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Net Anonymity Continues To Vex Companies

from the keeping-the-lawyers-busy dept

There are plenty of people that want to argue against Internet anonymity, whether it’s governments concerned about “security” or looking to control expression, or entertainment companies wanting to go after file-sharers. But many companies also see it as a thorn in their sides, empowering people to make all sorts of disparaging remarks and never having to own up to them (whether or not there’s anything to own up to is often a totally different matter). While most stick to try to chill things by sending out officious cease-and-desist and over-aggressive takedown notices, others are going to greater lengths. In one case in Maryland, a company is trying to subpoena a newsletter publisher’s subscriber list and sources, not because they’re accusing him of anything, but because they think they might lead them to some of the two dozen John and Jane Does they sued three years ago for making defamatory statements against the company online. Understandably, the publisher is trying to protect his subscribers and sources, but the company “simply wants to know what [he] might know” — which sounds like a bit of a stretch.

In a separate case, an electric company in Pennsylvania fired an employee after he made some negative comments about its management in a Yahoo chat room. The company first filed a defamation lawsuit against a John Doe, then used it to subpoena information to reveal the person’s identity. After it was discovered — and they found it was an employee — they simply axed the guy and dropped the lawsuit. The Public Citizen group says such “bad faith use” of John Doe subpoenas is a continuing problem, highlighting the abuse of the legal system to serve private agendas. The problem seems to be that these companies are uncomfortable because they’re finding it impossible to control everything everyone says about them, so they go to increasing lengths to try to expose their critics for retribution and chilling effects. It’s a pointless and fruitless battle, really: they may think exposing these people and making examples out of them might make people think twice in the future before typing something online, but the fallout from abusing the legal system and trying to steamroll people’s rights will typically do a company much more damage than any message-board jockey.

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Comments on “Net Anonymity Continues To Vex Companies”

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Matt says:

John Doe Lawsuits

but the fallout from abusing the legal system and trying to steamroll people’s rights will typically do a company much more damage than any message-board jockey.

Not to mention the probable legislative blowback if it gets far enough out of hand.

Honestly, sometimes I think that crap like this wil do more to protect privacy online than any direct steps in that direction. Backlash is a powerful tool.

theStorminMormon says:

Re: Re: gov't based on religion

Historically, gov’t based on religion doesn’t care much about human rights

Thanks professor. So you clearly don’t like the religious right, and are probably not fond of Republicans in general. Neither do I, but I prefer an intelligent oponent to an utterly incompetent and ignorant ally any day of the week.

You are truly embarassing yourself and anyone who agrees with you. Go learn something about what you’re talking about before you open your mouth again. Start with the Delcaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: gov't based on religion

Better educate yourself on the studies done examining the degree of religious involvement in modern democracies (leaving out the strange fundamentalist governments even). Let alone historical examples.

Words on paper don’t mean crap- it is enforcement that matters. Our Constitution forbids the Patriot Act provisions, for example.

Since you are so much more informed and intelligent, I’m sure you do not even need a google search performed for you. The data is there should you choose to educate yourself.

Truth be told, a gov’t who thinks it has a line to God himself does what the heck it wants. Look at W. and the Iraq debacle, for example.

theStorminMormon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 gov't based on religion

Words on paper don’t mean crap.

This coming from someone who is concerned with whether or not the Patriot Act violates the Constitution? Are you kidding me? Let’s have some logical consistency here.

Where do you think the entire philosophical and ideological history of “rights” comes from? Some of it from rationalist englightenment (atheist/agnostic) thinkers, yes, but also from christian theologians dating back to Pelagius and even Christ himself. For every domineering theocratic regime in history you can find corresponding examples of englightened religious leaders and systems that embrace and espouse principles of freedom, equality and tolerance. And for every thoughtful, principles atheist or skeptic you can find an autocratic and anti-religious tyrant.

The fact of the matter is that religion gets blamed for a lot of the turbulence, violence and oppression in history, but it is equally responsible for the some of the greatest art, nobility, and intellectual progress. So I’m not arguing against your studies “examining the degree of religious involvement in modern democracies”. I’ve got studies too. You should know by now that you can find “studies” advocating every possible take on every possibel view in existence.

What I’m pointing out is the superficiality and internal contradictions of your own personal anti-religious bias. You keep demonizing religion all you want while the fundamentalists keep demonizing gays, libs or whatever else they want. In the end, though, you guys have essentially the same thought pattern. “This is my opinion, these are the studies (or scriptures) that back it up and since I’m ignoring any logical contradictions or studies (scriptures) that don’t support my personally chosen conclusion – I’m obviously right.”

Woohoo for prejudice and narrow-mindedness on both sides.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: gov't based on religion

Nice going! Displaying your ignorance in a post tweaking someone else’s ignorance!

Yes, the Founding Fathers believed in a deity of some sort or other (not necessarily Christian, by the way), but they absolutely were NOT in favor of “gov’t based on religion.”

The Founding Fathers were at great pains to keep government separate from religion, because however beneficial either or both might be, entangling religion and government corrupts both religion and government. This point is absolutely explicit in the Federalist Papers, for example.

crystalattice (profile) says:

It's funny.

The companies are pissed that people are saying bad things about them, yet they continue to find new ways of pissing people off so more bad things can be said about them. I say, let’s just boycott the lot of them.

AAMOF, I currently do that w/ Wal-Mart and Best Buy. I only go there when absolutely necessary, i.e. when my wife can’t find something at a better store.

eskayp says:

Not just Net anonymity

“…but the fallout from abusing the legal system and trying to steamroll people’s rights will typically do a company much more damage than any message-board jockey.”
Strange as it sounds, sh*t can fall up as well as down.
Just ask Scooter Libby, who had a high position in the Whitehouse until recently indicted.
It wasn’t anonymity on the net that failed, but anonymity in print.

thecaptain says:

No Subject Given

Unfortunately anonymity is a vital part of the net, what makes it special.

Doesn’t help when an increasing number of morons piss in the gasoline by being idiots on purpose.

People and companies need to learn to ignore anonymous rants. Sadly, the first step will not be taken by corporations simply because they know that one or two misplaced rants, however stupid, can make their stock price tank. It becomes a guerilla war against trolls until people learn to ignore the trolls.

theStorminMormon says:

did I say that?

Yes, the Founding Fathers believed in a deity of some sort or other (not necessarily Christian, by the way), but they absolutely were NOT in favor of “gov’t based on religion.”

There are too many problems in this statement to cover in one short post.

1- The “Founding Fathers” did not believe anything en masse. The group was far too diverse to make any sweeping pronouncements about what – as a group – they beleived outside of the documents that (as a group) they left behind. So whether or not they were Christian, deist, or whatever the fact is that as a group, in a political document, they espoused belief in a Creator.

2- You put gov’t based on religion in quotes. Did I actually say that? Am I arguing for that? I never said the Founding Fathers established the US as a gov’t based on religion. But there is NO seperation of “religion and gov’t”. There’s a seperation of “church and state”. Meaning that there wouuld be no official state denomination – that’s about it. The idea that the state has to be completely secular is utterly absurd. From the Declaration of Independence to old practices like starting Senate sessions with prayer our gov’t was conceived in intimate connection with religion. This is just fact.


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