Technology and Business Law Blog

Online Anonymity and Defamation

A Maryland Circuit Court has ordered a newspaper company that owns a website in which a defamatory statement was posted about a business, to reveal the identity of the person who made the statement. Read here.

The U.S Supreme Court has upheld the right to anonymous¬† political speech under the First Amendment. The judge of the Maryland Circuit Court has sent the message that free speech is fine but will not tolerate defamation. There is a delicate balance between defamation and free speech. In defamation law suits courts balance reputation against free speech. If a defamatory statement about an individuals business is made, as it was in this case the business which was a donut shop was described as one “of the most dirty and unsanitary-looking food-service places I have seen,”then the statement will fall under the category of trade libel and it will be actionable. In a trade libel, the economic interests of the business owner has to be affected and the person making the defamatory statement must have made the statements with reckless disregard of whether the statement was true or false.

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December 13, 2008 Posted by | Defamation, Free Speech, On-line world | 1 Comment

Spam and Online Interactions.

It’s the holiday season and so watch out for increased spam activity. With holiday shopping in the air, and everyone shopping for deals in the Internet and businesses targeting consumers with ads, coupons and discount deals, spammers join the band wagon and slip spam ads, content and viruses under the cover of great advertising deals.

Another way that spammers trick the users is by propagating worms. One of the most popular one is the storm worm which was spread by sending out legitimate appearing messages with things like current news events and online greeting cards as the subject matter thus seemingly innocuous or purported messages from IRS and other government agencies so that the user clicks on it and then the malware gets downloaded into the users computer. The virus links itself with other computers by p2p networking and embeds itself into the users computer.

Spam and worms can also be disseminated through common email attachments like excel spread sheets, power point etc. As a precaution it is advisable not to open an email if you don’t know the sender and as a general rule don’t open the mail in the junk box unless accidentally an email from a known sender was redirected to the junk box.

Basically the spammers focus and work on the human weakness of getting good deals or not passing one up, being curious about keeping abreast of current events and most importantly on the misplaced belief that it could happen to others but not me. All the firewall and anti-virus software can block spam only to a certain extent since hackers and spammers find ways to get around it so, ultimately common sense has to prevail in all online interactions.

December 4, 2007 Posted by | On-line world, spam | Leave a comment

Privacy in the online world.

In the pre Internet days only your neighbors, friends and family could snoop into our private affairs unless someone hired a private investigator. Nowadays with most of our activities revolving around the Internet, we can conduct our activities from communication, shopping, banking to almost anything on-line without literally stepping out of our homes. This is so convenient and great but our life and affairs are exposed to anyone who wants to track us anonymously by the cookies that trace every footprint that we leave in cyberspace. Strangers snoop, track, categorize, assimilate, file and analyze all of this information by stalking us on-line and make money off our activities.

Before the “Do Not Call List” came out we got swamped every evening at dinnertime with telephone calls from marketers who wanted to sell us one product or the other and then everyone registered in the Do Not Call telephone list. Similar to that is the “Do Not Track List” being put together by privacy groups like the Consumer Federation of America, the World Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology who say that tracking our on-line activities is an invasion of our privacy and when companies collect information about a computer user then they should be notified and given options to opt out. Now how effective are these opt out cookies is another issue.

Also with the government watching over every individuals movements and spying on them, innocent activities could be construed as suspicious and our activities can be subpoenaed by the government authorities.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Internet, On-line world, privacy | Leave a comment