Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What Makes The e-World Different

In my previous article I indicated that I would express my thoughts on what makes the e-world different from the rest of the world, and why those differences require that there be some regulation, readily enforceable by victims, that would hold abusers, defamers and stalkers responsible. These rules need fair and rapid enforcement.

I probably know what you are thinking: Free Speaker will merely re-hash the old stories of how e-world communication is so fast, yadda, yadda, yadda...(No I am not a Seinfeld fan. The shows sole contribution to society is yadda, yadda, yadda). Well, keep reading for a somewhat different view on this very critical point. And, it IS a critical point, since it justifies a different set of rules for the e-world.

Like I said, everyone knows just how fast communication is in e-world. Virtually instantaneous. However, that is not the problem. The problem lies in the area of replication of messages and storage of messages at dozens, if not hundreds of web sites.

There are many websites which "harvet" messages archived at GoogleGroups, reformat them, and then create their own newgroups listings. People can log onto these and post to Usenet, and, many allow anonymous posting. I'll call them Usenet harvesters for convenience.

Now, assume for a minute that Rosenthal lost the case, and was ordered by the court to remove her defamatory webpages and, where she could not, post a public apology. While I do not defend her actions, I must point out that to accomplish this would be such an onerous task that it would be utterly impossible.

First, it is obvious under Barrett v. Rosenthal that these Usenet harvesters are immune from suit. They run their sites by automatically harvesting messages, and do not bother with studying them for content.

In addition to these harvester sites, there is the Internet Way Back Machine which archives hundreds of thousands of pages. Ms. Rosenthal is responsible, as of this writing, for 2586. Imagine if she had to ask for each one to be removed? Could the Wayback Machine handle that? Do they have a simple mechanism for removal? And, most importantly, why should they do so? After all, it is their service, and they have a right to determine just how to run it.

Simply put, the inescapable conclusion is that in many cases, once the defamation has occurred, there is no easy way to undo it. ISPs, etc. have to develop codes of condcut where users know thatabusive behavior will have consequences.

My next article will address that, and show how one website handles problems.

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