In his article “Douse the Online Flamers” published in the LA Times in 2008, Andrew Keen discusses 3 major court cases in an effort to show just how backwards the legal system is when dealing with the anonymous people of the internet. People on the internet can ruin anyone’s reputation or even their life without the fear of prosecution.
Keen first writes about the Famous court case McIntyre vs Ohio which protected anonymous speech under the 1st amendment. He questions the law and argues that if the this protected speech goes beyond just being rude and instead causes someone to harm themselves or others, should this also be covered under this ruling or should some consequence come as a result of this action?
He then goes on and discusses the case of Megan Meier, a young girl from Missouri who after engaging in an “internet relationship” over MySpace ended up hanging herself after the boy had stated “the world would be better without you.” Keen then reveal that this boy is actually a fictitious person and the person behind the hate is the girls neighbor, a 47 year old woman. After legal action was pursued against her, the legal system sided with the woman saying that the action was not illegal. After this event, Keen writes that measures are being taken to actually make this heinous act a crime, which led to prosecutors seeing if they could charge the woman with fraud, and in Missouri an action was passed that made online harassment a misdemeanor.
Keen follows by discussing another case of online bullying, this being Krinsky vs Doe. Her name and good reputation was slandered so much by people on an anonymous message board that she in turn filed a lawsuit, and in a related story, two students from Yale filed also filed a complaint against anonymous people over the internet. In both cases, the law sided against the women and instead favored the anonymous, stating that on 3rd party sites, users had immunity through anonymity.
Keen finishes with a plea to the Supreme Court calling for a realization that the internet is an integral part of society and that people who “flame” others should be punished or otherwise this case and many more will be far too common.