You can hide, but you can’t run
September 16, 2011
If you think using a false identity will allow you to slander or harass people online, think again. Anonymity will not save you.
You gotta love the InterWebs. You can get away with saying practically anything about anybody– and if you hide behind a fake identity, nobody will ever be able to tell it’s you. Right?
Well, no. You can’t just say slander or harass someone without repercussions. If what you say or do would break a law in physical space, it will also break laws in cyber space. And I don’t care how anonymous you think you are, your identity is only a subpoena away.
n my case, well, I’m a big fan of the First Amendment – I use it every day — but I don’t think it gives you a license to slander or knowingly spread falsehoods. And I’m not alone.
“There is a whole litany of things that are not protected by the First Amendment, including illegal activity and copyright violations,” notes Bennet Kelly, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in cyber law who’s also an award-winning blogger for the Huffington Post.
Kelley often represents people who’ve been harassed or stalked online, typically by people posting anonymously or via a fake identity.
“These people think they’re immune, that they can hide their identity and get away with anything,” says Kelley. “But the victims usually have a pretty good idea of who these people are, and if not, we can investigate and find out.”
The simplest route: Take the account information and/or IP addresses used by the harasser, and demand their real identity and contact info from their service providers.
Once Kelley approaches the harassers, they usually take the offending material down to avoid further legal consequences.
Unfortunately, cyber harassment doesn’t get the attention it deserves, says Kelley. “People get all upset about cookies invading their privacy,” he says. “When’s the last time someone committed suicide over a cookie?”
Dan can also be found at eSarcasm.