Thursday, March 3, 2011

Online Posters Under Fire From Defamation Ruling

A defamation ruling made by a Marion County, IN Judge is making anonymous posters liable for what they say online. The ruling made by the judge stated that what you say online, even if it is made anonymously, may come back to bite you.

As part of an investigation pertaining to a defamation lawsuit, several local news media outlets were forced to turn over user information about commenters from their websites. The data would effectively provide authorities with the ability to track down and identify posters accused of defaming comments. This dangerous precedent essentially limits opinionated speech. This ruling may become problematic for posters who enjoy voicing their opinions on websites like Facebook and other similar social networking mediums.

A constituional lawyer familiar with the case stated, "opinions expressed online are protected. However, posting something as fact about someone else, with the intent to harm them, could count as defamation of character in the eye of the court. Waples said posting defamatory comments online is essentially the same as publishing them which does meet the requirement for a lawsuit. Posting on a news website doesn't necessarily protect your identity if you're not considered a source."

Clearly, there is a fine line people walk everyday when it comes to expressing themselves and their opinions online. Precedents that come equally close to infringing on freedom of speech can be particularly dangerous and could lead to greater efforts to quell the flow opinionated speech. Anonymous messaging and the ability to send an anonymous message still remains a viable tool to communicate with the authorities, media, friends and family. However- if the developments in Indiana are a sign of things to come, it may not be long before your right to communicate incognito is no longer "your right".

If you would like to read more about this story from its original source, please click here.

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