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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Why I use my name online

After reading about the assclown libel threat letter, people, not just me, are guessing why he would do this. Most people think it's to invade Atrios's privacy.

I've never written anything I didn't stand behind, so anonymity was never a problem. But the use of the law to strip anonymity from publishers is a dangerous one. Me, I've worked as a writer for almost 20 years, so I like the publicity. But if I taught kids or was a businessman, I'd think I might use the protection of anonymity.

It keeps me honest. Since my name is attached to everything I write, my full legal name, it makes me think before I put something online.

But for people who don't have that luxury and it is a luxury, they need a way to express themselves and not get hassled for their opinions. People DO get fired for their opinions. They are ostracized by their friends. Any critic wants to strip anonymity as a breaching of your basic defense. Then they can go after your personal life.

Luckily, anonymity online has been generally protected, as has the right to publish comments, as long as you don't edit them. A free and open forum is just that.

As a general rule, it is best to ignore what is writen about you unless it is so outrageous that it causes you real harm. If someone said I was a drunken bum, I'd be pissed. If someone said I was a convicted pedophile, I'd sue. But if you're going to run a blog, and attack a popular columnist on a regular basis, it is best to develop a very thick skin.

You know, people here are civil. No one calls me an asshole or evil. But if they weren't, the last thing I'd want to do is sue anyone. Once you do that, it becomes a matter of public record. Atrios could investigate his sex life to prove he was a stalker, question any and all lovers and aquaintances. It's like exposing your entire personal life for public inspection. Because truth is an absolute defense.

Billmon worries if bloggers are going to sue each other. Neighbors do it all the time. Not everyone has the same level of judgement. One could put up a blog called "Samantha Jones is a bisexual slut" and include pictures. If that blog is doctored and the pictures faked, Ms. Jones should be able to sue. Or if someone is falsely accused of a crime. But for mere insult? It's as silly as a property line dispute. The assclown called himself a stalker. Come on, any decent, non-friend lawyer would laugh at this.

Hell, if Atrios was mean, he could sue the assclown for harassment and abuse of the legal system.

A lot of people like to use libel actions as cudgles, to scare people. And if you don't know the law, it works. But for a smart client, it's about the worst legal action you can file. You rarely win and the defense is as broad as permitted by law. Because it has several hurdles to meet. Blumenthal v Drudge, who committed a textbook case of libel in claiming he had court records that Blumenthal had beat his wife and he didn't. If you want libel, that's about good as you get, a malicious lie. Even so, Blumenthal and Drudge settled. If that case settled, then few cases will ever reach court. I think 48 went to trial in 2000.

As a writer, the assclown should know libel is hard to win and Atrios has no responsibilty for comments placed on his sight.

posted by Steve @ 1:53:00 AM

1:53:00 AM

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