This is scarier than I thought--Please read

When I started my ‘Come here, Assholes’ thread I was only interested in manners. Several users have stated, with some justification due to the nature of The Pit, that manners have no place here. While looking for a legal definition of ‘fighting words’ I chanced upon this site, (let’s see if I can get the link right this time) (yeah, that’s it) where the subject is discussed at length as it relates to message boards and chat rooms.

Boy howdy, was it a revelation! It turns out that, not only is our ‘right of free speech’ resticted far more than some posters think, but it is restricted far more than I thought. And these restrictions have been tested in court, so, if push came to shove, we would lose.

The definition of defamation is far broader than we think. Putting it in writing, even in a chat room, just makes it worse by presuming premeditation. Some of the anti-religious postings dance on the border of ‘hate speech.’ ‘Fighting words’ could become a big poblem. I shudder to think what would happen if a lawyer for some corporation we burned stumbled on The Pit. I think the legal term for our resulting condition is ‘fucked.’

As operators of the SDMB, ‘The Straight Dope’ and The Reader might be protected under the ‘safe harbor’ provision. However, although they are not responsible for us being jerks they are providing the forum. Since the moderators seem to rarely moderate and sometimes participate enthusiastically I am not sure they are still protected. Even if they do not have a legal leg to stand on, anybody who wants to make a stink can still make those who run ‘The Dope’ miserable enough to get us shut down, and then sue us as individuals.

I do not believe that we need to fear regular posters. We know the ‘rules’ here and are unlikely to make trouble. However, this forum can be viewed by anybody with access to it. Any of the 270 million people in the US can sue us. Any one of the remaining six billion people on the planet can visit, be offended, and start an international incident.

This is a very real issue. We cannot blow it off by spouting rhetoric about ‘rights.’ Under United States law our rights are restricted. We also cannot hide behind ‘the truth.’ A person can go broke defending truthful statements. We really do have to watch our tongues. The whole world could be watching.

I think you’re blowing this out of proportion. Most of the extreme stuff I’ve seen here is pure opinion. You have every right to say, “Regis Philbin is a goat-felching sadist!” because it’s clear this is really an opinion, and the implication that he felches goats is merely used as hyperbolic embroidery. To get in trouble, you’d have to make some kind of serious factual accusation that is defamatory, and if it were against a famous person, you would get extra protection. AFAIK, corporations don’t get protection from defamation. Also, don’t even get me started on jurisdictional issues and identification of defendants! Of course, it is a good idea not to make factual claims that you can’t verify, but I think we are relatively safe here.

Do the words “paranoid numb-nuts” mean anything to you?

If you’re serious, you’re such a freakin’ head-case, what do you do in your spare time?

While you’re at trying admonish Pitizens against reactionary behavior, make sure you don’t tear the tag off your mattress or leave your camel chained to a lamp post in downtown Raleigh, NC.

You’re not going to take me to court if I say that IMHO, you’re nutty as a fruitcake, are you?

I hope not <shaking>, I hear that within the first week of internet jail, you either have to kill someone or become someone’s bitch, or you die. <shudder>

DZ? Your pills?

Let’s see.

“President Clinton is a lecher, a traitor, and a liar.”

Hmmmm . . . nothing yet.

“Charlton Heston not only can’t act his way out of a paper bag, he’s a knee-jerk weapons-obsessed psychitic.”


“Mother Theresa was a noted courtesan in Kuala Lumpur.”

Still nothing. . .

dz, the Reader, basing its existence on the protections afforded by the First Amendment, is well aware of the legal precedents. They have much more than a leg upon which to stand.

Clinton, Heston, and Regis are public figures. We can say whatever we want about them as long as we don’t threaten them!

Mother Theresa’s a dead public figure. The same freedom applies to her, but watch out for lightning.

The Reader, as a journalistic endeavor, is ceded certain additional rights by the First Amendment. But do those rights extend to this board?

I am a paranoid numb-nuts. Since that is a fact you are not libeling me, you are stating the obvious. Nutty as a fruitcake? I have the medical charts to prove it. On the other hand, I’m not particularly sensitive to insults. That’s the advantage to having an ego the size of Wyoming.

I’m probably overreacting, I’ll admit. I am awfully good at it. But I will be careful with the next overzealous religious person to post here.

Some high school kid is being sued right now because he made some rude comments about the staff and fellow students at his school on his website. I saw the headline yesterday but didnt read the article.


Watch out for lightning…well that is good advice at any time, but how does it apply to Mother Theresa?

I saw that too. He was from Southern Utah. I was going to bring it up here to see what people thought about it, but I never did. It got so bad that the kid and to temporarily relocate to California until the trial. I think they blew it way out of proportion.
The reason he wrote such hateful things on the net was because he was an outsider, constantly picked on, and that’s how he vented his rage. It seems like a pretty harmless thing to do, I mean, at least he wasn’t sending them personal hate notes, or shooting them, or something. But someone in the community got wind of the site, and all hell broke lose. I think he called some girls “sluts” and “whores” and some teachers a few choice names. I don’t think he threatened them in anyway though.

We already had a poster here threatening to sue us and some other poor young girl for what she thought was libelous to her. She was banned but constantly returns under her husbands name. Most of us thought she was a bigger person than that. We were wrong.


I beleive she posted her sympathy regarding Wally’s death.

I thought you were better than that Sqrl, appears I was wrong as well.

Just curious but how can you slander/libel another poster on this board?

Think about it a sec…

We’re all out here sporting a pseudonym and generally have absolutley no idea who anyone else is (ignore for a moment that many posters to this board have actually gotten together and met in the past).

Can I legally slander/libel (whatever the hell it’s supposed to be on the internet) Dropzone? Who the hell is Dropzone anyway? Would the filed court case read as Dropzone vs. Lexicon? The guy typing behind the Dropzone name may get offended but I bet this semi-anonymous posting affords some protection all its own.

This could be actionable. Impugning a woman’s chastity is often considered defamation per se, making the Plaintiff’s case easier to prove.

Why? Arguing that someone’s religion is incorrect or even stupid is perfectly within the first amendment. If you are worried about “hate speech” or “fighting words,” take another look at that treatise. You only get in trouble if you are advocating imminent illegal actions. Hard to do over the 'net. You would have to say something like, “Let’s go beat the crap out of those lousy worshippers of the IPU!” and there would have to be some danger that it would actually happen.

Lighten up!

It would be very tough to prove damage to reputation, an essential element of the tort.

And if you did say something like that, Her Mighty Hoof would crush you like an errant bit of unholy clover before there was ever any real danger of action.

She will not be mocked. May Her hooves never be shod.

In takes a little common sense to exist in this world…I live by the motto that everyone is nuts until proven otherwise.

I statement, which I have seen posted before in places, of hey everyone, go beat the shit out of Johny Jackass of 1300 Jackass lane, phone # 555.5555 then burn down the house, could get you in trouble. Especially is some whacko actually follows through with the job and then names you as inspiration.

This is not just a message board, there are definitelly strata of importance here…if I make a statement I’m written off as a Newbie, but if a popular old codger makes the same statement, people listen…and 99% of them are whacko.

that is all.

So we are. Fuck off.


So if I said Rosie Odonnell used power and influence to get her adopted kids - thats ok.

If I say: Rosie BOUGHT those kids with her cash, thats wrong… right?

Sounds dead-on to me, Kels.

When the fuck did this become another newbie/reg battle? Jesus Christ, this is getting ridiculous.

[Lawyer hat ON]
I read your link DZ, and I doubt we have anything to worry about.
While it’s an interesting article, and it is true that cyberlaw is an evolving and mainly unformed body of law, the article is one attorney’s opinion of how cyberlaw MAY develop, not how it currently exists. I mean, c’mon, the only case the guy cited to support his position was an Australian one, and we all know what kind of jagoffs Aussies are. The case is certainly not binding in the US, and I note the author did not give any detailed explanation of Australian free speech law, and its similarities/differences to U.S. law.

I am sure that there will be U.S. cases on this line, and IMO, one dividing line that will be established is between pseudnomynous (sp?) MB’s like this one, and ones where people are required to post using their real names.

[Lawyer hat OFF]


sounds like a personal problem.

Like the Republican said to the Labor leader complaining about a scab, “It’ll never get better if you picket.”