Courts Around The World Dealing With The Fact That There Are Mean People Online

from the but-is-it-illegal? dept

Here are two separate lawsuits, halfway around the world from each other that seem to be touching on quite similar issues: whether or not it's illegal to be a jerk online. The first, described by Eric Goldman, is about a student who has sued a bunch of high school classmates, their parents and Facebook, because those students created a private group on Facebook where they made fun of the girl. Goldman points out all the problems with the lawsuit: suing Facebook makes no sense and will get thrown out pretty quickly. The group was private, and limited to six students, so the total "audience" for any defamation was a grand total of five people -- and, while the comments were mean, they were also pretty obviously not true. Also, suing the parents for "negligence" in supervising their kids isn't likely to get very far. All in all, it seems like the case probably won't last very long.

However, the results on the other side of the planet were a bit different. VivekM points us to the news of a teen in India who started an Orkut group against a certain political party. Many people left anonymous comments as a part of the group, but the party sued the teenager who created the group, claiming he violated a local law against "hurting public sentiment." Rather than realizing the the kid starting the group should have no liability for the statements made by others, the Supreme Court in India has said that he can be charged, noting: "You are a computer student and you know how many people access internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct."

At some point, people and courts will recognize that there will always be jerks online, and it makes little sense to go around filing lawsuits against anyone in any way connected to those being jerky (even the jerky folks themselves), but until that time, the court systems around the world are going to be quite busy with similar cases.

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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 5 Mar 2009 @ 10:32am


    While they may not be allowed to deny the individuals their rights to express themselves, those comments in and of themselves are not free from liability. Further, when comments are made that are hateful or which slander someone, the people providing the forum at some point may have to bear some responsibility for those comments.

    Um. No. That's simply untrue and makes no sense. Why should someone who did not make the slanderous comments bare blame for slander?

    We cannot anonymously call people out in public to their face most of the "Anonymous Coward" types would never show their face on TV or admit to their hateful opinions. Without identifying the poster, the subject of this hateful speech has no way to counter those often libelous statements.

    Once again totally untrue. You can respond to the comments.

    It's stunning how consistently you are wrong.

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