Friday, August 01, 2008

Anonymous online attackers unmasked

Follow the link in the title to this post to read a news item in Wired online about the 2 Yale Law women who sued AutoAdmit over misogynistic and slanderous comments posted about them on that site. The lawyers have managed to unmask a number of the posters.

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.
This case is important both in its possibility to chill anonymous attacks online, cyberbullying, and in its complex issues raised. Whether real world lawyers and judges will be able to make sense of virtual reality any time soon is a tough question. Law has managed to accommodate itself to big changes in technology before, but it is usually a slow business.

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