Just Because You Don't Like What Someone Says Online, Doesn't Mean You Get To Find Out Who They Are

from the as-it-should-be dept

We were just pointing out how common it is for people to be total jerks online — but didn’t touch on the bad reaction some people have to being targeted in online attacks. Since flame wars tend to escalate to ridiculous levels, it’s not uncommon for some to resort to the law to help them out when they feel victimized. Over in Israel, apparently a provider of alternative medical treatments got so upset by posts on a message board attacking him that he demanded an ISP reveal the anonymous commenter. However, an Israeli court has turned down the request, noting that (as in the US), the ISP shouldn’t be liable for the statements and has not obligation to turn over such information. There’s a great quote from the judge summarizing the case: “The proper balance between freedom of expression on the Internet and the uniqueness of the Internet as an institution for democracy does not justify the exposure of surfers’ details.”

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Comments on “Just Because You Don't Like What Someone Says Online, Doesn't Mean You Get To Find Out Who They Are”

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Ponder says:

I am also totally offended...

… by the complete lack of respect to those who demanded the poster of the original story reveal their name, address etc. It shows no restraint and is highly offensive to me. I demand all poster’s give me their name, postal address, telephone number, credit card details, samples of their signatures, PIN numbers, and a photocopy of their passport or driving licence.

Jon says:

Flaming people you know

My college theater group put on a comedy show that was torn to shreds by a particularly humorless reviewer for the University paper looking to show how cool he was. One member of the cast posted a long, rambling, cathartic rant on our private message board about how he’d “like to go back in time in a Delorean and kill his mother so he’d never be born”.

The kid reported our group to the police as posting death threats against him, the police notified the University, and we were forced to do community service as punishment to restore funding.

The poster is now registered with the police department as having threatened someone’s life.

Moral of the story: Just because it’s the Internet, private, and clearly sarcastic doesn’t mean you won’t get bitten in the ass by it.

The Dukeman (profile) says:

Re: Flaming people you know

Exactly. Just because the ISP shouldn’t be forced to reveal your identity for a post does not mean that you should not be liable for your post. You wrote it and posted it, therefore you are responsible for its content. If you reveal your own identity, then kudos to those that bear the brunt of your words if they bring you to justice for posting content that impacts their life.

snar says:

I had someone I’d never met but was a friend of a friend blog about a skin disorder I had. The blogger had alot of mis information about it and attempted to start a real life flame war by saying things like my condition was a “public hazard”. I knew who this person was even knew that her residence was in the next city up the highway, but there was absolutely nothing I could do. I don’t think it makes much difference what a court says. Until people learn that just because it is the internet it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a little class, you’re just kind of stuck with people actin’ like they ain’t got no home trainin’.

mousepaw says:


I was told by someone, whom I respect, that the first thing you say to someone can either raise or lower their self-esteem. I don’t mean “first impression,” I mean the first thing you say to anyone, at all, for the first time that day.

It speaks volumes about people who constantly want to lower other people’s self-esteem (bosses, bloggers, bystanders, et al.) because it only promotes retaliatory behaviour; everybody dons their armor and gets out their sword & shield and the fight doth commence.

I’m not any better. I have my bad days where EVERYTHING is getting on my nerves and I’m just as liable to take it out on someone I don’t know as someone I do but that’s still no excuse.

I’m going to try to adopt a little more class or a least remember that everybody else could be having a bad day, too.

mousepaw says:


Although the ISP’s are right in taking no responsibility for what is posted, I believe people should take responsibility for their own actions and be held liable for what they say or write. This is the one of the few cases where they aren’t held liable. (If you wrote a book or newspaper article about someone, stating facts that weren’t true, you could be sued.)

The people who could make sure this happens are the people who run these forums/blogs/chatrooms. I believe a great many of them do have some sort of policy in place but lack the time to enforce it. People can be blocked and comments can be read or scanned before inclusion. Some people can recognize who the offenders are and report them to their respective boards. If the information comes back that they were right, the board should do something about it. Whether they will or not is another question.

Finally, if no action is forthcoming, rest assured that what goes around, comes around.

leaglebob says:

Too Bad Forum Boards aren't as Resolute?

Only an idiot would be insulted or upset by what any stranger might say. The appropriate response is boredom.

Still, interesting to me how many posters will get banned by the Forum Moderator. Techdirt seems to be very tolerant whereas other forums I have visited seem to accept only a vary narrow range of responses. Not talking about constant abuse or inanity but certain points of view.

Presumably, its all people doing the best job they know how, but I wonder what percentage are pushing a certain viewpoint/value?

bignumone (profile) says:

For those of you serious about this subject

On the legality of slander and libel:

This from Reference.com
Whether the charge is libel or slander is important. Most libels are deemed injurious and give immediate ground for suit. However, only certain types of statements are slanderous per se and do not require proof of pecuniary damages; these include imputation of crime, of loathsome disease, or of professional or occupational incapacity. In other cases, there may not be any recovery unless the pecuniary loss caused by the injury is proved. The award to the successful plaintiff in a suit for defamation will usually include punitive, as well as compensatory, damages if the defendant willfully lied or published the defamation repeatedly.

On crowd wisdom:


And finally, I read something a while back about how easy it is to destroy someone on the internet (I can’t find the link, I know I have it). “Flaming” over personal issues aside, some people go out of their way to just wreck other’s lives. It gives them a feeling of power, I guess. Fuzzy has a lot to lose when his reputation is sullied, and I think it is appropriate to follow the trail to who would do this. Otherwise, we all could be victims of some very bad people.

Israeli lawyer (user link) says:

ISP and libel in Israel

Take note that this decision rationale is not that ISPs are invulnerable to libel liability steming from third parties posts, but that they are not obligated to disclose the details of the poster unless it has criminal liability.
This repeats earlier cases where judges already repeated those declarations.
Yet there are other cases in Israel where ISPs asked to be removed completely from the claim before the hearing of the actual case and their motion got rejected, meaning – they might still find themseklves liable.

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