The Next Big Net Debate: Liability Of Service Providers And Anonymous Commenters
from the not-the-issue dept
The law is protecting a service provider from being liable for the content that someone else puts on their service -- which makes sense. The service providers are simply providing the platform, not the editorial control. The person who should be liable isn't the service provider, but the person who actually posted the content. Nowhere in the NY Times piece does it note this. There's no indication that the reporter even looked into whether or not those who are upset by these postings even tried to go after those who actually did the posting. Oddly, it appears that one politician in New Jersey may have understood this issue... but then came up with an absolutely ridiculous response. A New Jersey Assemblyman has proposed new legislation that would require any online service provider to record and store identification information for anyone who posts information on their site. In other words, if this became law, sites like Techdirt would be required to get everyone who commented here to provide legal identification information, including name and address -- and (even better!) we'd be legally required to hand it over should any request come in related to a lawsuit (even civil cases). So, in this case, the politician actually seems understands the real issue: it's the people posting the content who should be liable. However, he goes to a ridiculous extreme, showing that as much as he understands the issue, he doesn't seem to understand how the internet actually works or what the impact would be of such legislation. The point of the misguided legislation is to counter the typical response that it's "too difficult" to figure out who the people are who post content online. Unfortunately, it seems like the choices right now seem to be to sue the "easy to identify party" rather than the actually responsible party or to force everyone to give up anonymity to make it easier to track down a few lawbreakers. It sounds like we'll be seeing many more discussions on this issue in the near future.