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MISC> Libel in cyberspace: can anything you post be used

Libel in cyberspace: can anything you post be used against you?


Copyright 1997 Nando.net
Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

(May 4, 1997 1:03 p.m. EDT) -- When the Founding Fathers wrote the
First Amendment protecting freedom of the press, they never imagined
millions of Americans would someday have their own version of one
sitting in their back rooms.

But with the advent of the World Wide Web, that's exactly what has
happened. And from this revolution has emerged a new legal quandary:
Just what standards are private individuals to be held to when it
comes to what they "publish" on the millions of Web pages and other
online forums that serve as the world's soapbox?

To a great extent, the answer thus far is this: No one knows. With
the Web revolution less than 3 years old, a body of case law hasn't
yet been built up. But lawyers who study online issues do have some
observations -- and advice.

First off, they note, the line between slander, once the realm of
individuals, and libel, the bane of publishers, has been blurred. It
used to be that spreading malicious gossip about someone down at the
barbershop could lead to charges of slander. But slander, by
definition spoken, was hard to prove and generally didn't reach
enough people to do any major harm.

Post that same information where it can be read by millions online,
however, and you've suddenly entered the realm of libel -- governed
by stricter laws originally written to cover print publications.

"Let's face it," says Mark Rasch, director of information security
law and policy at the Center for Information Protection at Science
Applications International Corp. in McLean, Va. "If I were to print
up a handbill saying bad things about my neighbor that were false, at
most I could distribute a couple of hundred of them. With the Web, I
can now damage his reputation worldwide."

The law is clear: Libel consists of publishing a false and
defamatory statement about an identifiable person, causing injury to
the subject's reputation. Often tied to it is the legal notion of
defamation, defined as that which exposes a person to hatred,
ridicule or contempt, causing them to be shunned or injuring their

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Article-ID: 05_1997&626945
Score: 80
Subject: FUCK DECENCY 228