Bill Simmon is a filmmaker, blogger, board member of the Vermont ACLU, and media educator. Simmon offers his opinion on the implications of a NY court’s decision to order Google to out an anonymous blogger and alerts us to yet another case. Simmon writes, in part:
Critics of Ms. Port (and the countless anonymous Internet trolls she’s come to represent) are correct to point out that the First Amendment wasn’t written with her in mind. Who cares about the free speech rights of a New York socialite shooting spitballs at someone from the bushes? She can get sued and shamed publicly, and our civil liberties will still be perfectly intact.
Right, except they won’t.
The First Amendment may not have been intended to protect anonymous jerks who hide behind their anonymity and behave immaturely, but not protecting the rights of the immature anonymous jerks makes it harder to protect the rights of activists, whistle-blowers and others who may be accused of malicious mischievousness, but who more obviously deserve protection under the law.
There’s another blogger defamation case underway right now that’s worth considering in light of Justice Madden’s opinion.
Last year a former employee of Cash4Gold (yes, that Cash4Gold — the one with all the late-night commercials offering to send you a check for your old jewelry and gold fillings) wrote an anonymous blog post on a site called ComplaintsBoard. com, exposing the company’s alleged shady business practices. In response, Cash4Gold’s lawyers began sending letters and have filed a defamation suit against the former employee, the blog in question and The Consumerist, a Gawker Media blog that merely reported on the story.
I don’t know if the defendant’s allegations are true or not, but if so, her First Amendment rights ought not be considered “illusory” by the courts.
Read more in The Burlington Free Press.