignores the fact that Section 230 already does not apply to criminal law violations, so it's difficult to see why his amendment is needed. But making it explicit risks all sorts of dangerous incentives for the government to block expression. Someone in the audience pointed this out, highlighting previous cases of police "protecting friends" by claiming certain claims were violating the law when they were not, and all Zeran could say in response is "well, nothing's perfect." Sure, nothing's perfect, but when you're presenting a law that pretty clearly goes against the First Amendment, you should have a better answer than that.

Zeran, unfortunately, seemed completely oblivious to the idea that his proposed amendment would absolutely be abused to block speech. Mark Lemley, from the audience, pointed out that we already have an example of this with the DMCA's notice-and-takedown procedure for copyright content, and it is abused quite frequently by people seeking to stifle content. Expanding such a regime beyond copyright would almost certainly lead to even greater abuses. Again, Zeran didn't have much in the way of a response beyond "nothing's perfect."

In the end, Zeran was definitely the victim of a tragic circumstance, and as is too often the case in such a situation, his response is to throw out the baby of the First Amendment with the bathwater of abuse. He seems to think that anonymity itself is a bad thing, and spoke out a few times against the concept of anonymity, refusing to acknowledge that anonymity has many positives as well.

Judge Alex Kozinski

Next up in those who are at least, less than enamored with Section 230, was judge Alex Kozinski. Kozinski, as we've mentioned many times before, is an appeals court judge here in the 9th Circuit, and renowned as one of the most entertaining judges on the bench. He's been involved with a few Section 230 rulings, most notably, the Roommates.com ruling, which is one of the very few cases that put a significant limit on Section 230 -- though it's still being argued just how significant that limit is.

He certainly didn't fail to deliver on the entertainment level, tossing out a variety of amusing quips, kicking off with a mention that earlier in the day he'd received an email from Chris Cox -- former Congressional Rep. (and SEC boss) who was an original author of Section 230 -- who was at the event as well, with Cox telling Kozinski that he thought Kozinski got the Roommates ruling right. Kozinski noted that this was sort of like being a Talmud scholar for many years and suddenly receiving a direct message from God saying "it's okay to eat swordfish."

However, he soon drifted into a bit of an anti-230 discussion himself -- which is a bit worrying, considering that he's a judge ruling on cases involving Section 230. It turns out that Kozinski is a bit of a closet luddite. When it was pointed out that many of the wonderful things online are probably only there because of safe harbors like Section 230, he pushed back. He pointed out that the internet really isn't that great, and if he had the option of flipping a switch to turn it off, he's not entirely convinced that he would leave it on. He said he's just not sure it's really done that much good, and that we might be better off without it.

He also made the rather incredible statement, echoing Zeran, asking "where is it written that you have a right to speak anonymously." Of course, many believe that right is embedded within the First Amendment, and many of Kozinski's colleagues on the bench have made that right to anonymous speech pretty explicit in the case law. It's a bit disappointing to see that Kozinski doesn't agree.

Kozinski did point out that many people don't realize what it's like to be the subject of an anonymous internet attack, and people might feel differently if they were. Now, to be fair, Kozinski has been subject to just such attacks, including a highly publicized situation a few years ago in which an anonymous Kozinski-hater got a bunch of attention directed at Kozinski, after discovering that Kozinski had (sloppily) stored a bunch of jokey viral content on a server that he failed to secure, which got twisted into a claim that he had "obscene" content, leading to a rash of misleading press coverage, and an investigation (which eventually cleared him of any wrong doing).

So, perhaps it's understandable that he's not a fan of anonymity online, but like Zeran before him, he seems to conflate anonymity online with "bad activity" online, without acknowledging that plenty of important and valuable speech is made available because it's anonymous. Protecting anonymous speech is quite important, and a federal judge should recognize that. It was pretty disappointing to see judge Kozinski appear to lean the other way.

Nancy Kim

The third in the misguided Section 230 haters was Professor Nancy Kim, who has focused on a very, very small number of websites that have encouraged people to "dish" gossip about others online, and used those as an example of why Section 230 needs wholesale changes. Once again, she seems to think that anonymity automatically means "bad." She even suggested that perhaps sites that allow anonymous comments shouldn't be allowed safe harbors like Section 230's. Beyond just anonymous comment, she seems to dislike "impulsive behavior," suggesting that sites should strive to prevent people from impulsively presenting content, as that, too, is bad.

Like Zeran and Kozinski, Kim seems to be automatically taking a few bad actors, and blaming their bad actions on separate issues (anonymity and impulsive content posting). She also seemed to ignore that there are plenty of non-legal reasons why websites would seek to improve quality of commentary online: because it makes them more credible. She points to some of the "worst" sites like JuicyCampus and AutoAdmit, but doesn't seem to recognize that almost no one took comments on either site seriously, because everyone knew that anyone could write whatever they wanted on those sites, and they were filled with junk that wasn't trustworthy. Instead, she seems to assume that even if the site isn't credible, people automatically believe everything that was written on them. That's just silly. And wrong.

Furthermore, as Cathy Gellis pointed out, Kim (and Zeran) seemed to think that the US government's policy goal should be to promote "culturally beneficial" communication -- but it's not. The government isn't supposed to have a specific role in determining which kind of speech is is okay, and which kind is not. That's the key point behind the First Amendment.

This point was driven home earlier in the day when Paul Alan Levy from Public Citizen was on a panel, and responded to one of many questions asked about "reopening" Section 230 to amend the law. As he pointed out, plenty of people would probably love to "reopen" the First Amendment as well, because they don't like some of the speech enabled by it. However, on the whole, most people who understand and value the First Amendment and the idea of Freedom of Expression recognize that, while it allows speech "we don't like," the end result is that it also enables tons of speech that we do value. The same is true of Section 230. Yes, it allows some "bad" speech to get out there, but there's no way to effectively limit that without causing massive collateral damage as well. Asking to change or hinder Section 230 is no different than asking that we cut back on our free speech rights.

In the end, hopefully these three folks who were skeptical of Section 230 really represent extreme outliers. It certainly appeared that way from the audience, which included a ton of experts in Section 230 who mostly (especially from the Twitter backchannel) were horrified at the suggestions to modify Section 230. However, we should be careful, as there are certainly serious efforts underway to slice up Section 230 and take away this very important tool of free speech. The problem is that most of those attacking Section 230 seem to not understand the basic fact that all it does is make sure liability is accurately placed on those who actually said stuff, rather than a third party. Either that, or as we saw with these three speakers, they seemed to confuse things like anonymity with "bad speech" and assumed that you could somehow use that confusion to carve out "bad speech" without having a serious negative impact on perfectly legitimate speech.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

    "where is it written that you have a right to speak anonymously."

    One word: Publius (you can google it.)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    Like how techdirt blames patents when someone sues over one or how techdirt blames copyright when someone sues over it?

    techdirt always blames the 3rd party in that case of patents and copyright but in other cases the facilitator is never to blame. Interesting.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

      Re:

      The only ironic and true portion of your trolling is that you do so anonymously.

       

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      RikuoAmero (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      Surely you can't be as thick as the comment you wrote makes you out to be. Laws are not a 3rd party in a legal sense! From http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com
      "A generic legal term for any individual who does not have a direct connection with a legal transaction but who might be affected by it."
      So how is a law an individual? Or are you really taking things deliberately out of context to attack Mike? If you want to disagree with him, go ahead, but please! For the sake of the children, please make a bit of sense!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:14am

        Re: Re:

        Ok, you are right, that was a poor choice of words. But as you point out, patent and copyright cannot do anything by themselves, it takes people to take action. It is the people that are the problem more so than the patent/copyright/gun. Per this post, let's place the blame on the people doing the acts, not on the tool that was used. And let's do that consistently in all cases.

         

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

      Re:

      Huh?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

        Re: Re:

        When someone gets shot do you blame the gun or the person controlling the gun?

         

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          Richard (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Both!

          The availability of the gun makes the shooting possible. In most countries restrictions are placed on gun availability. Those that have weaker restrictions (like most of USA) generally have more gun murders than those with strong restrictions (eg UK). However guns have legitimate uses in some circumstances so a balance has to be struck somewhere.

          The internet has many more uses (and more important ones) than guns for the general population so the balance should be struck in favour of the internet.

          Copyright and patent are pretty much useless (the one use they seem to have - shared with guns is for shooting yourself in the foot) - so their damage is the major factor in striking the balance.

           

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            freak (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Do you have citations on the gun murder stat?

             

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            ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Those that have weaker restrictions (like most of USA) generally have more gun murders than those with strong restrictions (eg UK).

            If this is true, which I do not at all believe, I'd like for you to explain how Mexico (which has outlawed all guns, can't get more restrictive than that) has more gun violence than in the US. And California is one of the most restrictive gun states in the Union, and yet drug/gang gun violence is quite common despite these rules. While you can show that the US has more gun violence than Western European countries...I think it is more because of culture than because of the availability of guns. I think the prevalence of violent television/movie programming and the common belief that might makes right built into the culture has more to do with the problem than gun restrictions, which only effect the lawful/honest folks. I still believe that an armed society is a polite society.

            Never-the-less, I still agree with you that a balance has to be struck. I think the best balance is to return copyright to the original 17-year time limit with one extension for active copyrights, and remove all patents for software procedures/business processes.

             

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              Erin B., Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:27pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Sure, I'll lend credence to the idea that it's the culture more than the availability of weapons but I think that it's more difficult and dangerous to limit culture than it is weapons. If we've got a national culture that believes, as you say, "might makes right," then I think that since we're not going to take away the belief part of that equation, we should make it more difficult to access the tools which make that mode of thinking problematic. In short: if there's a society where violent tendencies are encouraged, then inherently violent tools like guns should have more restricted access.

               

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            btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Guns

            > Those that have weaker restrictions (like
            > most of USA) generally have more gun murders
            > than those with strong restrictions

            Wrong. The cities with the highest per capita murder rates in the USA are the cities with the strongest anti-gun laws (Washington, DC, Chicago, etc.). Cities and states which allow citizens to own and carry firearms have a much lower incidence of both murder and gun crime.

            "An armed society is a polite society."

             

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            jsf (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So if somebody kills someone with a car the car manufacturer is at fault, because without the car the hit and run would not be possible? How about knives, or baseball bats, or tire irons, etc.? Should the manufacturers of all these items which have been used to kill people also be just as guilty as the person using them?

            Note I am a supporter of gun controls, but not an outright ban of all guns.

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You. I blame you. Always. Only you.

           

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      The eejit (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

      Re:

      well, in some cases, it's the third party's fault. Like USCG and ACS:Law. Hell, Even Evan Stone got in on the action of Third Party Stupid.

       

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      Unanimous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

      Re:

      Before that comment, I just thought you were an idiot.

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

      Re:

      "Like how techdirt blames patents when someone sues over one or how techdirt blames copyright when someone sues over it?"

      Uh, what? How have you become so stubborn in your trollitude that you've lost the definition of the word "party" such that you're applying it to an inanimate object like a patent or copyright?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

        Re: Re:

        News flash: A web site is not a 'party' either. But like guns, patents and copyrights, web sites are produced by people, owned by people and managed by people - the people are parties.

        If I own a gun and I lend it to you and you shoot someone, who is to blame? The gun manufacturer? Me for owning the gun? Or you for pulling the trigger?

        Seems pretty clear to me so far - you are responsible if you pull the trigger. However, on techdirt, when it comes to patents and copyright the shooter gets partial blame and the patent or copyright gets partial blame. Then we come to section 230 where the shooter is to blame. Why not always just blame the shooter?

        You can dislike guns, patents, copyright, vice crimes, whatever but at the end of the day the person that did the action is to blame for the action.

         

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      btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

      Re: 3rd Parties

      "Patents" and "copyright" are not third parties. They're legalities, not entities in and of themselves.

       

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    RIP

    Furthermore, as Cathy Gellis pointed out, Kim (and Zeran) seemed to think that the US government's policy goal should be to promote "culturally beneficial" communication -- but it's not. The government isn't supposed to have a specific role in determining which kind of speech is is okay, and which kind is not. That's the key point behind the First Amendment.

    I refer you to the 7 dirty words Mike. What kind of speech was voted 6 to 5 in the supreme court. Rest his soul. The cultural benefits? 1.4 days/week adult on TV. 50hrs/week seniors &

     

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      Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

      Re: RIP

      less then 1 day/week children.

      I've said this before and you keep missing it Mike.

       

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        velox (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re: RIP

        Chris -- sorry I'm not following you. I think you are saying something significant but I'm not sure. Can you elaborate?


        BTW, don't you mean 5-4, not 6-5. There are only 9 members of Scotus.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 7:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: RIP

          I followed him. We both got lost. Not sure where he is now.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 7:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: RIP

          I followed him. We both got lost. Not sure where he is now.

           

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          Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 1:45am

          Re: Re: Re: RIP

          Yeah I'm talking about the government all the way to the supreme court determined what is and is not acceptable speech;

          he government isn't supposed to have a specific role in determining which kind of speech is is okay,

          Is the gem there isn't supposed to but already does all the way back to Carlin's 7 dirty words. Btw, thanks for fixing the fail in my memory on the 5-4.

           

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          Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 1:47am

          Re: Re: Re: RIP

          Oh and the so called benefit and the hours in TV we watch. (That info was from study given 2nd hand from Bob&Tom yesterday morning)

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    I am disappointed to see a Judge expressing this sort of opinion, as it appears that he would be biased in any case of the nature that comes before him. It appears he might be willing to "legislate from the bench".

    Too many companies hide behind section 230 even though they are really publishers, not just services. It creates an unwarranted and undesirable shield for people who publish on these sites.

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      It creates an unwarranted and undesirable shield for people who publish on these sites.

      Undesirable to whom?

       

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      velox (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

      Re:

      "Too many companies hide behind section 230 even though they are really publishers, not just services."
      Examples and citations please...

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, one of the best examples would be youtube. Not only is it a "hosting service", but they also assemble, sort, and present the videos in contextual pages, with related searches, targeted advertising, user commentary, and such. The pages as a whole are not what the user uploaded, but a collection, dare I say "publication" of a collection of items, generated both by the users and by youtube's own systems.

        At some point, they aren't innocent "services" but publishers, creating unique assemblages of parts obtained from various sources.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Liability

          > At some point, they aren't innocent
          > "services" but publishers, creating unique
          > assemblages of parts obtained from various
          > sources.

          So what?

          Why should that make YouTube liable for what some jackhole says when he mouths off in the comment section?

          If it's defamatory, it's the commenter who is committing the offense, not YouTube. The person who is harmed by the defamation should do the same thing they would have to do if it was committed any other way in any other medium: file a lawsuit and issue a subpoena for the idetity of the commenter, then take them to court.

          For some reason, the moment "on the internet" comes into the equation, all the normal rules of society are supposed to change.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

      Re:

      Move to Russia and China then LoL

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 7:14pm

      Re:

      "Too many companies hide behind section 230 even though they are really publishers, not just services. It creates an unwarranted and undesirable shield for people who publish on these sites."

      I AGREE! Yuu said it! Now how would you desribe "people who publish on these sites" in one word? Publishers??

      So yes the Publishers should be blamed... they authored the content... then hit the "submit" button to publish it.

      *sigh* You write it - you wear the blame.

       

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    John Doe, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

    Without anonymity you might not have me

    Without anonymity, this site might be deprived of my input and then where would the world be?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 7:16pm

      Re: Without anonymity you might not have me

      Still here?
      Besides you are not Anonymous... I can look you up in the phone book.

       

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    Matthew (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    On the other hand...

    Anonymity doesn't automatically mean "good" either. I think forum administrators should evaluate for themselves whether or not their site really needs an anonymous option.

    Providing one on sites that deal with important public topics like this one seems like a no-brainer. Even though it appears to be more often used by industry shills who want to sling astroturf without being held accountable, the possibility of attracting candid commentary from well-informed insiders outweighs that.

    On more frivolous forums where the chance of insider information and the importance of those potential revelations is nominal, anonymity seems to breed little more than contempt and incivility. Not that it's always inappropriate for less serious sites, just that operators should think more about the tone they want to set instead of automatically including it.

     

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    anonymous, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    Ramblings

    Section 230 is definitely a good thing. If we didn't have section 230, it would be like holding the phone company responsible because I received a crank call. Or holding the highway builder responsible because I received a ticket. Or holding the gun manufacturers responsible because someone got shot. We all need to take responsibility for our own actions and place blame where it belongs.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:01pm

      Re: Ramblings

      The problem is that the phone company does have some responsiblities. They need to know who is assigned each phone nubmer, example and the location of that phone (even cell phones,which use GPS and tower triangulation to accomplish this).

      Section 230 has become more than a shield for direct service providers, it has become a protect all for everything that happens with them. ISPs are hiding their users behind it, chat board hide their posters, and various companies (including the now infamous mooo.com) become blocked legal fronts for online activity.

      The concept is good in theory, it doesn't work in practicality because section 230 has been applied to liberally and too widely, making pretty much every site on the internet "protected". That isn't what was intended.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

        Re: Re: Ramblings

        Huh?

        Everything you said that phone companies are responsible for still applies to ISPs and websites.

        And Section 230 IS intended to apply to every single internet site and service.

         

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        btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re: Ramblings

        > They need to know who is assigned each phone
        > nubmer, example and the location of that phone

        But they don't get to know who's using every phone at every moment.

        They may know where that payphone in Grand Central Station is located but they don't know who's using it, and AT&T isn't responsible if someone uses one of them to call in a bomb threat to someone else.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Voting is anonymous. It is bad. Let's get rid of voters. Did you know that they can check whatever box they want, and can even write in a candidate?!!!

     

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    Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:06pm

    Ken Zeran - Can appreciate his view...

    Love or Hate Ken Zeran (and from the looks of it, more than a few people here have some emotions about him) - it cannot be denied that what happened to him was dangerous to him and his family. God knows, I have personally seen this sort of B.S. at other sites - but not to degree that happened to him. Whoever did this was lucky this did not occur in this day and age (i.e. the Smoking Gun vs. Pranknet), because I have a feeling Mr. Zeran would not have hesitated to go after them with the same sort of righteous rancor that he did for AOL and Diamond Broadcasting, the company that owned the radio station that had "trouble" realizing that Ken Zenan was NOT the twit that posted the messages (nice touch not mentioning that part Mike).

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:20pm

      Re: Ken Zeran - Can appreciate his view...

      Love or Hate Ken Zeran (and from the looks of it, more than a few people here have some emotions about him) - it cannot be denied that what happened to him was dangerous to him and his family

      Did anyone deny that? No.

      So why bring it up? None of that changes that his suggestions are a massive overreaction. Yes, his situation was horrible. Does that justify gutting Section 230 and the First Amendemnt? I think not. Are you arguing otherwise?

       

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        Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Ken Zeran - Can appreciate his view...

        Mike - let's face it, it is ALWAYS cases like this that are used - from the Amber Alert system to the Brady Bill. Unless that human element to these issues is dealt with, along with the existential, then we all see laws that are either too draconian or questionably functional.

         

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      The eejit (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 2:17am

      Re: Ken Zeran - Can appreciate his view...

      Actually, Zeran had a case against AOL - he just approached it in the wrong manner. IF he had requested info through the discovery process, he could have attempted to directly sue the party that actually put up the defamatory information. And it is mentioned int he first paragraph of that section.

      So stop trolling, and sort out your website.

       

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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:19pm

    > Kozinski also made the rather incredible
    > statement, asking "where is it written that
    > you have a right to speak anonymously."

    "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech..."

    The content and method of the speech is the citizen's choice, not the government's.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:26pm

    Anonymity

    > without acknowledging that plenty of
    > important and valuable speech is made
    > available because it's anonymous.

    Federalist Papers? Just one of the seminal documents outlining the philosophy of our government. Published anonymously by people who were rightly fearful of repercussion. Would not likely have them if there had been laws requiring attribution of all published material.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 3:52pm

    Mike Masnick so believes in anonymity that anyone that decides to post here without a name is automatically labeled a coward. Nice hypocracy.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 4:36pm

      Re:

      LOL!!

      I find that if I am not logged in that my anon comments often get caught in the Moderator Review bucket too, many comments never make it out.

       

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        Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 6:12pm

        Re: Re:

        I find that if I am not logged in that my anon comments often get caught in the Moderator Review bucket too, many comments never make it out.

        False. If your comment is not spam, we release it. Claiming otherwise is a lie.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 7:19pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          True - never had one blocked yet. Wouldn'e exactly consider most of mine quality either.

           

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 9:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hmmm. Depends on how you define spam. I made comments last Saturday and Sunday (from a different client/connection than this one) that never made it out. Granted they may not have been of a good quality but not spam. Claiming that you release all non-spam comments from moderation when you do not is a lie.

           

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      teka (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 5:11pm

      Re:

      Anonymous Coward is a term applied within some online communities to describe users who post without a screen name; it is a dummy name attributed to anonymous posts used by some weblogs that allow posting by people without registering for accounts.

      The practice, which had its roots in BBS and USENET culture, was made especially popular on Slashdot, where the mildly derogatory term is meant to chide anonymous contributors into logging in.[1][2] Some weblog engines such as Scoop use the term "Anonymous Hero" instead.

      Variations on the name "Anonymous Coward" are also sometimes used by trolls to mock the dummy name and/or confuse other users into thinking that they are posting as Anonymous Coward.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_Coward

      Gee, its like you are taking a common internet phenomenon and twisting and squirming your hardest until you can use it as a half-witted attack against someone you have decided not to like. Should i applaud your acting ability in this role as "anonymous fool" or simply call you dumb and walk away?

      Just one more mystery for our time, AC.

       

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        identicon
        Google is your friend, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re:

        It's a shame the noob needs tutoring.

        When encountering a new word or phrase, most people would simply look it up.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Masnick chooses to call anonymous posters cowards- he doesn't have to. Most boards don't, and that shows he's definitely a hypocrite. But since he holds so many other indefensible positions, this isn't a surprise.

           

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            Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 11:40pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Masnick chooses to call anonymous posters cowards- he doesn't have to. Most boards don't, and that shows he's definitely a hypocrite

            I'm curious how this is hypocritical? For the life of me I don't see anything hypocritical about it at all.

            The use of "anonymous coward" is just a holdover. As already noted in the thread, it was very much standard back in the days when we started this site, and it is a *joke* not any actual assertion of cowardice. If I really thought anon folks were cowards, I wouldn't let them post at all.

            So where is the hypocritical stance? Please do explain.

             

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 6:21pm

    He seems to think that anonymity itself is a bad thing, and spoke out a few times against the concept of anonymity, refusing to acknowledge that anonymity has many positives as well.

    There's a guy who's more concerned about his train turning up 10 minutes late or having to queue for a coffee than any sort of cyber attack.


    He pointed out that the internet really isn't that great, and if he had the option of flipping a switch to turn it off, he's not entirely convinced that he would leave it on. He said he's just not sure it's really done that much good, and that we might be better off without it.

    I'd like to think that the world is a better place for the internet. Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha are just two examples of how the vastly increased flow of information can provide incredibly useful resources.


    Instead, she seems to assume that even if the site isn't credible, people automatically believe everything that was written on them. That's just silly. And wrong.

    And quite familiar. Haven't there been a few other people mentioned on Techdirt who had their feathers ruffled by some random troll and started screaming bloody murder?
    ...Yes, come to think of it, I remember one of those. Some teenage girl's lawsuit. The judge threw out the case after politely informing her that nobody actually believed she had acquired so many STDs that she'd become undead, or somesuch.

     

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    identicon
    Ashwini Sharma, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 11:45pm

    the freedom to only speak inoffensively is not worth having - Lord Justice Sedley

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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