The Internet is getting arrogant.
I’d been suspecting this for a while, but my suspicions weren’t confirmed until last week, when I strolled to my neighborhood mailbox and found this scrawled on the notice of pickup times: “Your Done (sic) Internet is Here.”
The Internet was taunting the Postal Service.
Some of you are thinking this graffiti was the work of a human prankster, and maybe it was, but the medium is the message (remember Marshall McLuhan) and we humans are simply the messengers.
How else do you explain the rash of lawsuits against Does for defamation via – you guessed it – the Internet?
A week doesn’t go by anymore without a new complaint against unknown people – if people they really are – for saying nasty things via computer. The anonymity of the Internet (IP addresses notwithstanding) has emboldened the inner crank in us all.
(Take a moment now to consider whether Milt Policzer is my real name and whether I exist at all.)
With the Internet, we all have the capacity to say whatever crazy thing comes to mind and say it to millions of people at once.
Most of those millions will pay absolutely no attention, but feelings are being hurt. Hence the upsurge in litigation against Internet phantoms.
The course of this litigation is going to be interesting and I expect to see new legal doctrine.
The Internet Defense should be the first development. After all, if something is on the Internet, is it reasonable for anyone to believe it?
Do you walk into an insane asylum and believe the guy who claims to be the Surgeon General and says we’re all being poisoned by the sushi joint on the corner?
Heck no. Or at least probably not.
Just as in an insane asylum, there should be an assumption of risk that whatever you’re told on the Internet might be somewhat questionable.
Plaintiffs will then invoke the Internet Offense: There are millions of people out there who will believe anything they read on a computer. You take your recipients (or victims) of Internet rants as you find them.
The response to that is: Why the heck should you care about people dumb enough to believe everything on the Internet?
And the response to that is: Because those idiots could be my customers and I need them to believe what I put on the Internet.
Which brings us to the issue of mitigation of damages.
Should Internet defamation plaintiffs be required to mitigate damages by posting anonymous positive statements about themselves?
And if they’ve already done that, should they be allowed to sue over anonymous negative statements?
I can’t wait for the appellate decisions on this stuff.
And for the fake appellate decisions on the Internet.
My favorite sentence of the week comes from a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint filed on behalf of a guy who ran up a gambling debt at a Las Vegas casino and then got a friend to put up $34,560, supposedly to solve the problem.
“The friend of Plaintiff’s was so stupid that he thought that he was dealing with an honest organization and lawyer …”
Well, he was stupid enough to put up $34,560 for a deadbeat friend whose lawyer is now calling him stupid.
I’m predicting this friendship isn’t going to last.
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