Trolls beware

Apparently it’s not just the intraweb.

[quote=“Wired: Yale Students’ Lawsuit Unmasks Anonymous Trolls, Opens Pandora’s Box”]“Women named Jill and Hillary should be raped.”

Those are the words of “AK-47” – a poster to the college-admissions web forum AK-47 was one of a handful of students heaping misogynist scorn on women attending the nations’ top law schools in 2007, in posts so vile they spurred a national debate on the limits of online anonymity, and an unprecedented federal lawsuit aimed at unmasking and punishing the posters.

Now lawyers for two female Yale Law School students have ascertained AK-47’s real identity, along with the identities of other AutoAdmit posters, who all now face the likely publication of their names in court records – potentially marking a death sentence for the comment trolls’ budding legal careers even before the case has gone to trial.

The unmasking of the posters marks a milestone in a rare legal challenge to the norms of online commenting, where arguments live on for years in search-engine results and where reputations can be sullied nearly irreparably by anyone with a grudge, a laptop and a WiFi connection. Yet a year after the lawsuit was filed, little else has been resolved – and legal controversies have multiplied. The women themselves have gone silent, and their lawyers – two of whom are now themselves being sued – are not talking to the press. Legal experts are beginning to wonder aloud if there’s any point in pressing the messy lawsuit.

"You have good lawyers putting their time in on the case, and in a policy sense, they are achieving something, says Ann Bartow, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. “But in a victim sense – assuming you think of the women as victims – it’s not clear what this is going to achieve.”

The AutoAdmit controversy began even before one of the women, identified in court documents as “Jane Doe I,” started classes in the fall of 2005, the lawsuit alleges. Doe I was alerted in the summer to an AutoAdmit comment thread entitled “Stupid Bitch to Attend Law School.” The thread included messages such as, “I think I will sodomize her. Repeatedly” and a reply claiming “she has herpes.” The second woman, Jane Doe II, was similarly attacked beginning in January 2007.

Both women tried in vain to persuade the administrators of the site to remove the threads, according to the lawsuit. But then the story of the cyber-harassment hit the front page of The Washington Post, and the law school trolls became fodder for cable news shows. Soon after, the female law students, with help from Stanford and Yale law professors, filed the federal lawsuit in June 2007 seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

The Jane Doe plaintiffs contend that the postings about them became etched into the first page of search engine results on their names, costing them prestigious jobs, infecting their relationships with friends and family, and even forcing one to stop going to the gym for fear of stalkers.

“We have never had such a way to lie and distort facts about people – to spread lies and distortions in a way that is attached to them,” says Bartow. “And you can game it to come up on the front page of Google.”

Bartow believes the problem lies in technology outstripping the law and our cultural responses. George Washington University Law Professor Daniel Solove, who’s been thinking about the issue long enough to have written a book called The Future of Reputation, agrees. He says the law needs to change.

“The internet isn’t a radical-free zone where you can hurt people. But on the other hand, we can’t have everyone rushing to the court, because the court is a blunt tool,” Solove says. “We need something to help shape norms – there needs to be some kind of push back against the notion that the internet is a place where you can say what you want and screw the consequences. That’s not what free speech is about.”

Since libel lawsuits are mostly about clearing one’s name, Solove finds himself lamenting the lost ritual of duels, which he describes as an elaborate nonjudicial way of settling disputes that rarely actually got to the shooting phase.

“We don’t have any middle-ground dispute resolution processes in society anymore, and courts aren’t a good way to vindicate these non-monetary harms,” Solove says. “I think we need something else.”[/quote]

“Something else” sounds about right. Lots of luck coming up with it.

In the article, which I actually took time to read despite it’s ridiculous length, he laments the lost ritual of duels. So presumably in his scheme these women would face the trolls with rapiers or flintlocks or something.

It would also mean, if you were good at fencing or a crack shot, you could be as rude as you liked about people and then kill them legally.

How is it that law journals manage to avoid getting filled up with stuff like this?

Let’s not lose sight of the REAL victim here–AK-47, who posted on what he was led to believe was a safe, anonymous site. I hope the misogynist troll community will rally to his support.

I thought of an idea for a horror/sci-story. What if, in five or ten years, somebody finds a way for anyone to read any e-mail that has ever been sent? Like a Super Wayback Machine? Think of all the divorces, all the lost jobs, all the elections that suddenly get thrown the other way…

:laughing: :laughing: Now this I would like to see!

Some businessman in the UK just won, I think, $44,000 in a lawsuit against another businessman who made a fake profile on facebook in order to damage his reputation. … es-for.php

Over in Florida some teenage girl is suing facebook over cyberbullying.

Actually, doing a google news search for “facebook” and “lawsuit” turns up 1600 entries.

Be nice to people online, okay? :rainbow:

Your guide to the free-for-all. NYT: Malwebolence

Great article

Great article[/quote]
These are the people who need some footprints on their faces.

Hey, I threw up that Malwebolence link hours ago and there’s been not one “it’s only the intraweb” comment… What’s up with that?

You have to wait until about 2am to give the demon alcohol a chance to work its magic.

That article rocks. I like the way the trolls seem to have trolled the NYT. E.g. Fortuny claiming to be Lori Drew or Weev claiming he’s a multimillionaire. And this is funny too

You know, I’ve been avoiding reading that man gets decapitated thread, but I just did. It just goes with this last article. But at least they haven’t started e-mailing the next of kin.

Trolling & stalking is a facet of the on-line world that can unfortunately move into real life. That post illustrates a truly hideous mutation of the web.

Another similar story…Scholar Stalks People

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]Trolling & stalking is a facet of the that can unfortunately move into real life. That post illustrates truly hideous mutation of the web.

Another similar story…Scholar Stalks People[/quote]

From your link.


Great article[/quote]
I’ve been thinking about a quote from the fifth page of that article:

[quote]Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?

One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.” Originally intended to foster “interoperability,” the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could “speak” as clearly as possible yet “listen” to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you. [/quote]
Postel’s Law certainly would benefit a lot of the communications I see on the flob. And Vanessa just told me the Chinese equivalent: 嚴以律己,寛以待人

Words to live by.

Guilty of violating a website’s terms and conditions by assuming a false identity and harassing another member, Lori Drew may face up to three years in jail. (“Drew, from Missouri, was accused of posing as a boy on MySpace to befriend 13-year-old Megan Meier, who hanged herself after their virtual relationship ended.”)

That sounds about right. Although it’s tragic what happened and the parents can never receive “justice” no matter what happens with the dumb bitch who killed their daughter (I’m aware that she didn’t actually make the posts, a young girl did, but she orchestrated the whole thing and made it happen), I doubt she seriously considered the possibility that she might kill herself and I don’t believe that was her intention so a longer jail sentence than that seems too much. But what she did was incredibly cruel and evil, especially knowing the victim and knowing how fragile she was, not to mention incredibly childish and stupid and intended to cause intense emotional distress, as well as being fraudulent, that I definitely believe she deserves at least a year in jail, to contemplate on the stupid thing she did and hopefully come out a better person.