1993-03-01 - more ideas on anonymity

Header Data

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 688d62f16bc40a8d5e51a5508d821e32573869d7d6c18822de5a3797bef4cadb
Message ID: <9303011958.AA24443@soda.berkeley.edu>
Reply To: <2900@morgan.demon.co.uk>
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 20:01:37 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 12:01:37 PST

Raw message

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 12:01:37 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: more ideas on anonymity
In-Reply-To: <2900@morgan.demon.co.uk>
Message-ID: <9303011958.AA24443@soda.berkeley.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>I do believe in their right to say anything they 
>like. They have a reputation to protect.  How much reputation has 
>an anonymous source?  Are you going to believe an anonymous tip 
>off until you have investigated it?  If so bigger fool you.

"How much reputation has an anonymous source?"

I think this might be key to solving the "anonymous libel" problem.
Simply declare "anonymous libel" an oxymoron!  We might argue that
otherwise libelous statements, when made anonymously, carry a
presumption of falsity, for otherwise the speaker would be willing to
speak truthfully in his or her own person.

Or, in other words, "Coward! He must be lying!"

Could some of the folks with LEXIS or WESTLAW access check and see if
there is any case law where the social status of the speaker is
brought into question?

Perhaps Tony Kidson could tell us some of the effects of libel law in
the UK.  The US law, which grew out of British law, seems to have gone
in the direction of reducing the power of a libel complaint, while
British law has done the opposite.  I can't speak for the UK, but
those who live there could.

In California, a very promising decision occurred last week: the first
test of the anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public
Participation).  The law is to prevent lawsuits designed to drain the
resources of those exercising their First Amendment rights.  It
requires the plaintiff to show that they will probably win (I don't
know what the wording of the actual test is).  Defendants are entitled
to recover attorney's fees and court costs.

The suit was basically as follows.  One comic book company published a
Lensman comic.  The heir to the Lensman rights stated in print that
this company had not received permission.  The comic book company sued
the heir and the publisher of her words, claiming libel.  The case was
immediately dismissed based on the new anti-SLAPP law.

The law is designed to protect First Amendment rights, but it looks
like it will also have the salutatory effect of reducing libel claims