Patterico's Pontifications

4/1/2012

End of Section 230 Protection for Bloggers?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:53 pm

According to the blog McIntyre v Ohio, an anonymous blog devoted to promoting anonymous speech, Senator Joe Lieberman has proposed stripping blog hosts of the immunity they currently enjoy from liability for things their blog commenters say.

If legislation like this ever actually passes, I’ll be shutting down comments.

Those who followed the recent smack down of a serial troll at Popehat will no doubt remember that Ken invoked section 230 as the reason I cannot be held responsible for stupid things said by my commenters. I have the finest comment section on the planet, but you can’t prevent idiots from walking in the door if you are going to have open comments. And there are always the Kilgore Trouts of the world, too: people who deliberately plant inflammatory or racist comments on sites to smear the blog proprietors.

What effect would stripping out section 230 immunity have on the exchange of ideas — especially ideas advanced by anonymous people? Both good and bad, I suspect, but mostly bad. I might still be willing to publish comments from people I know and trust — but anonymous commenters could not be allowed to speak. That would be bad to the extent that valid, well-documented ideas and news from anonymous commenters were to disappear.

There would be one silver lining. You see, anonymous commenters (and bloggers) are also responsible for a lot of disinformation. And there is far too great a tendency for people to believe factual assertions by anonymous bloggers or commenters. Just because an anonymous blogger or commenter says something does not make it true. I specifically note this in part because I myself have been the victim of anonymous people making up “facts” about me. And it’s surprising how often people lap that kind of thing up.

So a revision to section 230 would be mostly bad. But given how often anonymous speech is not factual, you’re not going to find me crusading on this particular issue. I’m all for free speech; don’t get me wrong. But reducing the power of anonymous trolls to spread lies is no trivial matter.

UPDATE: Famed free speech attorney Marc Randazza sounds much more concerned, saying: “It will be a grave day if this amendment succeeds.”

UPDATE x2 4-2-12: As a handful of you have guessed, this was an April Fool’s hoax perpetrated by me and a few other bloggers. In reality, I would be very concerned with a law like this. Details in an upcoming post.

This may be my favorite April Fool’s joke yet. If you go back and re-read my comments in the thread, you’ll get an idea why.

5-6 commenters guessed and had their comments immediately moderated with a note from me asking them to keep the secret. (They all did.) I have now released those comments with a note explaining that they were released from moderation today.

UPDATE x3: My post on the deconstruction of the joke is up. You can read it here.

199 Responses to “End of Section 230 Protection for Bloggers?”

  1. I’ll actually be very interested to see how people come down on this issue.

    Patterico (840f91)

  2. I would have to stop commenting anywhere. The old threat to me is probably nothing by now. Having to go completely public would still be unwise.

    Stashiu3 (cd7afe)

  3. Oh, how the pols and their minions hate anonymity on the Internet! To me, it’s a wonderful return to the incendiary broadsheets of the 18th century, when critics could really go after the powerful, no holds barred.

    But the powerful figure they could quell dissent if the dissenters were known. And they’re right. Things would not get said, that should be said.

    The objection to anonymity really is the another fallacy ad hominem: consider the source, not the argument.

    carol (370a98)

  4. I think the move would really hurt free speech. Too many Neal’s and Ron’s out there.

    Smart people know not to trust everything they read (especially in comment sections). I’m more concerned about disinformation from the MSM.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  5. I fail to see how any blog proprietor can be held responsible for what a commenter says. The commenter is not the blog proprietor.

    How silly can politicians be?

    By the way, are we sure this isn’t an April Fools prank?

    [Actually, I'm sure it is. Do me a favor and don't give up the gag, OK? So far you're the only one to guess. You can see this comment but others can't. Thanks! -- P]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    Dianna (f12db5)

  6. Still recovering or I’d write something rather too long. For the time being, I’m agin’ chilling commentary by holding people who didn’t write it accountable, or forcing any author to attach a legal identity to speech.

    Liars and fools out themselves, anyway .

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  7. Lieberman is nothing more than a little totalitarian. He has always worked to suppress liberty.

    Now you require name and email.

    Mine are faked for a simple reason. There’s no real way for you to verify it. Of course, I know you could do a track back on my IP address, but there are ways to hide an IP.

    Lieberman can’t ride of into his anti-American sunset soon enough for me. This bill, if it becomes law, (And Obama can’t wait to sign somethign like that), will be just another of many nails into the Great Experiment’s coffin. :(

    John Smith (c651db)

  8. In the words of Pope Benedict, “Now ain’t this some muthaf**kin bullsh*t! Hell no!”

    You read it here on a comment section, so you know it’s true.

    Ghost (6f9de7)

  9. UPDATE: Famed free speech attorney Marc Randazza sounds much more concerned, saying: “It will be a grave day if this amendment succeeds.”

    Patterico (840f91)

  10. You would have to pre-approve basically all comments. Even if you trusted someone, would you really trust them with your pocketbook? Would you trust them not to slip up one time out of a thousand?

    That would severely limit commenting. It would take an inordinate amount of your time and would be impossible when you did not have free time. It would prevent real-time discussion between commenters.

    The other way to fix it would be to post your blog on a third party’s site, where the third party is responsible for comments. Then you would only be legally responsible for your own blog posts. For example, if your blog went to “TownHall.com” or Huffington Post . . .

    Daryl Herbert (251a21)

  11. Look at the real power this would invest in the Debs of the world.

    Machinist (b6f7da)

  12. I’d expect the rise of TRULY anonymous blogs; completely washed through some foreign domain and host.

    I have no doubt that many politicians are envious of China’s Great Firewall. Between “anti-piracy” and “anti-libel” rationalizing, they are hell-bent on suppressing speech. There’s a reason the 1st Amendment was the first amendment.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  13. Why would you want any comments, even moderated, under that threat? You’d want, at most, to go Instapundit, updating the post with cogent readers’ emails.

    nk (dec503)

  14. Look at the real power this would invest in the Debs of the world.

    Comment by Machinist — 4/1/2012 @ 4:53 pm

    The blackest and slobberiest of cloud linings.

    Observe all the bad- faith attempts to yank around blog / web content providers now with comment section mischief, when broad mmunities are in place , when the would-be yankers have no real power.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  15. I don’t think you’re looking at this in quite the right way. If that particular push really comes to that particular shove, then I think you have an obligation not to withdraw, but rather to stand and defy, and to fight like a man. Like a patriot, like a lover of freedom. Remember those?

    d. in c. (ac417f)

  16. Just another brick in the wall that would have fallen on the GOP if McCain had chosen Lieberman as his Veep nominee.
    The man has some serious totalitarian tendencies.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  17. d in c: but them what do we do about the problem of misinformation by dishonest anonymous actors? It’s easy to say just refute it with more speech … but the problem with unsubstantiated rumors is that sometimes you don’t even know what disinformation is being spread. Trust me: when it happens to you it may give you a different perspective.

    Patterico (840f91)

  18. To take d.in c.’s point in another direction, I think Lieberman’s fascist little bill would be incredibly short-lived, even if Congress had the utter lack of political sense to pass it in the first place.

    Leviticus (870be5)

  19. Admittedly I haven’t followed this terribly closely. But what about anonymous (fake names or handles)accounts on that ol’ debbil twitter? And what about liability for retweeting anonymous tweets? Or is the proposed law supposedly just for regulating blogs?

    elissa (c9d3f1)

  20. Been thinking. Unless it maintains the protection for Facebook and Twitter, Congress would be stoned by a rain of iPhones. And if it does, ingling out only blogs and say forums, how could it be constitutional?

    nk (dec503)

  21. Haha mine posted first nk.

    elissa (c9d3f1)

  22. nk, in the words of that great Constitutional Scholar:

    Are you serious?

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  23. I don’t think the king of astroturf, Mr. Axelrod, is going to like Mr. Lieberman’s proposal.

    elissa (c9d3f1)

  24. How is commenting on a blog any different in principle to whispering the comment to everyone you meet? Isn’t it just a matter of scale of the audience? Will we have conversation police next? Who gets to define truth in each instance?

    Obama certainly tried to dampen speech in 2008 with his “truth squads” which even included some state law enforcement people in the Midwest as I recall.

    in_awe (44fed5)

  25. Will someone address my concern about misleading anonymous speech? Is this not a valid issue?

    Patterico (840f91)

  26. Do you mean libel or slander P?

    I don’t get exactly what you mean by “misleading”.

    Tifosa is always misleading, I don’t think that means she should have to identify herself necessarily.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  27. Senator Lieberman should be held liable for anything anyone in his state says.

    kaf (9cc612)

  28. Noodles:

    You of all people should know what I’m talking about, since you follow Twitter and have seen specific people make specific factual claims about me that are false.

    For example, a couple of anonymous people on Twitter claimed James O’Keefe has worked for me. Not at all true — but that didn’t keep someone who ought to know better from asking me if it was true.

    With the Internet the problem becomes worse. You sometimes find all kinds of people spreading disinformation that, if traced back to its source, turns out to be an anonymous person who is simply lying.

    I think the commenters on this thread are giving that problem short shrift. It’s a real problem with real world consequences.

    If you agree, what’s the solution? I’m not saying the solution is obvious … but shouldn’t the problem at least be debated??

    Patterico (840f91)

  29. Will someone address my concern about misleading anonymous speech? Is this not a valid issue?

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 5:42 pm

    I think the libel laws have been getting narrower and narrower. For example, I don’t think any state has criminal libel anymore. Legislatures as well as the courts seem more and more willing to allow the public (marketplace of ideas) to police the truth or falsity of speech.

    nk (dec503)

  30. Patterico @ #16: yes that’s a serious point and I don’t mean to make light of it. But I think the existence of a serious problem merely calls into play the need for serious thought to solve it. If the Nazis are threatening our coasts with U-boats, do we throw up our hands in surrender and say Good grief, what choice do we have other than to give up?!? They’ve got SUBMARINES, for pete’s sake!!
    Or do we say, Hmmm, we better find a way to build some better submarines.

    I don’t pretend to have a ready answer to your problem. Yet I remain confident that an answer can be found.

    In the meantime we must be resolved to say what all honest men always say to all dictators: Fuck You.

    d. in c. (17012e)

  31. a couple of anonymous people on Twitter claimed James O’Keefe has worked for me. Not at all true

    I’m sure things like this would be a problem for you because of your site/name etc., but I don’t think that can be helped because you are public to a degree (not like Roseanne Barr but still out there).

    I do think you should be able to go after people legally that are deliberately doing it to harm you, slander/libel, what have you. Especially because you do have a public name that can be harmed.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  32. I guess we should not be too surprised. Government hates the the rough and tumble internet. Government has managed to control the MSM in one way or another. But, if they get anonymous comments, they will go after other comments or blog posts next.

    Rick Caird (0ceb78)

  33. First: I don’t agree that libel laws are a satisfactory answer to the problem of anonymous Internet libel.

    Second: what about “facts” that are manufactured by anonymous Internet entities for the purpose of manipulating a political conversation … where there is no person with standing to sue?

    Third: as the passing of Breitbart amply demonstrates, one can libel a dead man without legal consequence … as his estate has no standing to file a libel suit.

    Valid concerns one and all … no?

    Patterico (840f91)

  34. That’s the tension, but whom do you want for the truth police? Yourself and your readers or the Department of Truth?

    nk (dec503)

  35. You are right, maybe there does need to be some revisions of law on matters like this, I just don’t think stripping everyone’s anonymity is the correct response.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  36. I agree with this post.

    Jeremy Wolcott (2eb84a)

  37. A fair point, then again as we’ve seen the media
    shows little respect for the truth, whether Tribune, McClatchy or the AP.

    narciso (eab638)

  38. Will someone address my concern about misleading anonymous speech? Is this not a valid issue?

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 5:42 pm

    Possibly – but it’s more like believing that the incredible price you’re being offered on that watch is for a genuine one. People aren’t defrauded because they’re honest, they’re defrauded because they think they’re putting one over.

    Anonymous information is usually bought into because it confirms one’s prejudices.

    I’d believe badly of…oh, lots of people from an unconfirmed rumor; not usually, however, of those I actually know.

    Dianna (f12db5)

  39. nk,

    I honestly don’t think the solution is obvious, and I’m not a fan of government intervention in speech. All I ask is that people acknowledge the seriousness of the issue. If you don’t think anonymous people on the Intenet manufacture “facts” to influence political discussion, you’re not paying attention.

    The really scary part is how often it works without people even knowing it. Again: I have seen this firsthand.

    Patterico (840f91)

  40. As an a pseudo-anonymous poster, I could lie about all manner of things. I don’t but I could.

    I post with an alias because what I say could come back on my family, although I try to be careful not to post in that way. Regardless, it could happen.

    Another thing that happens to me is I almost always regret what I post. Not usually because it might be wrong, but because it could be embarrassing to me or it might unintentionally offend someone else. Unless, of course, I meant to offend someone else.

    To Patterico’s point, a lot of people also post anonymously with the intention of inflicting harm or to cast doubt on veracity. That is a real problem.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know it’s not a federal government law or rule to forbid such postings.

    Glenn Reynolds wrote a book about the positive effects of using the collective wisdom of the Internet for collectively good results.

    I think we should err on the side of good intentions and recognize that bad players reveal themselves easily.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  41. Somehow, I suspect we’ll all feel a lot better about this in the morning…

    [Correct. You're the second to guess. Let's keep it our secret, OK? -- P]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    Rodney G. Graves (f12db5)

  42. AD-RtR/OS! wrote:

    Just another brick in the wall that would have fallen on the GOP if McCain had chosen Lieberman as his Veep nominee.
    The man has some serious totalitarian tendencies.

    How would it have made a difference? Senator McCain was one of the authors of the McCain Feingold Restriction on Speech Act.

    THe Dana with a very lively comments section of his own (f68855)

  43. This would not pass strict scrutiny required under current First Amendment jurisprudence.

    This would effectively mean that bulletin board operators can be liable for the posts on their bulletin boards, even if they have an explicit no-moderation policy. (A bulletin board operator who moderates post could arguably be responsible for the content of the posts.)

    As Bill Levinson explains:

    The above was online as of April 12, but it was indeed eliminated. This is known as exercise of editorial control, and it is the same issue that did in MoveOn.org’s Action Forum in 2006. I am in no way judging whether the material in question was sufficiently offensive to merit removal, and this is not the issue. The point is that, once the moderators remove some content because they disagree with it–as opposed to removing only spam, threats, and similar material that is acceptable nowhere on the Internet–they become responsible for what they allow to stand.

    Michael Ejercito (64388b)

  44. Patterico, if you decided to go the one- way Instapundit route for your blog I don’t think anybody would blame you and we might even think it was the smart thing for you to do. But it should be because you and your family think it’s the correct approach–not because Sen. Lieberman threatens to hold you accountable for what anonymous troublemakers like Ryan might say in the comments section of your blog.

    I hope you’ll write a post on what possible constitutional solutions you think might be tried to address both your very real issues borne from experience–and also Noodles’ good free speech arguments.

    You have validated my previous comment about twitter, though. The lies which can be (and are) anonymously spread across twitter at the speed of light would seem to be a far greater threat to America, to you, and frankly to any of us, than blog comments.

    elissa (c9d3f1)

  45. I don’t like to curtail speech but I also believe there are serious problems associated with anonymous internet speech. I wish we could create the equivalent of a small claims court for internet complaints, in which people can file claims and uncover identities but only if they can present a prima facie case of wrongdoing and actual and direct damage (but not pain and suffering or emotional distress alone, and no indirect damage).

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  46. Our esteemed host asked:

    Will someone address my concern about misleading anonymous speech? Is this not a valid issue?

    I can see where it would become incumbent upon the blogger to verify everything said, including by himself. And, as I read it, there was nothing there which limited it to anonymous commenters; if I made a false statement on your blog under my real, full name, with my address and telephone number provided, you’d still be liable.

    And, the really stupid thing is, it might not even be the commenter who originated the false statement.

    1 – President Obama says that Rick Santorum wants to make contraception illegal;
    2 – nk reads President Obama’s statement, and then writes, “Rick Santorum wants to make contraception illegal.
    3 – Rick Santorum does not actually want to make contraception illegal, but, because nk repeated President Obama’s false statement on your blog, you are responsible.

    Perhaps it’s time to resurrect the Patterico Pledge.

    The Dana who isn't an attorney (f68855)

  47. Dana @ 39-
    To have as titular leaders of the GOP, the author of McCain-Feingold, and someone who advocates stomping on free speech within the internet, it would be hard for the party to claim a position of protecting constitutional freedoms in the future – so many are suspicious of party claims as it is.
    We could reframe the polity from Tweedle-ddum and Tweedle-dumber, to Totalitarian-Major and Totalitarian-Lite.
    The TEA Party would change from a Small-Govt/Fiscal Responsibility/Individual Rights group into one that would be Counter-Revolutonary, and the fight would be on.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  48. Will Spike Lee be help accountable for the damage he’s done to that 70-80 year old couple in FL by posting their address as Z’s?
    Let’s see if actions on Twitter have consequences.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  49. I can think of some situations where holding publishers responsible for what commenters say makes pretty good sense.

    I wouldn’t mind a law that held blog owners responsible for publishing military secrets, for example.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  50. Ooops……held, v. help.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  51. No, I would not want the threat of a libel suit against the provider of a forum to chill discussion even in the instance of the vile trolls who danced on Breitbart’s grave. That would mean that they had won.

    The right way is to show them for what they are. I have seen, literally, the effect of sunlight. We had grubs in our lawn. I dug them out and they shriveled like Dracula in the old Hammer movies.

    nk (dec503)

  52. Dave, how can you do that on the ‘net when the no one holds the NYT’s accountable.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  53. Let’s not forget that commenters are still liable, guys. 230 protects the site. Spike Lee is not off the hook, Twitter would be.

    nk (dec503)

  54. Well the Obama administration does seem to be doing that in a roundabout way with Sterling to Risen, and Kirikaou to Shane, and a host of others.

    narciso (eab638)

  55. I run a business and do not want liberals to attack my business for my comments on blogs, which is why I use an alias.
    Nothing more or less.
    I’ll no longer type, but take action if this bill passes.

    dick (4ffb7f)

  56. Patterico is the lawyer, so I may be completely out of line here.

    I don’t see how a blog host could be held liable for the libel of an anonymous poster even if he or she agrees with the post.

    For example, if I said “so-and-so is a pederast,” and the blog host consents to allow the post to stand, even though “so-and-so” is not guilty of the crime, nor has ever been accused of the crime, the blog host is still not guilty of libel.

    Even if he allowed the post to stand, he would have to be proven that the he allowed it so with malice and aforethought.

    What if the blog host had allowed the post to stand because the poster had always been right before? What if the poster mislead the blog host to believe the allegation? What if the blog host had no idea the poster was lying and simply let the post stand out of ignorance?

    In my mind, blogs are no different than any other medium.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  57. And, of course, everything I just posted does not matter in regards to a public figure. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  58. Ok, so that’s the nitty-gritty. I, anonymous asshole, make a nasty remark on Patterico’s site and Patterico pays my tab. Not right, I should be responsible and Patterico himself should have a right of indemnity against me.

    But that’s not the reality, I am anonymous/pseudonymous God knows where and Patterico is the convenient target, and the law should be based on reality (practicality and experience). Which is why Patterico should be insulated from my cephaloproctitis and 230 is a good thing.

    nk (dec503)

  59. Anything you say under your right name may be taken down and used against you. If we barred all anonymity, a lot of the frank expression we all know and love would be lost, not in fear of libel suits but in fear that 12 years from now someone would embarrass us with it.

    A site-operated credentialing system would be best if you had to lock things down. Otherwise, we just have to rely on the willingness of other commenters to call bu11shi+ when it gets posted. I’ve seen that people here have that willingness and then some.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  60. For civil libel, Ag80, the common law holds the publisher liable. That what the 230 exception was aimed at.

    BTW, Patterico, criminal libel in the repealed Illinois law (upheld in Beuharnais and never reversed) did apply to the reputation of dead people.

    nk (dec503)

  61. 58 comments in, I just wish one person would say: you know what? An anonymous Internet presence could totally make something up out of whole cloth, mislead people, and make fools of a large group of the electorate. And while I disagree with government intervention, I agree this is a genuine issue.

    Can I get an amen on that, at least?

    Patterico (840f91)

  62. Amen!

    Sue (6623c5)

  63. Woo-hoo! I got an amen!

    But in certain churches I would get an amen, a that’s right, a preach it brother, and so on and so forth.

    So work on it.

    Patterico (840f91)

  64. One of my earliest comments here was that I was the reincarnation of Cleopatra? Can you imagine someone suing Patterico because he, the “someone”, is the real reincarnation of Cleopatra? It’s not just the Breitbart family, it’s every nutcase out there. I’m not nk because I don’t want Patterico, DRJ, JD, Daleyrocks, Stashiu3, carlitos, to know my real name. It’s because I don’t want Lovey and Christoph to know my real name. I’d actually like to meet Ehrenstein and DCSCA.

    nk (dec503)

  65. Having agreed that an anonymous presence can make up stuff and lead people astray and cause extensive distress to someone, I also believe that there has to be some way for people to remain anonymous. I know several people that are very cautious about anything that would link their Internet presence to their real life and most of them are survivors of domestic violence or violence of some kind.
    Both are serious concerns. How do we allow people to have the level of privacy or anonymity or caution that may be needed for their own personal circumstances and participate in online discussion, while also rooting out those who would use anonymity as a platform from which to attack other people?

    Sue (6623c5)

  66. I will Amen that Patterico. (I am in between Game of Thrones and Mad Men so I am distracted. =)

    I see this like a gun ban argument. Some bad people do things with guns (sort of like sicko trolls do on the internet) but that doesn’t mean we should ban all guns/take away internet anonymity from all.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  67. Patterico, I thought that’s what I was getting at and acknowledging up at #42. (Especially in the second and 3rd paragraphs). Sorry if it did not come across that way. So—- AMEN!

    elissa (c9d3f1)

  68. I think my comment 43 could be considered an Amen. If not, I’ll say it now: Amen.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  69. Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 7:00 pm

    Sure, it’s a genuine issue, but you seem to me to very good at dealing with it (didn’t you get Hiltzik spanked among other things), alright, maybe with a little help from your friends, but you’ve been doing steadily.

    Joe Lieberman should stick to his Talmud. (Yes, that was a provocation for me to be called an anti-Semite. Don’t anybody try to sue me, my lawyer is Jewish.)

    nk (dec503)

  70. Patterico,
    Maybe because we’re all adults here? I mean, if anyone were to see my post above and say, “OMG, the pope said that??” well, I highly doubt that such a person exists, but if they do, they are obviously far too stupid to have any kind of influence.

    And quite clearly, there’s no sign in on the comment section of this blog. Literally anyone can comment. If no one here really agrees on anything, how can Patterico be responsible for anything someone says here?

    I think I’m with ag80 on this one. They’d have a hell of a time proving malice.

    Ghost (6f9de7)

  71. nk:

    I am not a lawyer, but 230 exception rulings have been ambiguous. In my ignorance, I would have to say that the Supreme Court at some point will have to reconcile lower court rulings in regard to N.Y. Times Co. vs Sullivan.

    I simply do not see how the FCC has jurisdiction over the Internet. But, it seems to think so.

    As a non-lawyer, Kevin, I would say that a site-credentialing system would not protect the blog host.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  72. Nk

    That’s racisss.

    Ghost (6f9de7)

  73. I also know there is a contradiction in my previous post.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  74. nk,

    Yeah, I don’t think you want to meet Ehrenstein.

    I met him and thought he was a decent human. Then I saw what he said about Andrew after Andrew died. And I reached a very different conclusion. Ehrenstein is scum. I’m sorry I was ever friendly to him.

    Patterico (840f91)

  75. Part of the problem is societal, though, in as far as people are willing to be credulous and believe some really stupid stuff as long as it fits their viewpoint or comes from their “group”. I don’t know how the law can solve some of that.

    Sue (6623c5)

  76. Oops, so busy in my own attempts at knowing something.

    Amen, Patterico, Amen.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  77. In my church you can’t get an “Amen”, but you CAN get a “Cthulhu ph’nglui R’lyeh”.

    Better run, run, run, run run run away from my church.

    8-)

    d. in c. (17012e)

  78. Ok, and my computer does not like articles.

    nk (dec503)

  79. Lieberman is a PIPA co-sponsor. Could he be trying, among other things, to pass legislation on behalf of Big Content by packaging it as counter=terrorism (a ploy that I’ve been expecting)?

    gs (c96049)

  80. I don’t like to curtail speech but I also believe there are serious problems associated with anonymous internet speech. I wish we could create the equivalent of a small claims court for internet complaints, in which people can file claims and uncover identities but only if they can present a prima facie case of wrongdoing and actual and direct damage (but not pain and suffering or emotional distress alone, and no indirect damage).

    Comment by DRJ

    That’s interesting. How does this deal with an internet that is accessible to people in other jurisdictions… such as Nigeria or a boat with a satellite connection?

    Otherwise, this is an improvement. Most folks can keep their anonymity (Which has value as people can discuss controversial things without worrying about harassment or just plain judgment for unpopular viewpoints), most bad folks probably would be susceptible if their speech met this prima facie wrong doing, and most folks in other countries or on yachts are not bothering to harass people in other countries anyway.

    I do worry about any process being abused.

    Dustin (330eed)

  81. I wouldn’t want something international, Dustin. I would make it an American small claims court, but I also worry about it being abused. Consider this a starting point for discussion, not something cast in stone.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  82. I would agree that this will become a serious problem if passed. However, if one doesn’t wish for government intervention as the fix, then perhaps commenter peer-pressure is appropriate. It seems to work here, fairly regularly. The anonymous commenter attempting to saturate the thread with ridiculous accusations and/or falsities is swiftly brought front and center and righteously exposed, thus making immediately rendering them irrelevant and ineffective in their attempts to sway and mislead.

    I also like the idea of the court equivalent of a small claims court for internet complaints mentioned above. I’m not sure how that would play out in real life as far as presenting evidence that actual damage was done, however, it’s a starting point.

    When there is an attempt to suppress free speech, it is generally rooted in fear, and going back to Carol’s comment at #3, I don’t believe it’s terrorists Lieberman and friends are afraid of.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  83. Patterico, you’ve been targeted by individuals hiding behind their anonymity. Has your experience suggested anything that might have blunted that attack or helped you protect yourself?

    Sue (6623c5)

  84. Oh good grief, I spend 5 minutes trying to formulate my thoughts and articulate them with some level of coherency, and see that the previous 3 comments have already – and far more articulately and more fully – touched on them. Meh.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  85. I would like a large small claims courts. Like the Kids’ Choice Awards. Everybody votes on who gets slimed.

    No, I would not want that either.

    Let the words float out there. They will wither in the wind, forgotten, shouted out by other words.

    They’re words, not sticks and stones. (A good paraphrase of the First Amendment. Jefferson said something the same.)

    nk (dec503)

  86. A great question, Sue.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  87. I don’t believe that any government could actually shut down the Internet for any reason.

    I also don’t see how an individual could find redress in small claims court in the U.S. unless you give county officials the right to confiscate home computers in cases of issues below a certain degree of monetary damage.

    This gets into the whole issue of making oneself known to others. For example, if I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper on my computer and they printed it, why should my computer should be confiscated if someone thought they had a tort.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  88. nk, we’re all still reeling that you really *aren’t* the reincarnation of Cleopatra.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  89. I know dissipate is a more proper word than wither but wither and wind alliterate. Words. ;)

    nk (dec503)

  90. What a silly idea, to hold blog proprietors responsible for what random commenters might say in the comments section.

    That’s like holding the Dodgers liable for what the fan sitting behind home plate yells at the players or umpires.

    Joe Liebermann is good on foreign policy (at least, for a Democrat) but this is stupid to the core.

    Honestly, it’s a theme that is revealed time after time by left wing policies…they simply don’t believe a person is responsible for his or her own actions. They believe that there are external forces/other “responsible” parties that “cause” people to do “bad” things.

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  91. When these sorts of things come up in real life, my first line of defense is always “which part of CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW is unclear to you?”

    d. in c. (17012e)

  92. Bad idea all around in terms of freedom of speech.
    However given that most anything you say, do or surf (regardless of using silly handles like mine) ends up in the churn at NSA and other government databases and anonymity is an illusion.
    Just finished Bamford’s book “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America — good read if you want to see how much the protections were abused and what other countries have access to.

    Op-ed in NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/us/police-tracking-of-cellphones-raises-privacy-fears.html?_r=1&ref=ericlichtblau&pagewanted=print

    shows how the local agencies get into the act as well.

    Lieberman’s law may have the impact of protecting people from themselves…

    vor2 (cbf0fe)

  93. Elephant Stone:

    But, that’s what we’re stuck with. The rate of technology advancement has far outstripped the slow wheels of justice and the left always knows what is right, regardless of consequences.

    And nk, I hope you know I am not arguing against you. I’m just trying to advance the argument.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  94. Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 7:00 pm

    To reprise what was said earlier:
    If anonymous drivel couldn’t be said on the ‘net, Axelrod (and others) would be out of business.

    AD-RtR/OS! (07b223)

  95. To semi-quote someone, what’s a little non-lawyer pikachu to say?

    Patterico, I think you did not get more “Amens” because many thought what you said was de novo obvious and they were in agreement, with little to directly add.

    Yes, in the Ten Commandments we find speaking lies about your neighbor on similar footing to stealing from him/her and murdering him/her. The Internet simply makes it easier to spread vicious lies more quickly.
    Anonymous posters could make all kinds of mischief. Posters who aren’t anonymous who can afford bigger and more intimidating lawyers can cause a lot of trouble too.
    No, I don’t think a blog host should be held responsible for any comment that is put up that causes harm; though, otoh, if a blog host knew something damaging had been listed as a comment and they glibly did nothing about it that would be wrong also.

    FWIW, I’ve never frequented many sites, posted at even fewer, but as I have stayed off of social media and communicate only by “old fashioned email” (how 2010′ish of me!!), all of the sites that ask you to register with your facebook, twitter, or whatever routinely are devoid of my wit and wisdom, though occasionally I will send a direct email to the host where that is a possibility and I think my point is possibly important enough.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  96. For the sake of discussion, what about a small claims court whose primary form of redress is the required posting of retractions at any point where the anonymous “attacker” published false information? (And perhaps the “attacker” has to pay the court costs and such?)
    In much of the false information that is floating around, if the original commentary had to be accompanied by retraction, after review by a court, then it might slow up the years-long regurgitation of some of the worst of it.
    Kind of like the Google notices about virus infected sites; at some point, the comments of certain people would be overwhelmed with retraction notices, perhaps?
    I’m not recommending this, just offering for possible discussion.

    Sue (6623c5)

  97. Hey, I knew that, Ag80. On my part, it was my inner lawyer talking.

    I’m tempted the link the BeeGee song “Words” sung by a boyband but if I do Patterico will beat me senseless with a sock full of butter. You can find it on YouTube yourselves.

    nk (dec503)

  98. No, Axelrod until 2008, operated in coordination with established publications from the Tribune to the LA Times ( I know they are all part of the same Syzgy)

    narciso (eab638)

  99. nk:

    Good, I just wanted to make sure.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  100. Agreed, elephant

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  101. To be clear as to where my comment was heading- yes, many things about nonsense and lies on the internet can be hramful to some degree, and I have no clue as to what sensible things should be done.
    I mean, small people who try to protest about truth can get SLAPPed silly (which is not silly) in many jurisdictions, and people who should be held to a standard of truth because of an FCC license or elected office or something, often lie like a rug and get away with it.

    But FWIW, I think I read where Spike Lee was footing the bill for the hotel expenses of the couple he inconvenienced.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  102. nk:

    They’re words, not sticks and stones. (A good paraphrase of the First Amendment. Jefferson said something the same.)

    I agree, but I’m talking about when words translate into action that results in real harm.

    Spike Lee’s Twitter comment is a good example, but not everyone would hire an attorney and not every defendant is worth pursuing. That’s why a small claims court idea may be in order.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  103. But FWIW, I think I read where Spike Lee was footing the bill for the hotel expenses of the couple he inconvenienced.

    Comment by MD in Philly — 4/1/2012 @ 7:54 pm

    Some sort of settlement but I didn’t see that about the hotel bill.
    Unfortunately Roseanne Barr did the same thing except with the correct address…

    vor2 (cbf0fe)

  104. I’m slightly surprised (after reading the text of the proposed bill; it’s a complete standalone, rather than placed in a vat of changes, as usually happens with things like this) that *no one* appears to have looked at their calendar when analyzing this proposal.

    –JRM

    [Actually, two other commenters also appear to have consulted their calendar. Oddly enough, however, their comments appear to be moderated. As does yours. :) I trust all three of you will maintain your discretion! :) -- P]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    JRM (cd0a37)

  105. Comment by DRJ — 4/1/2012 @ 7:56 pm

    Told my daughter, today, if you’re going to call somebody a “pansy”, better be prepared to fight.

    She is ten and exploring swear words and puberty. I told her, Don’t f***** swear you little a******. it sounds like s***.

    nk (dec503)

  106. Don’t know where she gets it from.

    nk (dec503)

  107. Spike lee isn’t anonymous , he gave out bad info, paired with an exhortation to reach out and touch the persons at the address.

    Section 230 as far away from that situation as it could be

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  108. Does everyone recall the apocalyptic reactions by the lefties to the NSA wiretapping of international calls involving perceived terrorists, several years ago ?

    Do you remember how that policy allgedly spelled the end of “freedom in America,” according to the lefties ?

    Can you imagine if, say, instead of Joe Liebermann suggesting this new law regarding random commenters at blogs during the Obama years, that it had been suggested by, say, a Republican Senator such as John McCain during the Bush years ?

    Everyone lame-stream media outlet would be banging the drum about how the Republicans are trying to snuff out dissent, ad nauseum.

    The left wing media double standard cannot be understated. I think I’m going to leave my estate to Brent Bozell and the Media Research work that he does. He needs it.

    Seriously, the way that Obama has actually come out and blamed Bush, “per se,” for Solyndra…and not even taken very much heat from the church choir, whose many members admittedly get tingly feelings up their leg from listening to Obama reveal his March Madness predictions on ESPN.

    Imagine if Bush had come out and said, “Well, the invasion of Iraq wasn’t really my deal…it’s genesis was in the Clinton Administration, and our hand was forced by, uh, China.”

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  109. Did it work, nk?

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  110. Since almost all major newspapers have blogs with open comment sections, wouldn’t this change seriously impact them as all commenters at a newspaper would be considered anonymous and unknown by the editors/writers/board?

    This seems it would be a big step backward for newspapers desperately attempting to regain so much lost ground to the internet.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  111. Sarahw- You are correct of course that the Spike Lee incident and the details of 230 are different, but my prone to tangential-reasoning brain linked the two (“FWIW” may I point out) as we were talking about consequences of mass communication over the internet.

    To make the situation more pertinent, say an anonymous poster left info on PP where zimmerman was supposedly hiding out, the place was then (God-forbid) firebombed. In one way it seems absurd to make P liable for any consequences, but it is also absurd that someone could post information that would put someone in danger with impunity.

    But as i suugested originally, i’m out of my pay scale on this issue, so by all.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  112. Did it work, nk?

    Comment by DRJ — 4/1/2012 @ 8:13 pm

    Yes. She is smart. She got it. Heck, she already knew it and was busting my procreative glands. She is also ten. She’ll play it with me and mama but not in school or with her peers.

    nk (dec503)

  113. I would just like to say that this thread proves the intellectual conceit of the left is bankrupt.

    Carry on.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  114. “Dave, how can you do that on the ‘net when the no one holds the NYT’s accountable.”

    I would hold them accountable.

    There are things that people should not be allowed to say, and there are things that people shouldn’t be allowed to publish. And, publishing classified information (information that ought to be classified, like military secrets) shouldn’t be allowed.

    Another example:

    IMO, if I, Dave Surls, run a blog, and I publish material that includes false and defamatory claims about Patrick Frey, then Patrick Frey ought to be able to take legal action against me.

    If I understand sction 230 correctly (and I’m not totally sure I do, so I’ll be happy to be corrected, if I’m wrong about this), the way things are right now, I could do that and it would be real hard for Pat to stop me…and, that’s not right.

    Being able to get on the internet and shoot your mouth off, and having it instantly published is great. I love doing it. But, there are things more important than Dave Surls being able to shoot his mouth off, and having it instantly published.

    If everyone was like me and posted under their own name, and didn’t try to hide their IP address and stuff like that, and had no problem with admitting who they were, then the defamation issue would be less important, because then, at least you could go after the person who defamed you, instead of going after the publisher.

    But, with so many people posting under pseuds, and content providers being granted broad immunity, it seems to me to that it’s a little too easy to maliciously defame people and get away with it.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  115. Sarahw:

    Spike lee isn’t anonymous , he gave out bad info, paired with an exhortation to reach out and touch the persons at the address.

    Section 230 as far away from that situation as it could be

    Good point about Spike Lee but I’m talking about the same situation except the speaker is anonymous. Specifically: actionable conduct but the fact it is anonymous and occurs on the internet makes it less likely to be pursued.

    But I don’t think a website owner like Twitter should be responsible, so in that sense I agree with your point about Section 230.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  116. Well, we have an anonymous blog anonymously blogging that Leibermann is proposing something.

    Why are we believing it?

    Patterico? Are you having fun, yet?

    [Dianna, I think Patterico is waiting until tomorrow to reveal this is an April Fool's. It got me. You're one of the few who caught on right away. This is now moderated for a bit until the prank is revealed. Play along if you like and nice catch. ;-) --Stashiu]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    Dianna (f12db5)

  117. This is very dangerous. The only result from such a thing would be that all commenting would be eliminated. Lack of anonymity would reduce the bad but not eliminate it. The person who owns the blog would spend more time policing than blogging. Even then it’s only a matter of time before the wrong thing get said. Even the smartest, most honest people occasionally say something wrong, or in the wrong way.

    [note: fished from spam filter. --Stashiu]

    Rocks (0471ae)

  118. But, people using aliases should be able to defame unless it was done maliciously and without aforethought and the blog hosts should not be held liable.

    Section 230 has not been tested. Yes, it is a rule approved by Congress, but it applies to a federal department.

    The First Amendment has no prohibition against defamation and a federal department has no authority to prevent such speech, regardless of its portfolio.

    I don’t really care whether that is right or wrong.

    Other remedies are in place. Giving a federal agency the power to judge this is not correct.

    Yes, I know that the SCOTUS has found differently in cases, but I don’t know of a case that specifically applies in this instance.

    I will not object to being found wrong.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  119. That Spike Lee thing is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, and why I think we need some rules about what folks can and can’t do on the internet.

    IMO, Lee ought to be held responsible for the harm he did, and so whould Twitter.

    If I thought Twitter provided any usefulness, then I might be inclined to cut the service provider a break.

    But, you know what? Twitter is a complete waste of bandwidth. It’s for people who can’t take ten minutes to formulate a coherent statement about something, and just have to get it off their chests right this second, no matter the consequences.

    And, that’s not an activity worth protecting, in my book.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  120. I am not comfortable with any law or system that lets the government define truth so that a political comment can be prosecuted. This is worse than any abuse it attempts to address. We already have the government defining permitted and forbidden speech (hate speech laws), permitted and forbidden thoughts (discrimination laws), and permitted and forbidden feelings and emotions (hate crime laws). The First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments have been gutted and neutered worse than the Second.

    Giving up the right to be anonymous would be the farthest anyone would allow and I think this would be one of those laws that only applied to the law abiding. How would a blog or site host verify the correct ID of every commenter? Even if the IP is shown with the comment we know how easy these are to fake from our “banned” commenters who are still regulars. Do we have to give up yet more privacy and freedom to make this easier to enforce? I absolutely don’t trust the government not to abuse and misuse this. Is it at all plausible that this would not have been used by the Obama and Clinton administrations to silence or harass critics?

    Patterico, what could address your concerns that would not mean putting yet more power in the hands of this corrupt and venal group in DC?

    Machinist (b6f7da)

  121. My biggest concern is those that would monitor speech are likely to be the ones I would least trust to do so.

    JD (c73bec)

  122. Dave:

    No disrespect, but it is worth protecting.

    Is Spike Lee stupid? Yes. Did he do something stupid? Of course.

    Yet, you can’t take away the right of people to be stupid simply because they are.

    If they do harm, there are already plenty of laws, rules and regulations to punish them.

    The family of the people that were the victims of Lee’s post do indeed have recourse.

    However, I would argue that new federal laws and rules are not the answer.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  123. BTW, Ag80,

    Invective is not actionable, anymore. If I were to call Liberman a worthless jackass, he would have no case against me. If I were to allege that he has a crush on a jackass, I would need to prove it, but he would need to prove actual damages if I did not.

    nk (dec503)

  124. And, I think if you do what the merry lite band of vile cretins has done to you, they have lost their right to remain anonymous.

    JD (c73bec)

  125. Full disclosure, I followed a link here from Daily Kos, but hear me out for a couple of lines. This seems like one of those issues that people from across the political spectrum should be opposed to. I hope that people who otherwise are ideological antagonists can come together and oppose it. On issues of personal liberty like this, I don’t care what else you believe so long as we can make common cause in getting a result that would not involve Senator Droopy invading the cyberspace we all share. I will be contacting the Iowa delegation to communicate my displeasure and I hope you will do likewise. Respectfully, Susan in Iowa

    susaniniowa (9784c3)

  126. Can’t imagine a blogger or hosting service ever getting any heat for a comment of mine.

    Could calling pederast Franklin Marshall Davis’ bastard, ibn Dunham, a traitor annoy anyone?

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  127. nk:

    Of course you are right. Otherwise, there would be no entertainers, right or left. Or grumps telling you to get off their lawn.

    Being able to speak freely matters. The left only wants it to apply to them.

    In my case, I am a free-speech slut. If you want to say it, go ahead.

    If you lie about me, I will see you in court and I will win, regardless of defamation.

    I don’t know why people can’t see the difference or why we need federal rules that contradict the First Amendment.

    Ag80 (b0b671)

  128. Comment by susaniniowa — 4/1/2012 @ 8:57 pm

    Knew that, susan,

    And that we got to get it out there. Πες του Κοσμα να ξυπνειση.

    nk (dec503)

  129. This seems like one of those issues that people from across the political spectrum should be opposed to. I hope that people who otherwise are ideological antagonists can come together and oppose it.

    I agree Susan. And I hope your side can agree that the tactics of people like Neal Rauhauser should be condemned as well.

    I’m guessing you can read about him sometime in the future if you have never heard of him.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  130. I’ve been giving DRJ’s idea a lot of thought.

    Mostly because I’m surprised at myself. I’m the free speech crusader. I’d never ask anyone to be banned from a blog, for example. A year ago the only answer I would give to bad speech is more speech.

    The last year has totally changed my perspective.

    Some speech, especially in today’s world where one guy can pretend to me 500 people telling 5000 lies, is worse than harassment. It’s incitement. It’s worse than smearing. It’s potentially ruination of careers.

    And sadly the first thing I picture when I think of this starting point for a solution (that small claims court): one of the bad guys filing claim after claim to out his adversary’s identity. And of course such a sophisticated squelcher of speech would be smearing people from public wifi, or from a reliable proxy… or both. So justice would be a one way street running the wrong way.

    But something has got to give… the way things are today just isn’t working.

    One example: there is a twitter account called “killzimmerman”. Though I’ve been critical of Zimmerman, I sure as hell don’t want to see people inciting murder. So I asked twitter to disable the account. This is the first time I’ve ever asked anyone to be moderated or banned from anything, but he’s actually asking for murder.

    Twitter wrote back saying “If a specific user is posting content that you disagree with or otherwise find offensive, we have provided you with the ability to block the user. ”

    Great.

    Something has got to give here.

    [note: released from moderation. --Stashiu]

    Dustin (330eed)

  131. Patterico, you can get no amen from me on that.

    I can’t agree that unvetted information by aperson with no reputation In A COMMENT can do the damage you assert.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  132. Well, I’m kind of new here, and maybe I’m just not getting it and I’m more of a free speech supporter than I realized, but is this post some kind of sort of sneaky April Fool joke?

    [You got it Roland. It got me. I'm hiding this for now. Patterico will reveal tomorrow, so play along okay? -- Stashiu]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    Roland (5ff18d)

  133. Twitter might be used for other things than political and social commentary, that actually do have some utility, but that’s all I’ve ever seen it used for…and that’s totally useless, and not worth protecting.

    As long as no harm is being caused, then I’m not too much into regulating people dropping pearls of wisdom in 140 characters or less, but the minute it starts causing problems (way to go Spike Lee and other people), then I’m pretty much into regulating it.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  134. Dave, there already are rules about what lee did, both in law and the rules of a decent society.

    He’s already settled with the vicitms to prevent civil litigation and/or criminal complaint.

    He’s also not anonymous, nor would I ever think it proper for some content or service provider to be liable for what he did himself. Notice the truth also got its pants on fast enough to damage HiIS reputation.

    It should never be a crime to tell the truth with information ther is no law against spreading.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  135. Note that Lee was on the hook because of his disreguard for truth.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  136. Sorry, Dave, “not worth protecting” is what the First Amendment is about. You don’t get to say except in actual videos of child and animal-human sex.

    nk (dec503)

  137. And his exhortation to others that was meant, in context, to promote contact with an implied violent overtone

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  138. Lee’s already “regulated.”

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  139. Let s also distinguish between an alias and an attempt to defraud or trick.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  140. Dustin @ 126,

    That’s interesting (and horrible) re killingzimmerman on twitter. In reviewing their rules, they clearly state,

    Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.

    Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

    Accounts engaging in any of these behaviors may be investigated for abuse. Accounts under investigation may be removed from Search for quality. Twitter reserves the right to immediately terminate your account without further notice in the event that, in its judgment, you violate these Rules or the Terms of Service.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  141. BTW,

    Zimmerman is not a public figure. The decision that reversed the decision was not reversed. He did not thrust himself into the limmelight. He was pulled into it by his libelers. They are subject to strict liability and general and punitive damages.

    nk (dec503)

  142. An anonymous Internet presence could totally make something up out of whole cloth, mislead people, and make fools of a large group of the electorate. And while I disagree with government intervention, I agree this is a genuine issue.
    Can I get an amen on that, at least?
    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 7:00 pm

    It can be done, and it has been done. And today is the perfect day for that to be remembered, shown and proven, isn’t it? :-)

    [Yup. I'm moderating your comment because you figured it out. I hope you will agree to keep your realization confidential until tomorrow. Thanks in advance! -- P]

    [UPDATE: Now that it's April 2 I am releasing this from moderation. The above note to the commenter was left yesterday. -- P]

    Sue (6623c5)

  143. “Sorry, Dave, “not worth protecting” is what the First Amendment is about.”

    The 1A is a bunch of fairy tale baloney. There never has been, and never will be a government that doesn’t prohibit some speech and some writings, including the United States government.

    And, it wouldn’t be desirable to do so, anyway.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  144. I meant it wouldn’t be desirable to have a government that didn’t prohibit ANY speech and writings.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  145. Dave Surls, your dismissal of Twitter sounds familiar. I seem to recall almost the same words said about blogs and individual websites. I hardly use Twitter and would not miss it at all but I don’t think that makes it exempt from free speech protection.

    No abuse of free speech justifies this control by government and it will not work with the real problem people anyway, only the decent and law abiding. It is like gun control in that respect, it makes the state side with criminals against their victims, and this increases crime rather than reducing it. Yes, criminals do bad things with guns, but we are better off with both sides having guns than just the criminals, which is all gun control can achieve. To would be rulers a helpless population of sheep is desirable enough that the loses to bad guys are tolerable but to those victims it is another story. It is these would be rulers who will be controlling the internet and this is just not the answer.

    How do you keep someone with a PC and a laser printer from publishing and distributing this kind of damaging lies and misinformation? Do we let the government access, search, and control our personal PCs and printers?

    Machinist (b6f7da)

  146. Well, right now, the only thing for sure that’s not allowed is bestiality and child pornography. I was surprised by the O’Keefe v. Naffe preliminary injuntion. The Pentagon Papers?

    nk (dec503)

  147. That proposed law has about as much chance of passing as Obama has of getting re-elected and the
    Demo’s taking both houses.

    AZ Bob (1c9631)

  148. So will call-in talk shows be held responsible for the comments of callers?

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

  149. Speaking of anonymous accounts—

    Did anyone notice that the Vegas radio jocks “We Hit and Run” responsible for @therealzimmerman account also had a sock puppet named @AnchorWolfe ?

    That’s just a coincidence, right? The Wolfe thing? Right?

    Auntie Fraud (2f38aa)

  150. I saw the Wolfe thing Auntie. I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I thought it might have been the usual suspects.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  151. I can imagine some lawmakers really liking the idea. Regrettably, there is often a nice, convenient rationalization available (like “anti-terrorism”) to explain why more control is important and why everyone has to be “inconvenienced” for a “short time”.

    Sue (6623c5)

  152. “Dave Surls, your dismissal of Twitter sounds familiar.”

    I dismiss my own internet rantings in the same way.

    Frankly, they’re not important enough to merit protecting. If Dave Surls never posted another word on the internet, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to the rest of the world.

    Having internet conservations without moderation is swell, but it’s not so important, that we ought to allow clowns like Spike Lee to do what he does, just so that we can spew forth on the www.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  153. According to the blog McIntyre v Ohio, an anonymous blog devoted to promoting anonymous speech

    1. I’ll actually be very interested to see how people come down on this issue.

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 4:03 pm

    what do we do about the problem of misinformation by dishonest anonymous actors? It’s easy to say just refute it with more speech … but the problem with unsubstantiated rumors is that sometimes you don’t even know what disinformation is being spread. Trust me: when it happens to you it may give you a different perspective.

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 5:28 pm

    24. Will someone address my concern about misleading anonymous speech? Is this not a valid issue?

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 5:42 pm

    38. …

    The really scary part is how often it works without people even knowing it. Again: I have seen this firsthand.

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 6:14 pm

    59. 58 comments in, I just wish one person would say: you know what? An anonymous Internet presence could totally make something up out of whole cloth, mislead people, and make fools of a large group of the electorate. And while I disagree with government intervention, I agree this is a genuine issue.

    Can I get an amen on that, at least?

    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 7:00 pm

    Gee, what do all these comments have in common?

    I think they were all written on the same date.

    Random (9dc235)

  154. I have no idea what Random’s comment is supposed to mean.

    The weird part is that I think It made me see where Patterico is going with this post.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  155. You do, huh?

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

    Random (9dc235)

  156. I was just thinking about all those people marching for “Justice for Trayvon” who think he was shot in the back of the head execution-style, not identified for three days, there was no investigation whatsoever, and that the police were covering up for “a white racist”.
    What can be done about such misinformation, much of which was spread through the Internet, Twitter and Facebook, especially when it leads to mobs demanding a “pound of flesh” as the only “justice” they will accept?

    Sue (6623c5)

  157. M. Night Shyamalan type stuff.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  158. Let’s take a look at this blog, huh?

    Subtitled: “Free speech. Anonymously.”

    Who by?

    Written by mac

    I’m Mac. I’m a pseudonym. Get over it.

    And what does Mac have to say?

    “But a friend of mine in the GPO let me know that Lieberman….”

    And how many posts has this blog published?

    7

    When was its first post?

    February 9th, 2012

    And this blog has the entire internet, dozens of high profile blogs, going nuts over Lieberman’s assault on blog comments … because, “… a friend of mine in the GPO let me know that Lieberman….”

    lol

    Love it.

    Random (9dc235)

  159. Thank God I posted about M. Night Shyamalan before Random’s next post.

    I actually thought something was weird before but not enough to really think it all through. I thought satyricon was odd but just kept on truckin! lol

    Noodles (3681c4)

  160. Not as good as the endless link loop last year (or two years ago) but still pretty damn good.

    Auntie Fraud (2f38aa)

  161. This is pretty funny. =)

    I never believed any bill like that would go anywhere, but I thought Patterico was trying to make a broader point with the trolls and I promptly swallowed the hook.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  162. You have no idea how many blogs (or should I say “blawgs”) are involved in this, Noodles.

    April Fools!

    Random (9dc235)

  163. I had no idea what was going on until very recently. I fell for it too, hook, line, and sinker.

    Once I got it, though, the best part was reading this post in juxtaposition with Patterico’s comments. That was too much.

    Random (9dc235)

  164. While censorious, he can be funny in a very dry way when he wants to.

    Random (9dc235)

  165. 58 comments in, I just wish one person would say: you know what? An anonymous Internet presence could totally make something up out of whole cloth, mislead people, and make fools of a large group of the electorate. And while I disagree with government intervention, I agree this is a genuine issue.

    I think it is remote to the point of non-existence, and I would not spend one more moment worrying about it. Yes, people can TRY to mislead, but there is always pushback. And why would anonymity add to the danger? Consider the damage well-known politicians do as a day’s work.

    Would Al Gore be more persuasive anonymously?

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  166. #
    Comment by Patterico — 4/1/2012 @ 7:00 pm

    58 comments in, I just wish one person would say: you know what? An anonymous Internet presence could totally make something up out of whole cloth, mislead people, and make fools of a large group of the electorate. And while I disagree with government intervention, I agree this is a genuine issue.

    Can I get an amen on that, at least?

    There will always be some anonymity, and if it too limited, it will be done by the worse and most organized liars, and even if not legally possible, there will be straw posters, or false fronts or front groups, and the biggest and most malicious liars don’t need anonymity, but the people who would counter-argue do.

    Is it good that China wants to eliminate Internet anonymity?

    Anonymity is also needed to reveal things going on not according to law.

    Yes, the bad guys can exploit anonymity, but the situation without anonymity is would be worse than with anonymity. The bad guys could exploit that even more, and in some countries they have, especially when combined with libel laws.

    A situation like what we have now, where anonymity can be broken in the most egregious cases like say, sending a ransom note, is probably the best but you have to watch carefully when that happens.

    In the case of general lies, people have got to know what not to believe. It is too dangerous to police this – it can be policed on behalf of the liars.

    Sammy Finkelman (b645fc)

  167. Comment by MD in Philly — 4/1/2012 @ 7:45 pm

    i> Yes, in the Ten Commandments we find speaking lies about your neighbor on similar footing to stealing from him/her and murdering him/her.

    That’s actually be a false witness (in a court proceeding. Closer may be of Leviticus 19:11 (which is really lying TO someone to gain something – just false dealing) or Leviticus 19:16. Also look at Exodus 23:7 or 23:1.

    The Internet simply makes it easier to spread vicious lies more quickly.
    Anonymous posters could make all kinds of mischief. Posters who aren’t anonymous who can afford bigger and more intimidating lawyers can cause a lot of trouble too.
    No, I don’t think a blog host should be held responsible for any comment that is put up that causes harm; though, otoh, if a blog host knew something damaging had been listed as a comment and they glibly did nothing about it that would be wrong also.

    FWIW, I’ve never frequented many sites, posted at even fewer, but as I have stayed off of social media and communicate only by “old fashioned email” (how 2010′ish of me!!), all of the sites that ask you to register with your facebook, twitter, or whatever routinely are devoid of my wit and wisdom, though occasionally I will send a direct email to the host where that is a possibility and I think my point is possibly important enough.

    Sammy Finkelman (b645fc)

  168. Sorry, I quoted the rest of MDs comment without comment and italics starting from “The Internet makes it easier…”

    I don’t know. Al Sharpton was quite successful without the Internet, and newspapers, like the New York Daily News, have a lot of credibility.

    William Randolph Hearst is reputed not to have been very careful with the truth all the time.

    Anonymous posters probably can’t cause real trouble, unless they are really backed by somebody with money and/or and organized. These things are not exposed from within probably because people don’t really believe in anonymity.

    I don’t like sites that ask you to register with Facebook etc either.

    Sammy Finkelman (b645fc)

  169. I think Lieberman wants this bill because of jihadi websites, where perhaps there may be very little editorial (host) comment but it is set up with the intent of acting as a forum for people who support terrorism.

    There are also forums for the marketing of stolen credit card information, and then there’s Backpage, which takes classified ads for escorts which actually is prostitution and even forced prostitution.

    There are situations (sometimes of course it is unclear if that’s what it is) where the publisher fully intends all the bad things that are published to be published)

    There is surely a better way to handle this, and probably no changes in law are needed.

    Also, people should not be fooled by its relative visibility into thinking that’s the way terrorists are actually recruited

    Sammy Finkelman (b645fc)

  170. “Would Al Gore be more persuasive anonymously?”

    Yeah, because then you couldn’t point to his lifestyle and LOL at what a total hypocrite he is on the issue of global warming.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  171. “I don’t see how a blog host could be held liable for the libel of an anonymous poster even if he or she agrees with the post.”

    Well, just think about James O’Keefe, Olbermann, Shuster and Current Media.

    I can see how.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  172. There will always be some anonymity, and if it too limited, it will be done by the worse and most organized liars, and even if not legally possible, there will be straw posters, or false fronts or front groups, and the biggest and most malicious liars don’t need anonymity, but the people who would counter-argue do.

    I think this is probably true.

    Dustin (330eed)

  173. Ummm, gee, 162 comments in, am I the first to notice that this made it to Patterico AND McIntyre on April Fool’s Day? Especially given that it was supposed to be submitted for consideration with tomorrow’s (well, by now, today’s) date – April 2, 2012? Granted, I’m automatically suspicious of anything posted on April 1, but this has hallmarks of an April Fool’s trick…

    Redhawke (8bc4b9)

  174. “Sorry, Dave, “not worth protecting” is what the First Amendment is about. You don’t get to say except in actual videos of child and animal-human sex.”

    Btw, I might point out that the 1A doesn’t say that Congress shall pass no laws abridging the freedom of the press, except in cases where someone is publishing images of children engaging in sexual acts or acts of bestiality. So, you’re already making an ad hoc exception to the rule of law.

    I think it would be better if we rewrote the 1A, and said exactly what exceptions we’re going to have, if we’re going to have federal laws against doing that sort of thing.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  175. The Supreme Court is constantly rewriting the First Amendment. It’s an interesting evolution, from jailing people for protesting the draft in WWI, to saying “F*** the Draft” to the Supreme Court.

    nk (dec503)

  176. “… during Viet Nam.”

    nk (dec503)

  177. It may just be me – but, as someone who spent his first 21 years in Scotland, and with all due respect to our esteemed bloghost, something is not quite consistent in this …

    First, I have to consider the date of the posting on the ” blog McIntyre v Ohio, an anonymous blog devoted to promoting anonymous speech” …

    Second, I have to consider that that blog points to a “document” on its own site …

    Third, a Google search doesn’t find it on any governmental/congressional site *yet* …

    So – until it shows up on Thomas.gov, I believe I am going to call “April Fools” on it …

    With that said, the discussion has been both interesting and worthy (not just Aaron Worth-y) …

    And I suspect that a better counter for such potentially libelous stuff would be an adoption of ‘Loser pays’ for lawsuits … that, just by itself, would significantly lessen frivolous/malicious unfounded lawsuits …

    (NOW, I *duck* !)

    Alasdair (5320b9)

  178. Maybe Lieberman is taking aim at the jihadi sites, but we have already lost too much because the most powerful nation on Earth cannot elect a government who can take out a bunch of nutty camel-molesters preemptively. Patriot Act? Guantanamo? Iraq? Afghanistan?

    Cuff Lieberman! Pay somebody to cuff him!

    nk (dec503)

  179. “The Supreme Court is constantly rewriting the First Amendment.”

    No kidding.

    I’d much prefer that we do it the old-fashioned legal way, if we need to do it.

    Especially, when their rewriting of the Constitution on the fly ends up with knucklehead lefties getting tossed into prison for correctly pointing out that the Draft is an involuntary servitude that isn’t allowed per the 13th Amendment.

    Putting lefties in jail when they’re actually right about something (for once in their lives) is a gross miscarriage of justice, if you ask me.

    OTOH, thumping Spike Lee and Twitter for disupting the lives of people by their irresponsible actions doesn’t seem like a gross miscarriage of justice to me, so since we’re going to pretty much ignore the 1A, we might as well do so in the service of something good.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  180. If they make anonymous comments on blogs illegal, shouldn’t they make anonymous wources illegal for journalists?

    Carl (87aa29)

  181. Carl – is “wources” the original spelling of what is now pronounced as “wusses” ? (Like Wussestershire Sauce ?)

    Alasdair (5320b9)

  182. No, that would be the way, Ensign Chekov would put it,

    narciso (56cc9c)

  183. Patterico – are you still concerned about this-as-reality ? Or is this now a theoretical discussion that we *hope* will not become reality ?

    Alasdair (5320b9)

  184. UPDATE x2 4-2-12: As a handful of you have guessed, this was an April Fool’s hoax perpetrated by me and a few other bloggers. In reality, I would be very concerned with a law like this. Details in an upcoming post.

    This may be my favorite April Fool’s joke yet. If you go back and re-read my comments in the thread, you’ll get an idea why.

    5-6 commenters guessed and had their comments immediately moderated with a note from me asking them to keep the secret. (They all did.) I have now released those comments with a note explaining that they were released from moderation today.

    Patterico (1e48f9)

  185. UUh… I was just playing along with the joke.

    Ok. You got me.

    Still anything that raises the blood pressure is a good thing right now. So thanks 4 that

    SarahW (b0e533)

  186. You can see this comment but others can’t. Thanks!

    I was wondering how people knew what was going on.

    Noodles (3681c4)

  187. Does this nullify “Always trust content from Patterico”???

    Dana (4eca6e)

  188. It was a good, hypothetical in the end, discussion, anyway. I appologize to Senator Lieberman for my insults. Teach me not to get personal? Naah!

    nk (dec503)

  189. It fooled me. I can totally buy the government attempting to do this.

    Dustin (330eed)

  190. Patterico,

    You have admiited before that very few people get your jokes. Stick to your day job. I’m not stupid, just comfortable with taking you seriously.

    nk (dec503)

  191. And I am going to beat up my brother for tottaly messing up my keyboard.

    nk (dec503)

  192. UPDATE x3: My post on the deconstruction of the joke is up. You can read it here.

    Patterico (130ac2)

  193. Does this nullify “Always trust content from Patterico”???

    Trust content from Patterico from April 2 to March 31.

    Patterico (130ac2)

  194. You have admiited before that very few people get your jokes. Stick to your day job. I’m not stupid, just comfortable with taking you seriously.

    I found out yesterday that my lack of a sense of humor can be a selling point! Hopefully I can tell that story some day.

    Patterico (130ac2)

  195. Trust content from Patterico from April 2 to March 31.
    Comment by Patterico — 4/2/2012 @ 10:59 am

    There is the old saying, “Trust and verify”. Thanks for the reminder!
    For my part, I enjoyed the discussion even while I was not certain of the premise. It doesn’t hurt to look at issues, and to look at how I look at issues, once in a while.
    I will also note that someone, somewhere has probably considered just such a change, among others, and the only reason it hasn’t happened is that the right combination of circumstances hasn’t come together to allow it. But given the right “perfect storm” all kinds of things can become law. Just look at the example of “Obamacare”…

    Sue (6623c5)

  196. I look awfully sharp and on to you in my first comment, but sadly I am sharp as meringue right now, if prescient:

    Liars and fools out themselves,anyway.

    Sarahw <<<< Le fool

    SarahW (b0e533)

  197. Still, it was a good discussion. Your talent, Patterico, is knowing how to start a conversation.

    Consult with my daughter when you want to be comedic:

    Q. Is “My brain ate my foot” funny?.
    Daughter: Lame.

    nk (dec503)

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    LED TV Wall Mounts (252ea7)

  199. You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be actually one thing that I believe I’d never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely vast for me. I am looking forward to your next publish, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

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