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Lilly Industries Sues Five 'Anonymous' Posters 178

BenDover writes "Lilly Industries, Inc. has sued five anonymous posters too Yahoo! message boards who have allegedly made defamatory statems about Lilly executives and distribed confidential company info. What makes this all the more interesting is quote: "Yahoo! has complied with subpoenas without notifying subscribers. . ."" This sort of lawsuit really could end the era of the open, lawless Internet. We've all seen what anonymous posting does (look no further than Slashdot for the sorts of abuses that happen when there is no accountability) but without the right to write something anonymously, people might be afraid to speak out when the need really arises. Its gonna get interesting.
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Lilly Industries Sues Five 'Anonymous' Posters

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  • I totally agree here. Every time something that goes against 100% free and unaccountable speech or flow of goods/information on the internet, all the tech-heads (for lack of a better word) get up in a bunch about howe their "freedoms are being taken away", and "this could be the beginnings of an internet witch hunt", and "it's corporate america trying to [hold 'us' back]".

    Sorry folks. If these 'annonymous' posters were, in fact, guilty of making false statements at the expense of a company, they should be prosecuted. There are two terms for this depending on the situation: Slander and Libel; and both are well-documented in legal history. Both also have very good reasons for being illegal. Things like this make it possible for me to be held accountable for saying money given to slashdot is merely funding a diabolical plot, devised by criminally insane mastermind Rob 'CmdrTaco' Malda and gang, to kill all lovers of beanie babies in this world. I have accused our host of a criminal, albeit comic book-ish, plan for which he could be investigated and possibly brought up on charges of misdoings. All because of one little white lie on one little newsgroup from one little asshole... Me. Needless to say, this is pretty far-fetched, so let's tone it down a bit:

    I am a VP for Matsushita, parent company of Panasonic and a number of others, and I am betting my career on this new-fangled mp3 player I have gotten approved by the company for production in competition to the ever-popular Rio. Some pinhead decides he is pissed off because he bought a faulty Panasonic phone and did not get his ass kissed by the Sears return desk, so he blames Panasonic when they do nothing about it. Our evil friend decides to post some mean comments about Panasonic and Matsushita in general. Lets say one of these comments is concerns Matsushita having 7-year-olds in sweat shops putting together the plastic casings for their new mp3 players. Is it true? Who really cares. As long as someone gives a hint of agreeing with it, it could blow up and Matsushita could lose enormous amounts of money for something they probably didn't even do.

    The simple fact that these Annonymous posters are being prosecuted is not admission of guilt in any way. People, especially those who wrap themselves in the freedoms of the internet, have a tendency to see most corporate-started lawsuits as a bad thing. While I agree on a lot of those ocasions, I do not here. This is simply a company protecting whatever reputation it has, and nothing more. People need to realize that just because we have the most powerful means of sharing information at our fingertips does not mean there is no responsibility for what we say. Words can be as strong as, if not stronger than, actions sometimes.
  • I envision a day where every product comes with a pamphlet/book of warnings, ie: Warning: A pencil in the eye can cause blindness. A pencil in the ear can cause brain damage.

    I bought a new multi-tool and some MagLites the other day. The Maglites, billed as waterproof, contain a warning not to use near water. The multi-tool, which contains two knives, has a warning that the contents may be sharp. No, really? Never thought of that.....
  • The problem is that the identity of the person will be revealed before it has even been determined that they have actually done anything wrong. So, even if they said nothing illegal, they can be fired from the company or have other action taken against them by the company. It's real easy for the company to come up with some reason for firing anyone. The point is that corporations have a lot more money and power than individuals. They can cause us a lot more harm than we can cause them, but only if they know who we are. If something is posted anonymously, it should remain so until it has been determined that it is definitely illegal. This may cause some difficulties, but those will have to be worked out. Otherwise, we end up having our speech restricted by corporations rather than the government.

  • Great. We're allowed to speak out against the government. We're apparently not allowed to speak out against corporations though, or at least we're not protected if we do. We could post an "anonymous" message (by which I mean one that does not contain our real name or information) that decries something that the corporation is doing. This could be based completely on fact, yet the corp would be allowed to sue you and find out who you are. It would not matter that the case has no real merit, you will now be prosecuted by a corp with more money than you will ever see. They will bleed you dry and you end up losing whether you win the case or not. That is why anonymous speech should be protected. Not in every case, mind you, but the identity of the speaker should be protected until such time as it has been determined by a court that the person violated the law. How this will be done, I don't know for sure. It does need to be done though.

  • Then don't use the internet to post your information.....

    Why do you bother posting this crap? Why should it matter what medium you use to speak? Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

  • Except that the serial numbers on the cash were recorded by the bank (along with your mug shot) when you withdrew the money from the ATM. Try again.
  • And if Yahoo were so happy to compily with this, do you really think that they would refuse to give out logged ip adresses of anonymous posts? The difference isn't exactly huge.

    Between this and the attempted stealing (not that I support copyrights or anything) of all the contents of GeoCities, I think Yahoo is showing its true face.

    Just like any revolution, ours is likely to have a whole bunch of whores ready to sell out at any turn. Its just about weeding them out...
  • Here's a theory I will throw out for discussion:

    Crypto will soon solve all the problems of anonymnity. It will solve them by removing the possiblity of anonymnity on most of the 'net.

    When public key crypto becomes accepted by 'the powers that be' (everybody seems to feel it is inevitable) one of the ways 'the powers that be' will recover some power from the fact that it's out there will be to require digital signatures on all 'net traffic. Send out packets that don't contain your signature, tracable back to a valid identity, and they get dropped at a number of transfer points on the 'net.

    The fact that something like this is technologically feasible, and the fact that it's one of the easiest ways for 'authorities' to capture an advantage from crypto means that it's inevitable. When it does happen, say goodbye to anonymnity. Personally, I won't miss it much. Anonymnity causes some real ugly human tendencies to come out, that I've seen in play since the early days of BBSing.

    Even if it isn't mandated by law, a lot of us will be empowered to just turn off anything coming from anonymous sources when digital signatures become the norm. "If you wanna say something to me, show your damn face, etc."
  • They ask for:

    E-mail address

    First Name (optional)

    Last Name (optional)





    Zip Code

    In addition, the fine print at the bottom of the sign-in reads:

    "Messages that harass, abuse or threaten other members; have obscene or otherwise objectionable content; have spam, commercial or advertising content or links may be removed and may result in the loss of your Yahoo! ID (including e-mail). Please do not post any private information unless you want it to be available publicly. Never assume that you are completely anonymous and cannot be identified by your posts."

  • by Anonymous Coward
    .. post in the newsgroups. duh.
  • For example, you cannot openly incite violence, you cannot defame/slander, and you cannot distribute confidential corporate data.

    I agree in principle. If the courts provided a protection against punitive unfounded lawsuits (and the threat of the same), I'd agree in fact as well. Simple scenario:

    Anon poster makes several very negative (but true statements). It is tempting to say that a suit will do no good because true statements are not defamation. However, tell that to the defandant after he spends many thousand dollars on lawyers, and looses many hours of work in order to appear in court. He has been effectivly punished for his lawful remarks. Even if he countersues for damages, make him an offer to settle (with gag order) and threaten to drag the case out for years otherwise. The defendant comes out sort of OK, and the corperation has still silenced it's detractor and sent a message to anyone else thinking of speaking out.

    The courts freuently allow themselves to be abused this way. Of course, so do the police.

  • Apparently you've never heard of libel, eh?

    Read up on it, before you make a grave mistake and somebody hauls you into court for it.
  • However, in both your post and the post before, the view being expressed in your example is a personal opinion. You can not be sued for airing your personal opinions. (Just to be safe, I would preface opinion comments with IMHO....) Also, in your example you bring up numbers and figures... Anyone who knows anything about statistics could tell you that you can make statistics say just about anything you want.

  • the problem is people rarely notice who tells something, and on internet it's even worse. no one remember were that bit of information they read comes from. that means John Doe reads that Red Hat has secret conenctions with someone at Microsoft, and John Doe will not notice the message comes from AnomymousMaster. But John will remember the information (true or not). He will propagate the rumour, and that can harm the comagny (choose whiwh one would be harmes in that case ;-)

    with internet you can load up your brain at the speed of light (hope bill did not copyright that one) (or at the speed of your internet connection). In fact that's too fast to really care where the info comes from... we're in a sad world :`-(

  • If someone posts somethnig anonymously on a web site message bord or whatnot, how can they be tracked? I mean, thouasands of people may be using the message board, or does it track IP's. And if so, doesn't AOL have a completely random IP address which they couldn't trace back to you? Whenever I see my syslogs involving AOL'ers it usually has
  • Yes, Anonymous Cowards can and do say whatever they want, but just because some has given a probably fake email address and has a handle, it doesn't make a difference. There's not really any more accountability.. What's the worst that can happen to the person? They aren't allowed to post on Slashdot anymore? Big deal. -Warren
  • An important question in my mind... Does Slasdot log enough information to do the same?
  • Anonymous posting abuse on the other hand allows tyranny by a malicious few.

    The problem is that you lose your anonymity before there is any evidence that you actually committed a crime.

  • by Chuck Milam ( 1998 ) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @05:05AM (#1777293) Homepage

    So kids, the moral of today's story is:

    Never post anything that you don't want traced back to you from your own machine. Use a disliked coworker's machine instead.

    For the humor impaired: That was a joke. Thank you for playing.

  • by Danse ( 1026 )

    Good point. I've heard these kinds of things said at press conferences. It's completely ridiculous.

  • There is already ample case law to defeat this initiative:
    Cubby vs. Compuserve [] and Prodigy vs. Stratton, Oakmont.

    If these cases serve as any guide it will hinge on whether Yahoo "moderates" (i.e. exerts editorial control) over the postings. If they do then they may be held liable for the content created by their own users!

  • There are several technical solutions available to stop yahoo (or any other site), in their tracks. these guys [] run an anonymizing proxy, as do these [http] people. Of course, you also have several CGI proxies out there too, but I don't have the URL's offhand. lucent [] also ran a proxy, but it has since been discontinued. Freedom now has the functionality - currently free, but will eventually be fee based.

    In short, the moral of the story is - if you want anonymity... you need to make a meager attempt at getting it. But not much more - there's plenty of us out there willing to thumb people like yahoo and their court odors (or should that be orders?)


  • by ChrisWong ( 17493 ) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @05:11AM (#1777300) Homepage
    Freedom to speak, after all, is not necessarily freedom from the consequences of that speech. In this case, the posters may have done something illegal. Is it really that bad that even in cyberspace we can take action against malicious and illegal acts?

    It seems to me that putting anonymous posters above the law might not be the best solution. Maybe someone can think up a way to preserve free speech and stop abuse without making more lawyers rich. In the meantime, I see no alternative to situations like the above.
  • Couldn't someone still follow the chain back to you?

  • Even freedom of speech has limits in the United States (and in most other countries). For example, you cannot openly incite violence, you cannot defame/slander, and you cannot distribute confidential corporate data.

    The laws being used to prosecute users on message boards were all in place before said message boards existed.
  • If you had read the article you would realize that the suit IS against those who posted, and not Yahoo. ( the article makes it very clear that they are not charged )
  • Of course you can be sued for saying something defamatory about a person or a company. If I was to say that Microsoft uses child slave labour to produce their products, they could sue. If I was to express the opinion that NT is the shoddiest operating system ever, they couldn't. But I were to say that NT is full of code ripped off from other operating systems, I would possibly be on shakey ground. Expressing an opinion is on thing, presenting an opinion as fact is another thing entirely.
  • I take it that with your creative adventures in time travel, you've turned off cron?
  • Cool stuff, man.

    Things like this make it sound like the GPL should be almost impossible to enforce.
  • Actually, there is a powerful place for anonymous, unaccounted political speech: the voting booth, where you pull the curtains and make your mark. How many people have been in a crowd, say a classroom, and had a 'show of hands' vote on some controverisal issue and watch as the majority of people just wait to see who gets the majority vote and 'go along with the crowd'? Meaningless. Just dangerous collective herd psychology that doesn't reflect what people might really beleive. In this day and age of 'political correctness' we need more than ever the ability to speak out w/o fear of retribution from the masses who will do anything to make life uncomfortable for dissenters. Otherwise we're just lemmings happily rushing toward the cliffs.

    Signed, Chuck

  • Er, they still have the right to nail people for libel or slander, just like an individual would. It'll hold if the accusation is something that clearly meant to be interpreted as a statement of fact...

    * If the _Weekly World News_ were to claim that IBM was the creation of an evil three-headed alien from Alpha Centauri, and a female Elvis clone, there'd probably be no case because clearly, nobody's expected to believe that. Tabloids tend to use the defense, that people tend to read their more outrageous stories for the laughs, anyway. News 'bout celebs that *could* feasibly be true is a different matter.

    * If I were to post, claiming that "4ppl3 SuCkS EgGs", that's not libel; it's an opinion, and makes no specific accusations whatsoever.

    * If I were to claim that "Macintoshes drive monitors to emanate higher levels of radiation and dramatically increase brain cancer risks", or "Even Steve Jobs is down on Apple, and he's secretly been selling it short", or whatever -- now *that* would be actionable. I'm not making those claims, btw. If I were an (ex-?) employee, and violating the very probable non-disclosure agreements, ditto -- breach of contract.

    So you're allowed to say, "Unix sucks". You can probably say that "Unix turned my hair into radioactive glowing snakes", as long as you're obviously joking. You can even say that "Unix can be quite a perplexing, complicated operating system from the point of view of a former Wintel user with little or no administration experience, and therefore I cannot recommend buying a Sparc for somebody whose main interests are booting up and running an office productivity suite, but has no desire to dive through documentation."

    You probably shouldn't claim, "Solaris cannot handle SMP", or "WinNT Server has deliberate back-doors that let B1ll G4t3$'s employees read all my files."
  • I guess thats what you get when you rely on Yahoo to keep your identity a secret.
    The sadest part of the story is when an employer filed a lawsute just to discover who of there employees were talking trash about them.
    Once they have the identitys they can use that information any way they like.

    Maybe it should be against the law to apply information learned in this way outside of the legal action it was origianly ment to be applyed to.
  • It's a bit too late for that, they traced you down and hired a mafia hitman a month ago. The video will be on America's Funkiest in a week...

    You have to wonder if the NSA/FBI/what have you are building of a file of people who are too stupid for their own good, who will say things like this just to see if the dog will bite. Maybe they'll have a big crackdown one of these days, and lower the stupidy quotia of America. Ah well, one can dream....
  • Is posting on the internet publishing? How about email?

    I can put up on a webpage a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can post to Yahoo a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can post to usenet a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can spam to a very large number of people a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can send email to a large mailing list a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can send email to a private mailing list a story that claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?

    I can send an email to all of my friends a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the stoy is false?

    I can send an email to my close friends a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story if false?

    I can send an email to my mother a story claiming that Nike uses child labor, is this publishing?
    Is it libel if the story is false?


    Where is the line drawn here?

    The internet is not like 'broadcast media' where there is a line between the radio station or the newspaper, whos voice can reach thousands, and the little guy, whos voice can only reach one person.

    The law is obsolete in this aspect, it assumes a dichotomy, publisher and individual. That doesnt exist anymore in the internet world. It is a continous spectrum. Everything is fair in the internet world. There is an audience of hundreds of millions, though they are not compelled to listen. Anyone can publish to that body, a single individual can reach tens of thousands (Slashdot for example).

    It is this fundamental aspect of the internet that makes publishing, and its associated laws (Copyright, Libel, 'community availability', ...) obsolete and in need of change. When any single author or artist can cheaply offer their product to hundreds of millions, what is the purpose in copyright or libel law?

  • I lose anonymity BEFORE I've been convicted of a crime. Once anonymity is lost, I can be fired, have certain financial difficulties, depending on what kind of relationship I had with the corporation. Can I afford to sue them for the things they do to me in retribution for something I said that is legal? No. Therefore, I should have the right to remain anonymous to protect myself from retribution against which I have no other defense.

  • Wrong, there is a continuity in the internet (see my other post)

    Whats the qualitative difference between posting on a site, sending to a mailing list, sending to a bunch of friends/contacts, sending to a close friend, or sending to your mother?

    Whats the difference between that and posting notices up on (paper-baed) bulletin boards accros the country?

    The libel (and copyright) law is to protect the little guy from the publisher. It assumes that the dichotomy exists, that doesn't exist on the internet.

  • The real issue here seems to be that a consequence of modern Rules of Procedure is antithetical to general notions of privacy. Without passing on the merits of the lawsuits that are the subject of the article, consider the following hypothetical:

    (1) Unfavorable (but clearly not defamatory) information about MEANCO is posted on a website served by ISPSERVICES by an anonymous person identifying herself as an employee of MEANCO.

    (2) MEANCO files an absolutely ridiculous defamation action against a Jane Doe. (ISPSERVICES is NOT a defendant, hence no Cubby issues arise).

    (3) Since Jane won't step up to the bat, nobody questions whether the lawsuit was valid, and nobody moves to dismiss.

    (4) Now, discovery begins in earnest, the lawyer issues a subpoena through the Clerk of Court to ISPSERVICES, who complies therewith, the employee is identified, and the lawsuit is dropped without prejudice.

    (5) MEANCO fires the employee.

    On the merits, MEANCO never intended to prevail in its lawsuit, and nobody was ever in a position to challenge it. Yet Jane's true name is revealed without a whimper -- indeed, she isn't even in a position to safely intervene without giving up anonymity.

    Without passing on the merits of the legal system (discovery is, at the end of the day, a very good thing -- but it does have serious problems), or the merits of having no accountability by absolute anonymity (anonymity is, at the end of the day, a very good thing -- but it does have serious problems), it does seem that the status quo makes it pretty easy to pierce the veil of anonymity, even where there is no good faith basis for the claim in the first place.
  • We could post an "anonymous" message (by which I mean one that does not contain our real name or information) that decries something that the corporation is doing. This could be based completely on fact, yet the corp would be allowed to sue you and find out who you are.

    if what you post is factual, then it's not libel or slander. the case would be dismissed, if the corporation were arrogant enough to try to sue you at all. and if it's not factual, then you should be held accountable for your statement, particularly if it caused harm to another party.but it is very ignorant to think that you can/should be allowed to make statements in public with total anonymity. it just can't/won't happen. if someone wants to know who you are, they can find out. and if you're worried about being found out, keep your mouth shut. the right to speak your mind and do what you please stops where it infringes on the others' rights to do the same (cliche, i know, but it's true), and it comes with the responsibility of accountability for what you say and do. that's how society works. period.
  • cool !

    what I see it law is quick to run after anonimous individuals who say nasty things about corporations

    but law is slow to do anything against (anonimous?) corps who fill illegally our mailbox...
  • I've asked Rob about that before, and he said that slash doesn't track anonymous posts.
  • The reason vending machines have the Tipping/Rocking warning message on them is that people tip and rock vending machines to steal product out of the machine. Supposedly (urban legend??) this worked at some time in the past.

    So a label like that absolves the vending machine company from liability if the machine crushes to death some low-life thief. For all our benefit, it would be best if it did crush and eliminate those people. Cheaper than a court case and time in the slammer.
  • To answer the people that had concerns about having their IPs logged while posting anonymously on Slashdot, here's a little snippet from in the Slash code:

    if($$USER{uid} > 0) {
    } else {

    The SQL INSERT happens right after this, so I'd say you're pretty much safe. Now as far as the HTTP server logs go, that's another can of worms.. ..

  • Serious anonymity servers, such as ZKS and, I believe, the Anonymizer as well, do NOT keep logs, and do NOT keep subscriber information. They're well aware that they could be subpoenaed. ZKS's system goes further than that; they chain the connection through several servers, each of which knows only the hop before itself and the hop after itself. This is all pretty standard mix technology...
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @05:59AM (#1777329) Journal
    The Lawless Internet has laws, but they are sometimes hard to enforce.
    The Lawless Wild West had laws, but the authorities were spread rather thin.
    Just because you don't get caught for a while does not mean there are not laws.

    Or we can go a little further back to one of the foundations behind many laws. The Code of Hammurabi, [] its full text in English, [] or its foundations, Babylonian law. []

    109. If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
    Granted, Yahoo might consider that a little harsh.

  • I wonder how this ties-in with evolution of the fittest, where maybe 'fit' includes the idea that some members of the species have a little common sense?!

    Honestly, I can't agree more with Douglas Adams' point about knowing mankind had gone insane when he saw instructions on a packet of toothpicks.

    Remove the instructions, let common sense reign freer in the courts (just for those asses who'd sue because the sun was off-colour), I say!


  • AOL has a weird scheme where IP's get issued per connection, not by session! Therefore, they would have a unusually long log of who is using what IP address at exactly what times. I don't doubt that they keep such records, however, but I would be surprised if they keep them for very long periods of time.

    I log IP's for users logging onto my system but I only keep the detail for a few days. I keep track of IP's as part of an effort to keep players from running more accounts than is permitted. For AOL users, I only keep the first few IP addresses -- I have no idea how many different IP addresses average AOL session might use.

    However, unless a provider makes no logs of connections, it is easily possible to trace connections back to the originator. Since the network has to know where each packet of an interactive session is going, a way to trace the connection must always exist.

    If some wings of our (U.S) government have their way, I would expect to eventually see packet logging required at all routers! Of course, performance and costs would take a big hit, but hey, it'd be for the "war on drugs" or "for the children", right?
  • 1. If you're going to post anonymous, why include an email post back?

    2. If you're going to go to all of the trouble to post from a public with crypto, etc., just to be obnoxious...than at some point you really have to question what all of the effort is for. What is this really worth? Yay, you left a comment assaulting your enemies in some estranged chat room. But if it's really that important an issue, don't you need to be talking to somebody who can get things done, rather than just whining to (what tends to be a majority of) techheads who's idea of a good time is sitting around and whining through anon cryto?


    Even a stopped clock is only relatively correct.
  • I don't a problem with being held accountable for libelous or slanderous speech. On the other hand, people don't have much defense against a powerful corporation. We don't have the deep pockets to pursue lawsuits. That's why I believe that your statements should have to be proven to be libelous or slanderous in order for your identity to be revealed. As I've said, I don't know exactly how this should be done, but it should be done. Otherwise legitimate speech will be squashed by those who can afford to bring lawsuits against those who speak out against them. Others will cease to exercise their free speech rights due to fear of the cost of defending their speech in court. Defending your rights is getting mighty expensive these days.

  • I'm sorry but that is the most annoying post I have read in recent history.

    The terrible spelling completely ruined the impact of the story. My attention was drawn away from the details of the story by trying to decipher the posted words.

    Just one guys opinion.

  • I have never heard of the scheme you just mentioned.
    AOL communications between the client and the AOL gateway (that provides the information for the AOL online service client) do not use TCP/IP, but rather their own protocol, which is why you are required in windows to install the fancy drivers for it. Connections to the 'real world' from there go from client -> gateway -> destination server. The gateway addresses are indeed random and issued on a one per connection basis. These are, however, not IPs assigned to the individual clients, but proxies which deliver the information to the client. The distinction here is that the client does not 'own' the address, rather it makes a request to it. This would be quite simple to log, as you would assume the proxy would know and record the username.

    On the other hand, there is also a large chance that the AOL user established a PPP connection. This is a popular way for AOL users to connect, because it gives them an exclusive IP address. This allows full access, rather than having to use proxy servers, and limited on the services that may be used.
    In this case, the IP remains the same throughout the session, and could also easily be logged.
  • No you don't understand.. I want you to prosecute.
    Making it illegal to uncover a persons idenity would screw up the legal system.
    I just want the employer to have to finish the process...
    Start it in cort prove it in cort finish it in cort. Drop the case and it ends there...
  • religious leaders too, AFAIK.
  • True, tracking by IP is not easy, but it is possible, especially for a dedicated legal staff who is willing to subpoena their way through obstacles. Almost all ISPs log IP to account relationships, for each session (with the start/stop times). The ISP I worked at for a while did it so we could track down people who launched DoS attacks and such. I know that we kicked more than one user for that during the 8 months I worked there.
  • Did you notice the TV camera in the lobby of the library? At the gasoline station across the street?
  • Am I the only one who used have this happen to him all the time back in the Usenet days. I remember particular times when AOLers would flood entire newsgroups with hundreds of clearly libelous and extremely offensive comments about me.

    Personally, I was more proud then upset about this. You have to take any public Internet discussion for what it is. You are not without (or even impeded) in your ability to defend yourself,
    and one single poster has little or no power.
  • I feel that any web board that claims an anonymous posting feature should do the following before it can be allowed to be truly defined as such.
    All web and other logs pertaining to the anonymous postings are not written out at all, ie not just written and then erased by a anonymous cleaning process. Hence there is nothing to be subpeoned for at all. This will protect both the board provider from being subpoened and the original poster too.
    A central body to verify all boards procedures in doing this might be a good idea, so we can have a 'True Anonymous' rating for such systems.
    Also does anyone know just how the slashdot anonymous postings are handled as far as logs go?

  • If Yahoo/Lilly/whoever can figure out who they are, then they aren't anonymous. Their identity may not be able to be ascertained at a casual glance, but they're by no means anonymous.

  • Anonymous posting is a two edged sword wich ballances out.

    On one hand, Anonymous posters (shouldn't be) accountable for what they say, as there should be no way to find out who said it.

    On the other hand, people should realize that anonymous posters will not be accountable for their statements, so what an anonymous poster posts could easily be a load of bullshit.

    If corporations can sue for "libel" then corporations can threaten to sue over anything that puts them in a bad light. This is a bad thing(TM), and would seriously and legaly inflict on free speach. It happens somewhat now, but if even those who post anonymously can be targeted?

    I would say that freedom of speach also means freedom from restrictions on that speach. (Although I would also assume that "Freedom of Speach" refers to "Freedom to express concepts/ideas to others" as opposed to "Freedom to vocalize in any way at any time").

    If people can now be sued for "libel", what's to prevent the US government from passing a law prohibiting "Promoting harmful political systems" and then the courts interprating "harmful" as anything that isn't the current US government.

  • It seems to be a common misconception that the Constitutional protection of speech extends to relationships between private individuals. It doesn't.

    Example -- A few years ago, Sheryl Crow released an album with a song about someone committing a crime with a gun bought from Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart refused to sell the album. In an interview, Sheryl Crow said that they couldn't do that because, "'s in the Constitution."

    This assumption is wrong. The Bill of Rights does not apply to businesses and individuals. It only protects citizens from government.

    While the government would (in theory) not be able to stop you from criticizing your employer publicly, that doesn't prevent the employer from taking action. This action may be dismissal (especially if you've violated a Non-Disclosure). If your speech wrongfully cost the employer money, they may file a civil suit to recover the damages.

    (Not a lawyer)
  • >MHO, Lilly could have dealt with the issue much more easily by simply posting non-anonymous rebuttals on the same message board. Now
    >that would have gained my respect. Imagine an American corporation who understands the internet and how to use it, and doesn't go from one
    >knee-jerk reaction to another.

    The problem is, that apparently these users posted confidential information about the company in their messages. What good does it do Lilly to post a reply, if these people posted Financials? I think Lilly would have just ignored it if there were no "Trade Secrets" or other confidential information in the post. That is the viewpoint of most companies. (At least that I have worked for) Ignore unless it directly damages the company or includes confidential information. Thankfully, neither of the 2 problems occured at any of these companies....

  • My Favorite Warning is the DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE Stickers on Transformers sitting on Power Lines.... Common Sense in no longer Common....
  • crap like that probably wouldn't make it to my browser because of the rating system you guys have in place. most of the bs is filtered out, and i'd be willing to bet that most /. users filter the comments about like i do. if anonymous cowards don't have something really good to say, then i never see their posts. so kudos to barrel of /. monkeys that helps make our lives easier. and hey about posting some stats on the percentage of users that have certain filters in place. if 90% of /.ers filter out have their filtering set to 2 (what i have), then only 10% see all the crap...and those 10% are probably all trolls to begin with. really ought to let all the AC trolls know how many people don't give a crap what they say unless it's something good. just a thought...

    "Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow 'er."
  • As far as confidential data goes, you are right. That's something that needs to be kept, as you say, "confidential". The issue here is that the company apparently gave said "confidential" data to sources that can't be trusted (clearly), to keep it secret. So some would say that the company ought to be a bit more careful in who they give that information to. Maybe a little internal security review is in order.
  • >"Unix turned my hair into radioactive glowing snakes", as long as you're obviously joking.

    So, presumably, there is a situation where the statement "Unix turned my hair into radioactive glowing snakes" could be taken as deadly serious? =)

    /me ducks, and the radioactive glowing snakes on his head put on their asbestos hats.
  • Yes, straight public key, if you don't take signed keys into account, doesn't solve the problem.
    But who said that 'public keys' had to be tied to an email address? In a real Public Key Infrastructure, it is very possible (and common, observer x.509 web certificates and email certificates) to create a system (of whatever type) that only accepts data that has been encrypted by keys that have been *signed* by a certificate authority, usually issued by that authority as well.

    This could apply to networks, email systems, web pages, building access systems, the lock on the company car.

    In this case, both your public and private keys serve a purpose. to encrypt, yes, but also to identify that it is, in fact, you.

    You know when you get those applets that say 'check here to always trust software from MS corporation?'... what it is really asking you is if your browser should always trust applets that have been 'signed' by a certain certificate authority at MS.

    However.. as technically feasible as this may be.. let's not forget what the Internet really is.

    A bunch of Private networks, hooked together by private agreements (generally, anyway), by private individuals.

    Let's remember that, this time, there *IS* no point of control on the Internet, and that it exists above and beyond the telco's that provide the links.
  • I agree that it would have been nicer and far more diplomatic -- and probably easier. However, I'm not sure that it'd be effective in the long run.

    * You've got people who will automatically dismiss the corporate response as lying propaganda, either because they dislike Lilly, or because they disbelieve *all* corporate messages and prefer to think the worst of them.

    * By taking the time to respond publicly, there's a bit of legitimacy conferred upon the attack. This is very dangerous, because 1) now you *should* respond to all such posts, or people might wonder if some are true, and 2) it might simply be a public stalemate, whereas a successful lawsuit can be a victory.
  • Congress may make no law restricting the freedom of speach.

    This makes any laws that governs the freedom of speach in a way that restricts it unconstitutional - get it?

  • Oops, I screwed up a little.

    We should have a right to Privacy and Anonimity, along similar reasoning as the reasoning behind "freedom of speach".

  • Crypto will soon solve all the problems of anonymnity. It will solve them by removing the possiblity of anonymnity on most of the 'net.

    You have this slightly confused. Crypto does not validate a digital signature to an identity. It validates the signature to an email address. Digital signatures from will be just as effective. Since the mail is encrypted, you can identify yourself in the body of the mail and be certain only the legitimate recipient can parse it.

    Crypto preserves privacy in all forms.

  • "So a label like that absolves the vending machine company from liability"

    Yeah, that was pretty much my point. Without specifically saying otherwise, they are automatically liable for any stupid thing I try to do with their equipment. We no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions.

  • That is, of course, assuming your friendly neighborhood college or governmental authority hasn't installed a filter blocking the site to which you would like to post.
  • I used to have a newspaper article about this sort of thing - a collection of warnings compiled from various sources. Some of the more amusing ones that I can remember are:

    (On a a packet of nuts) Warning: This product contains nuts.
    (On a microwave meal) Warning: This product may be hot after microwaving.
    (On the underside of a cake box) Warning: Do not turn this product upside down.

    I remember a line out of 'Priest' (good film, sexy Linus Roach and sexier Robert Carlisle :), where the young priest in the course of his sermon said (with irony), '...of course, they're not OUR sins anymore. They're SOCIETY'S sins...'. It does seem that people in general seem to be going along this route - 'It's not my fault - I didn't know about xyz,' or 'Well don't blame me, abc didn't say that it would ghi,' or even 'Well, it's not my fault you don't like it when I do that.'

    An example: I took my dog to the vet's yesterday (sick little doggy :( but getting better :) and was sitting in the waiting room with him on my lap, snoozing. Small child comes up and starts clapping his hands together (deliberately) about 18 inches from his snout (the dog's not the childs). Doggy is, naturally, unimpressed, and makes a very ominous growling sound in the back of his throat. Next thing I know, the little brat's mother is telling me that my dog is dangerous and it shouldn't be in public. Hello? This is a VETERINARY SURGERY? This is where you take dogs when they are ill and understandably not in their best humour? This is NOT the place where small, uncontrolled children run around frightening said sick dogs, right?

    Ok, I'm ranting a little bit now :) but the point is, at least as far as the mother was concerned (the vet told off the mother AND the child), the fact that my dog growled at her child was MY fault, not the fault of her child, even though the brat's abuse of my dog happened in front of her eyes.

    I'm glad I got that off my chest, I think I'll go and lie down, now.


  • Create a bunch of "anony-bots" that log on to chat rooms, bulletin boards, etc., and generate random defamatory remarks about randomly selected companies. The bots could read the bulletin boards as well, and adjust their list of companies to defame based on what companies were already being defamed -- so that, for example, if a certain board had lots of complaints about Coke, the bot would generate complaints about Pepsi.

    Then, Lilly, Raytheon, et al. could make themselve safe from anonymous postings without having to sue anyone. Their disgruntled employees and ex-employees could post anything they wanted, but since the bots would be posting equally nasty remarks about competing companies, nobody's reputation would suffer.

  • >I would say that freedom of speach also means freedom from restrictions on that speach.
    >(Although I would also assume that "Freedom of Speach" refers to "Freedom to express
    >concepts/ideas to others" as opposed to "Freedom to vocalize in any way at any time").

    That is like saying that the Freedom to Own Guns means that you are not responsible for what you do with that gun. Anonymous posters that clearly violate the Laws governing Free Speech should be punished. These laws are to prevent abuses on both sides. I agree that corporate America goes to far sometimes, and with their Political and Monetary power try to impose their will, but that does not mean that a disgruntled employee should be able to post confidential information anonymously and feel that he can do this whenever he wants. There is no such thing as anonimity, and freedom has its price.

  • If/when this passes to reality, it will make identity theft on the internet into a much larger problem than it is now.

    While technology might provide tools to make anonymity more difficult, it won't resolve the problem that humans will still be the weak link in the system. There are too many stupid people out there that will have their identities stolen and that will let script kiddies and other malicious people be at least semi-anonymous while preventing the legitimate (like whistle-blowers, for example) from saying things without fear of reprisal.

    While you may think that all of this is a good thing, I am not at all convinced. Of course I'm more than a little paranoid, but when I see the increasing big-brother influences in the world, I feel more justified in those feelings.

  • I agree that accountablity is necessary. Yet, I cannot reconcile the fact that we (Americans) are
    living in an ever increasing land of selective prosecution. There are many laws structured as
    such. I have had personal experience when talking to government officals, of conversions like "With
    a law like this, practically everyone is going to be in violation." Their response is, "We will
    only be targeting the worst offenders."

    This is clearly seen in the 'arrest your car' drug senario.

    Our only hope is not to end up on someone's agenda and bad PR can do just that.

  • Oddly, all the connections we get from aol are as follows:
  • There have been plenty of comments re: saying bad things about people, and that they can be ignored if they are from an anonymous source a la "sticks and stones..." And that using anonymous emailers can give people a shield to hide behind, presumably in the even that they really have something important to say about the presumed evil person... But disclosing confidential information is an entirely different issue. Like, if I feel like posting some executive's credit card number anonymously because I'm mad at his company, that I should have the 'freedom' to do so? Fat chance of that.

    Oh, and another thing, a few questions back, someone asked about the amount & type of info you have to give Yahoo to get an account on their system. Don't forget that there's that controversial TOS agreement that you are accepting when you click the "Submit" button.
  • I understand why Lilly is doing it and support it 100%. If a company get hurt from leaked information or lies about it, I get hurt (as long as I own the stock).

    Of those who will own RedHat stock, how will you feel if someone told lies to drive your stock down? I bet it would not make any of you happy.

    Remember that a public company is owned by many individual investors. When someone does something illegal to hurt the stock price, it hurts all of those individuals as well. As for private companies, don't forget they have to pay their employees.

    Just some stuff to think about.
  • Kind of redefines "Anonymous" if you can trace them and sue them, now doesn't it?
  • The problem isn't with whether Yahoo is responsible, the problem is that they are giving out info without informing the subscribers first. Most services have a clause in the contract requiring them to give you about a month to respond to any subpoena requests.

    Of course, even that is secondary to the real problem, which is that anonymous posting should be just that, anonymous. Now, if they log your IP, then they can easily trace you.

    Could they sue you for "defamatory remarks" you made in a conversation with a friend while walking down the street? What about a discussion between a group of people (in RL)? Because that's whats happening here.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First of anonymous postings should be taken for what there worth. You have to consider the source. (Where is my slashdot password..?)

    However if your going to post, you have to realize its the same as publishing. You can't Libel, slander , publish trade secrets and do things you wouldn't be allowed to do in any publication. Even if its just the "internet"

    For example:If your making comments on the Yahoo board about how undervalued the stock is, and you own the stock, its the same on a smaller scale as someone writing in the Wall Street Journal the stock is undervalued and owning the stock. There was a former stock trader who used to give finacial stock advice at noon on CNN or something. He was getting advice from some of his former connections.. There was a NYT magazine article on who was this guys "anonymous sources" and were they feeding him information that was self serving.

    Whistleblowing is a good reason for anonymous postings, but there are laws that (try anyway) to protect them.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Is it really a problem if someone makes a derogatory statement about you, if they aren't even willing to attach it to themselves? There is no significance to such a statement, unless YOU are willing to put it there. And attempting to persecute the poster seems to be an admission that they might be close to the mark.

    I think people need to grow up a little. "He said bad things about me" just sounds like whining to me. I would think that your entire worldly reputation could survive a few guys ragging on you on a Yahoo! message board, and if it can't, well, you've got some serious problems anyway.
  • That leaves Slashdot in a unique position: Moderation occurs, but Rob doesn't do it. The users do it. Is there a way a corporation could sue all of the Slashdot moderators? (I suspect no, but one can't be sure these days.)
  • But the moderation does not include deleting messages. I think it would be rather difficult to actually delete a message, requiring delving into the database with all the messages in it. The moderation only indicates the moderators opinion of the importance of the message.
  • Something that has been asked before and I feel needs addressed again. Do you guys keep logs with info on anon posters? (ip, etc)
    Also have you ever been contacted by anyone requesting that you reveal the identity of any poster? Given the sometimes "heated" nature of our discussions, I figure it's just a matter of time before a company gets ticked.


    -I like to live on the edge...I'm pressing the submit button now. Screw the preview button!!! muhahahahahahaha
  • Seems to me like the issue here isn't just derogatory statements, but the fact that the posters posted confidential company information. This could be seriously damaging to the company and I believe they have the right to go to the source of the problem. Just my two cents. -dave
  • 1. Freedom of Speech is not absolute. In this case, it looks like the posters have made defamatory comments. This speech is not protected under free speech laws.

    2. You have the right to say what you want - but not necessarily the right to be free from the consequences of such.

    3. Don't say it if you aren't willing to pay the price for it. In other words, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Free speech has a PRICE - and that is the price that we all must pay to have it.

    Having said that, I don't think there is near enough accountabililty in the world today. Personally, I'd rather see people not be able to post anonymously, and take consequences for what they say. Augustus Hill, anyone?
  • If memory serves, to post on Yahoo!'s message boards, you need to register. Never having done so, I'm not aware of exactly what they ask -- can anybody fill in the details, so that the rest of us have an idea of exactly how anonymous it is? (e.g. do they require a real e-mail address? contact info? and so forth.)
  • Not in the UK, actually. It's a little bit hard to do, but it IS possible to find out who voted for whom.

    Each ballot paper has a number, and the number of that ballot paper is written against the name of the voter when s/he comes to vote. This is a way in which abuse of the voting system is prevented, but it IS possible for someone to find out that I voted Natural Law Party in the last election :)

    I didn't! I didn't!

  • What's there? The 1st. It doesn't extend to slander/libel, perhaps because it's judged necessary and proper that people not be permitted to spread misinformation presented as fact. It also doesn't extend to harrassment, for reasons that are less clear to me in their current implementation {as such is explicitly considered harrassment based upon the judgement of the alleged victim. Such laws tend to lead towards extremely strange suits; I'd prefer a "reasonable person" principle, as still vague but perhaps less arbitrary.}

    You also are strongly discouraged from joking about carrying explosives in airports, or threatening the life of the chief exec, or certain other cases (the classic example of yelling fire in a crowded theatre, say). You also are bound by contractual agreements (non-disclosure, Offical Secrets Act, and so forth) although that's all a little bit confused perhaps (or maybe I'm the only one confused by the "Pentagon Papers" ruling?).

    There was an attempt to ban seditious talk; see the "Alien and Sedition Acts", which got struck down quite rapidly by the US Supreme Court if memory serves. So you're allowed to speak out against the government -- and many do, as long as you avoid certain things like directly threatening the Prez. After all, that's deep within the very heart of the first: the ability to speak out against the State. The Bill of Rights is clearly aimed at restricting the Federal Gov't in how it may deal with the pople, and generally the higher courts recognize that.
  • AFAIK, yahoo gives people the option to have information about them marked as "private", which is different from being truly Anonymous.

    If you wish your identity to remain private, then your name will be unavailable except when deemed necessary by a court.

    As was said in prior posts, freedom of speech guarantees you the right to say anything you want, but does not protect you from the consequences of your speech.

    People who seek anonymous identities merely to get around accountability for their speech fall under the "worthless cowards" category.
  • I know it seems scary, but it's a perfectly valid, and even necessary, legal step. If people can freely spout libel all across the internet and get away with it just because they're "Anonymous Cowards," it will become a MAJOR problem.
    Think about it this way: if I own a software company, I could post fake, libellous leaks about my competitors on stock sites across the country, claiming to be an employee who wishes to remain anonymous. Should a smart investor take advice from an anonymous leak? Of course not. Are there a lot of stupid investors out there? I don't think I have to answer that one.
    I think it was Salon that had an article about major studios creating fake fan sites for their movies (duh, that's a shocker), but, much worse, also creating fake anti-fan sites to badmouth their competitors. When this kind of blatant lying rises to the level of true libel, we need to have some recourse.
    Remember, you can NOT be sued for simple, constitutionally protected speech or plain old stupid ideas. Just libel. And that's the way it should be.
  • >The reason vending machines have the Tipping/Rocking warning message on them is that people tip and rock vending
    machines to steal product out of the machine. Supposedly (urban legend??) this worked at some time in the past.

    It does, havent you ever gotten your chips stuck
    in the machine and tipped them to get them out?
  • If you don't care about the Radius logs, why not simply not log them at all? write the log to /dev/null.

    What system admin tasks do I entrust to CRON? LOTS! Purging old files, virus scanning, log analysis, permission sanity checking, generating free space statistics, system usage reports, compacting databases, running backups, running 'at, the list goes on....

  • But if you're posting from the UK like me there's the added issue of convincing the UK govt. to let me go stand trial in the US or the US company prosecuting through UK law.
  • Who knows, maybe the NSA and other obscure data mining companies that partner with backbone providers log all traffic to slashdot. If you are a legal gun on the staff of Big Evil corporation, just hire a nickle and dime detective to find one of those companies for the identity. Next, take the owners name of the account, do a background check through one of the many employment information services to find his credit history to see if the knucklehead is worthy of a lawsuit. Bonus points for spending the extra five bucks for a criminal check.

    Let me tell you how easy it is getting any information on anyone. You never know until you tried. I tried with a demo account and a few dollars worth of long distance. For fun, I pulled up different reports of myself and found the information matched my credit history, balances, driving record, etc.

    So, suppose you are the proud parent of a kid (or just a neighbor of one) who gets upset at some company's new product and goes on a posting binge. Imagine the surprise when you get served with papers at your front door. The internet is now a liability due to the laws and you have been deemed responsible. Oh, the system is fair. You will have your day in court and will have due process while your guilt is being determined. Welcome to America!
  • Can anyone comment on how secure these anonymizers are legally? For example, was an anonymizer used by a lot of people until their records were subpoenad to track down a subscriber for a case. It seems to me that the only way an anonymizer could really be protected is if it maintained no logs at all and kept no information regarding their users. Then their servers could be seized but no useful information would be gained as far as their user base. Are there any anonymizers available now which work this way?

  • Yes, IPs can be logged. It only takes a few bytes to log that "ID 849382 connected to". Or "Foxman98 posted this article". Storage is cheap now. We don't know what any one is recording.

    For example, is known to be recording much of Usenet. Usenet has always been generating large amounts of bytes per day. When Deja began recording Usenet it was not expected that anyone could store so much stuff for long periods, so for a while people expected that what they were posting was going to vanish within days (except for scattered file copies by interested individuals). Now we know that Deja is likely to have old utterings.

  • Warning: Tipping or rocking may cause serious injury or death.

    I agree with you completely. The above sticker, seen on a vending machine, is a prime example that we have become a society that is no longer held accountable for our own actions.

    I envision a day where every product comes with a pamphlet/book of warnings, ie: Warning: A pencil in the eye can cause blindness. A pencil in the ear can cause brain damage.

    Free speech is free like software (heh) not free like "above the law". However, it should almost always be free like beer.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain