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SLAPPing e-Publius: Protecting anonymous expression and reputation in a digital age
Unformatted Document Text:  Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius     22   artificial to separate public from private, mass from interpersonal, therefore, and more than that, it invites momentous intrusions by the state. If private, social conversation online puts people at risk, which in defamation law it does, little more than the relative litigation-averseness of and expense to would-be plaintiffs could be all that protects many speakers. Nicholas Wolfson hypothesizes this scene at a party to dramatize the implications: “What do you think of Harry?” “I cannot talk about Harry unless and until I research the truthfulness of the gossip in which I was about to engage.” 78 The blended nature of online discourse presents all sorts of problems for the courts, not least of which is how to distinguish between publication of something of public interest or concern and the public disclosure of otherwise private facts, which tort law deals with as an invasion of privacy (intrusion upon seclusion). 79 Historically, for one’s message to travel beyond its physical hearers, that message’s speaker had to publish via a one-to- many, or mass, medium. As Lauren Gelman reasoned, the Internet changed this in enabling any speaker to communicate anything to the world, and to do so anonymously. 80 In a sense, this removed to some extent the evaluation of what is newsworthy from traditional media gatekeepers and gave the determination to the lone blogger, poster, e-                                                                                                                 78 Id., at 66. 79 R ESTATEMENT (S ECOND ) OF T ORTS § 652D cmt. b (2009). For a classic examples of this difficulty, see Steinbuch v. Cutler, 518 F.3d 580, 586 (8th Cir. 2008); and Multimedia WMAZ, Inc. v. Kubach, 443 S.E.2d 491 (Ga. Ct. App. 1994). The court in Doe I v. Individuals, Whose True Names Are Unknown, No. 3:07-CV-909 (D. Conn. filed Nov. 8, 2007), a case known as AutoAdmit.com, is one of the few ruling in John Doe subpoena cases to consider the expectation of privacy in its standard or test for disclosure. Two others are Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe 1, 170 P.3d 720-21 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2007); and Best Western Int’l, Inc. v. Doe, No. CV-06-1537-PHX-DGC, 2006 WL 2091695, at *5 (D. Ariz. July 25, 2006). 80 Gelman, Privacy, Free Speech, and ‘Blurry-edged Social Networks, 1335.

Authors: Carroll, Brian.
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Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius  
 
22  
artificial to separate public from private, mass from interpersonal, therefore, and more 
than that, it invites momentous intrusions by the state. If private, social conversation 
online puts people at risk, which in defamation law it does, little more than the relative 
litigation-averseness of and expense to would-be plaintiffs could be all that protects many 
speakers. Nicholas Wolfson hypothesizes this scene at a party to dramatize the 
implications: 
“What do you think of Harry?” 
“I cannot talk about Harry unless and until I research the truthfulness of 
the gossip in which I was about to engage.”
78
 
 
The blended nature of online discourse presents all sorts of problems for the courts, not 
least of which is how to distinguish between publication of something of public interest 
or concern and the public disclosure of otherwise private facts, which tort law deals with 
as an invasion of privacy (intrusion upon seclusion).
79
 Historically, for one’s message to 
travel beyond its physical hearers, that message’s speaker had to publish via a one-to-
many, or mass, medium. As Lauren Gelman reasoned, the Internet changed this in 
enabling any speaker to communicate anything to the world, and to do so anonymously.
80
 
In a sense, this removed to some extent the evaluation of what is newsworthy from 
traditional media gatekeepers and gave the determination to the lone blogger, poster, e-
                                                                                                               
78
 Id., at 66. 
 
79
 R
ESTATEMENT 
(S
ECOND
)
 OF 
T
ORTS
 § 652D cmt. b (2009). For a classic examples of this difficulty, see 
Steinbuch v. Cutler, 518 F.3d 580, 586 (8th Cir. 2008); and Multimedia WMAZ, Inc. v. Kubach, 443 
S.E.2d 491 (Ga. Ct. App. 1994). The court in Doe I v. Individuals, Whose True Names Are  
Unknown, No. 3:07-CV-909 (D. Conn. filed Nov. 8, 2007), a case known as AutoAdmit.com, is one of the 
few ruling in John Doe subpoena cases to consider the expectation of privacy in its standard or test for 
disclosure. Two others are Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe 1, 170 P.3d 720-21 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2007); and Best 
Western Int’l, Inc. v. Doe, No. CV-06-1537-PHX-DGC, 2006 WL 2091695, at *5 (D. Ariz. July 25, 2006).  
 
80
 Gelman, Privacy, Free Speech, and ‘Blurry-edged Social Networks, 1335. 
 


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