People Want To Blame Anyone Else For Any Illegal Activity They Do Online

from the blame...-the-government!--the-users!--the-ISPs! dept

It’s already been well established in this “me first” society that no one takes responsibilities for their own illegal actions. For example, just a few weeks ago, we wrote about the student who was suing his university for kicking him out for plagiarizing. He admitted he cheated, but felt it was the university’s job to have caught him earlier. This same logic seems to be catching on with any number of folks who post information online. A new study shows that many people feel that they should not be blamed if they put unlawful content online. While you can make reasonable arguments (depending on the circumstances) why they may not be liable, it’s more interesting to look at who they do think should take the blame. 30% said the ISP should take the blame for not stopping the user from posting the illegal content. Another 15% blamed the government, who obviously has better things to do than running the country and, instead, should be policing online message boards to make sure no one posted false information. Finally, in the ultimate desperation move, 11% say that the blame should fall on those who accessed the content rather than themselves, the posters of the content. That would be a fun court argument: “Yes, your honor, I did post confidential corporate information publicly on a Yahoo message board – but no harm would have been done if no one had visited it! Thus, the blame, sadly, must fall on each and every visitor who caused the company trouble by looking at that content.” Of course, with so many news articles claiming (incorrectly) that people are being sued for downloading (and not uploading) music files, perhaps we know where this line of thought comes from.

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Comments on “People Want To Blame Anyone Else For Any Illegal Activity They Do Online”

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Robert Horvitz says:

Blaming the receiver

This is actually the same logic that the US Congress used when the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986) outlawed the interception of cellular phone signals and email. Cell phones are radio transmitters whose unscrambled signals permeate every corner of every city. Blaming the receiver of these signals for privacy violations is exactly like saying, “I want to walk down the street naked so I’ll make it a crime for you to look at me.” Even at the time the ECPA was drafted, any TV that tunes up to UHF channel 83 could receive cellular conversations as clearly as if the speakers were sitting right next to you. Whose fault is that? The cellular service providers obviously, for not taking even minimal precautions to protect their customers. For generations prior to the passage of the ECPA it was FCC policy, supported by US courts, that the person transmitting a signal bore the initial reponsibility for protecting his own privacy and if he didn’t take the first step, there was no reason why others should take it for him. Now we have email, which is basically an electronic postcard. Who’s responsible for protecting its privacy – the sender, or the administrator of every computer system through which it passes?

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