Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky on "Anonymity in Cyberspace: What Can We Learn from John Doe" #SSRN

Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky (University of Florida – Levin College of Law) has posted a new article on SSRN entitled “Anonymity in Cyberspace: What Can We Learn from John Doe?” Boston College Law Review, Vol. 50, p. 1, 2009/University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 2009-37. Here is the abstract:

This Article examines the evolution of the law governing libel suits against anonymous “John Doe” defendants based on Internet speech. Between 1999 and 2009, courts crafted new First Amendment doctrines to protect Internet speakers from having their anonymity automatically stripped away upon the filing of a libel action. Courts also adapted existing First Amendment protections for hyperbole, satire and other non-factual speech to protect the distinctive discourse of Internet message boards. Despite these positive developments, the current state of the law is unsatisfactory. Because the scope of protection for anonymous Internet speech varies greatly by jurisdiction, resourceful plaintiffs can make strategic use of libel law to silence their critics. Meanwhile, plaintiffs who are truly harmed by cybersmears will find little effective recourse in libel law. Though disheartening, the current state of the law may be a testament to the difficulty of balancing speech and reputation in the Internet age.

One Response to “Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky on "Anonymity in Cyberspace: What Can We Learn from John Doe" #SSRN”

  1. Rexxfield Says:

    Freedom of expression is a crucial ingredient of a free and open world. And yet like all good things open to misuse. If a publication damages a clean-handed person, then the toll is excessive.Nevertheless, there are numerous narcissistic losers who exploit this freedom for destructive purposes. Many of these anonymous miscreants possess a class of antisocial personality disorder (identified as sociopaths in old speak) or a related Axis II Mental Disorder, & propelled only through hatred & vengeful, narcissistic desires. They take joy in tormenting others; they are in fact driven by the suffering of others; the target's pain is their sick reward, clinically called "narcissistic supply". Typical folk like 97% of the readers of this story are unable begin to imagine what makes these individuals tick. I challenge you to stop for a moment, try to imagine not having a conscience, it is plainly impossible.This miserable social concern has become a wild fire within the preceding ten years through anonymous online e-slander. In internet libel law suits where courts have issued orders directing that anonymous and anti-social users need to be uncloaked by subpoena, such instructions are normally accompanied by protests from a trivial but rambunctious collection of fanatical proponents who deem that freedom of expression deserves to be absolute & that a talker or author can not be accountable for their speech, without regard as to accuracy or deceptiveness of the utterances. Many assume that if these same protesting activists were to experience the debilitating consequences of a online smear campaign and the vocational, emotional, physical, and social health of victims or their family; they wouldn't be so passionate in their opposition.An inherent flaw of anonymous publishing is that it has less credibility if seriously assessed by sharp and open-minded individuals. Despite this fact, there is a newfangled dynamic with the challenge of malignant & anonymous blogging. Although the allegations can be seen for what it is, when the target is being assessed for a job, consulting awards, babysitting work (or courtship), the person conducting the due diligence will probably consider the likely public relations risks from attaching to the poor dupe. While the prospective employer might see through the vitriol, the decision maker will need to be cautious about what their customers and partners will believe if they are not as clever or open-minded.Cheers, Michael of Rexxfield

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