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Internet and Free Speech
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Our discussion this morning kept circling back to some central questions--questions we've been dealing with and will continue to deal with on Where We Live: How is the internet changing our social contract?  What rights are we willing to give up in order to maintain order in the digital world?  And as the internet continues to fundamentally change the course of global communications and transactions--what new rules should govern online life and what, if any, new rights must we protect?

Today's conversation asked how far free speech protections should extend into cyberspace.  We looked at a couple of Connecticut cases that are pushing courts and lawmakers to decide how online speech is different from offline speech--and who, in the end, should bear responsibility for online content.    One of the cases, the suit brought by two Yale law students against a long list of cyber-bullies (identified only by handles like Whamo and ak47), raises particularly interesting questions about communications law.  David Margolick has a great piece on the case in this month's issue of Portfolio.  (Warning: His descriptions are considerably more colorful than what we can broadcast over public airwaves.)

You can listen back to our episode about the how the internet is changing the way some people are thinking about intellectual property here.  And if this sort of thing is up your alley, be listening on April 30th for our discussion with David Bollier and Jonathan Zittrain about the direction the internet is headed in--an analysis of the ongoing debate between the online culture of openness and the temptation to move towards increased security.  We'll talk about the threats to net nuetrality and the potential of the internet commons.


what 'michael from storrs' said re internet libel

 (i am michael from storrs, hoping to be more clear than when i called in.)

the  ordeal of the two yale law students defies imagination, except, of course, after one has seen so many similarr expressions of evil on the net.  it was wrong for me to use the word 'naive' re the students and their defenders -- what i had hoped to describe were high moral expectations wh i feel are odds with the actual state of the internet community.

the attacks on these students are more sophisicated and thus more damaging than the text-based smears of simpler times.  still, i believe the mentality remains the same:individuals of little social consequence in the "real" world can assume a sort of evil grandiosity in the online world.  if the attacker is technically adept his grandeur increases geometrically.

there is an on-line tradition of white hats battling black hats, eg, comparably-skilled technicians seeking to incapacitate malicious individuals by use of the same unethical tactics.  of course, this model only goes so far: if the attackers are truly skilled and/or acting from foreign soil, efforts at self-defense and retaliation can only aggravate the situation.

i hope and even pray that legal efforts prevail.  still, i've my doubts.  reason suggests that the worst conspirators are untraceable.  even if these people are americans, odds are they have very little to lose, and thus no strong fear of civil or even criminal consequences.

(only now do i realize this has likely been said many times before.)