Daniel Warner Weighs In On The Future of Defamation

Brought to you by our friends at Kelly / Warner Law PLLC

The internet is a rock tumbler of culture. Ideas and opinions are expressed ad nauseum, and there seems to be no limit to how tedious or rude communications are allowed to be. Because there is no governing body within the internet itself, individual communities are, for the most part, self-regulating. For legal minds living in the physical world, it’s an odd fish bowl, one which doesn’t represent the mores of traditional society, but still must be beholden to them.

Nonetheless, the number of legal cases initiated for crimes committed on the internet is still relatively small. Though not unprecedented, cases like the teacher who sued her former student for things written on Twitter are still novel. Most cases of internet libel are left unpunished, most not even commented on by casual observers. It’s a state of affairs that surely can’t continue in its present form. But for now, internet defamation is a system that is still coming together, one which alternately fascinates and confounds the best legal minds.

Dan Warner of Kelly Warner Law is one such expert in this burgeoning field. Along with partner Kelly, the two lawyers are interested in what they see as an endless supply of interesting legal material. As lawyers working in the state of Arizona, the two are aware of uniquely American cases, which nonetheless occur on the borderless no-man’s-land of the internet. After the recent Oregon school shooting, one such case caught the attention of the American news media.

Though now controversial, the day before the Oregon shooting, an anonymous writer claimed to be preparing for an identical shooting which was to occur the same day. Occur it did, and the writer received encouragement and advice from the other anonymous members of a subforum of 4Chan. 4Chan is, depending on who you talk to, a bastion of free speech or an infected internet hive where anti-social creeps can air out their worst thoughts in anonymity. For some users, it’s a little of both, but events like the Oregon shooting conversation raise questions about how online forums such as this should be allowed to operate.

4Chan exists on the conventional internet, not simply the “Dark Web”, that nebulous realm of the internet which is not accessible through conventional search engines. In the post-Snowden world, it’s surprising that people can still achieve anonymity on websites as popular as 4Chan. But people still do. There are many people who sell drugs and perform crimes openly on Instagram. Illegal revenge pornography is nearly mainstream in much of the internet. And we’ve all had friends and relatives who have written angry and even violent things about politicians and public figures.

The question is not whether there is a problem or not. The question is what is the solution? With no quick fixes, and many hoping to preserve a free and open internet, the answer may be for lawyers to cherry-pick the most useful and relevant cases. Because there is no lack of them, and a growing generation of legal minds hoping to attack them, we can be sure that this development will determine the future of the internet, and a changing standard of free speech/defamation in general.

October 19, 2015 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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