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Internet Trolls at Yale Law School Prompt Lawsuits

Posted Oct 03 2008 12:51pm

Interesting article about a law school Internet forum where several anonymous trolls harassed a couple of female students by posting their names, along with some truly offensive content. Lawsuits abound, and the case demonstrates the current issues related to privacy, free speech, and the responsibility for moderators regarding the content of their site.

From a legal standpoint, I don’t know what to make of this. Free speech actually doesn’t seem to be applicable, in that this is not related to any sort of government censorship...but since I’m not a lawyer, I’ll shut up. From the perspective of the university, I cannot understand how they did not have some sort of rules/etiquette for the forum. Virtually all web sites that have any sort of community post rules about content. It would seem that would have solved the problem. However, is the forum moderator responsible for the content of the people who post messages? I suppose this is the point being made in the article, that the law hasn’t caught up to technology.

From the perspective of the anonymous trolls, besides sounding like idiots (and worse), I suppose the lesson ought to be that one should never presume anonymity. What’s the old saying about the definition of character? It’s what you do when no one is watching. Well, it seems someone is always watching nowadays. So, if you can’t be bothered to do the right thing, and behave like one would expect a law student to act, because you are not intrinsically motivated to do so, you may want to consider acting like a decent human being simply because, despite creating an ID name such as “AK-47,” your real identity may actually be uncovered.

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