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March 09, 2007


Tan Yan Chen

This is very interesting because our discussions in class and through the readings seem to imply that identity is now very important to both building reputation and regulating bad behavior. The very same anonymity that protects whistle blowers and the politically suppressed is also protecting those creating mischief. While there are First Amendment arguments and implications, I doubt those posters would say the same things, even if they were given the right to, if they had to put their reputations on the line. The only reason these messages were posted is because no one had to take responsibility for his/her actions. As a result, I think the article should have made a very clear distinction between those who take responsibility for their words and those who don't when First Amendment claims are cited.

In one sense this is an indication that web 2.0 is changing the very nature of anonymity on the internet and in another this also gives some credence to Johnson's Accountable Net argument even though I don't necessarily agree with all the ideas in it. We've talked a lot about the conception of the First Amendment and how it has changed over time, perhaps we now also have to reckon with our original conception of the internet and how anonymity is a double-edged sword.


Looks like "fighting fire with fire":


Mark Sabec

I'm not sure if I posted on this subject earlier, but a few months ago, Details Magazine had an interesting article on the same subject of anonymity and a new strain of "Internet vigilantes", called, "Someone You've Never Met is About to Ruin Your Life." The article covers a few websites, among them "Craigslist-perverts.org", and interviewes the vigilantes behind them. They consider themselves 'self-appointed marshalls of the cyber frontier', and repost user-generated content (usually names and semi-pornographic photos posted by users in Craigslist classified ads) on their website to identify them as the 'morally deplorable' citizens they are.

So it's interesting to see how the old adage--which also happens to be the defense invoked by date rapists--that "they were asking for it" applies online. On the one hand, the user-generated content in question *was* posted by the individuals themselves. On the other hand, it is being redistributed for another purpose. Defamation and First Amendment claims are shakey in these situations, with general purpose fraud seeming the best form of court retaliation.

So where will we go in the future? One of my other professors suggests that, in the course of the next decade, the Internet will become so clogged with gossip and personal information that society will change, norms will shift. In a way, he posits, embarrassing content will come to mean less to us because there will exist such content for nearly everyone. The more it gets spread around, the more common and expected gossip becomes and, as a result, less weight and judgment will be placed on such content.

I'm not sure if I agree--although it sure is a nice idea. Perhaps we will move in another direction, putting those fun little legal disclaimers (i.e. "This message is privileged information and is intended solely for the addressee. If you have received this message in error, please delete it entirely from your computer.") on the end of every piece of information we send over the Internet. It does scare me, however, that this post will be visible in a Google search.

Should you find this post in error, please disregard it. (I should at least give it a try, right?)

Andrea Manka

I found myself in a rage when I read the Washington Post article about AutoAdmit.com, and I also found myself afraid to speak out against it on the blog this morning because I know that my name is attached to the blog posting and someone on that website might take my name, somehow find damaging information about me and ruin my reputation online.

Unfortunately, because of the website's refusal to keep the personal information of its anonymous posters, I have absolutely no recourse. I think there is no greater test of a person's commitment to the values of the First Amendment than their reaction to having bad things said about them in public.

I'm not happy that people have been harmed by the frankly disgusting remarks that have been made on the website, but I am glad that the debate has gotten me thinking about the implications of allowing what amounts to hate speech to go unpunished.

Though the law cannot do much to reach the people who defame what I am assuming to be their classmates, morals should stop them. Or at the very least, the website administrators should.

I was torn on whether or not I supported use policies that allowed website administrators to remove objectionable content, but no more.

Perhaps this message means I will be attacked online, but I guess I will just have to hire Reputation Defender.

Fred Smith

Good work getting linked to today by CBS! The e-mail that the creator of admit.com sent out today to bloggers and journalists misses the point. His basic argument is that Reputation Defender should have asked him to take down information about the people who retained them, rather than allegdly amount a campaign to expose and discredit the site. But of course, such a circumsribed approach, even if successful, would have left many other people vulnerable to the effects site's reach.

So, why did the sites' creator send out an e-mail admitting to the site's tactics and failing to disavow those tactics? My guess it is a publicity stunt, an attempt to keep the controversy going longer, luring webtraffic to his site.


I doubt those posters would say the same things, even if they were given the right to, if they had to put their reputations on the line.

Online LSAT Preparation Instructor

I was doing some research on autoadmit and came across this post. That site is certainly alive and well. I just took a glance at it and saw an array of posts with offensive subject lines. I think you carefully identify the nuanced issues and arguments on both sides. The Internet presents very interesting developments regarding speech and what the government can and cannot do. I suppose where the First Amendment cannot protect people, certainly private claims for defamation can? It's a tough area in which to stake a position because there is always a good counter-argument.

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