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Be careful what you say

Welcome to Flightinfo.com

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I've been saying this for quite some time.
Posters here and elsewhere are NOT anonymous. This software logs your IP address every time you post. Webmasters and moderators have access to that info which locates your IP address at your Internet service provider (ISP). It would take a lawyer about 5 minutes to convince a judge to subpoena those records from us and your ISP. We and your ISP would have no choice but to hand over your information. Your ISP knows your name by the IP address, thus linking you by name through your IP address to what you write online.

Be very careful when you criticize someone or some organization online. This article is no joke. It is happening. Anybody with money to lose is a lawsuit target, making an aviation board attractive to lawyers. This is why we have zero tolerance for flamebait here. It's for your and our protection.

Here's the article:
From FOX News
Wednesday, March 20, 2002
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
WASHINGTON — Those with quick access to the Internet and the urge to rant online ought to think twice – what you post could come back to haunt you, in court.

As the number of Internet users and electronic bulletin boards soars, so has the tendency for people who use the perceived anonymity of the medium to lash out or "flame," as it is called in cyber-speak, against public and private figures, companies and institutions.

But with the increased venting comes more and more lawsuits from corporate lawyers who have discovered posters' identities and sued them, arguing that their flaming has crossed the line from free speech to defamation.

"People don’t think about it," said Lee Tien, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocate for free speech and privacy on the Internet. "They think what they say is more like a conversation and that the words are effervescent and disappear into the air, and often they are not. As a result, thethings people say are likely to come back to bite them."

Since a Florida appellate court forced Internet service providers in October 2000 to divulge the identities of eight online posters who were being sued for comments they made about a former corporate CEO, many states have allowed lawyers to compel ISPs to reveal the identities of their users without evidence of wrongdoing.

Big ISPs like America Online and Yahoo! have softened the blow by giving their users advance notice that they are giving their identities away, leading to a hike in the number of lawsuits.

In December, Varian Medical Systems in California won a $775,000 jury verdict against two former workers who accused managers on at least 100 message boards of discriminating against pregnant employees and being homophobic.

Miami lawyer Bruce Fischman recently won a suit against a former employee of HealthSouth who anonymously posted hundreds of messages about a CEO’s wife having lewd sexual affairs. The defendant was forced to give money to women’s' rights groups and to teach illiterate people to read.

"I’m not a zealot, but I don’t believe that the right to speech is the right to hurt someone," Fischman said. "Companies aren’t going to take this sitting down."

But not all cases against online posters are necessarily valid, sending free speech advocates scrambling to set standards that protect anonymity on the Internet while striking a balance between true defamation and protected speech.

"People will sue for defamations that are clearly not defamation – they sue for hurt feelings and name calling," or if they want to quell employee dissension, said Robert Corn-Revere, a First Amendment lawyer in Washington, D.C.

That being the case, not every suit is successful.

In February 2001, a California federal court ruled that online posters cannot be sued when they are stating opinions, as protected under the anti-SLAPP(Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statutes there. Nineteen states have such statutes, which protect the right of citizens to publicly criticize a corporation, government or organization without fear of retribution.

In January, a New Jersey judge dismissed a lawsuit against a Web master who ran a site used by some 60 anonymous posters to criticize Emerson borough government officials. While some of the criticisms were clearly defamatory, the judge quashed subpoenas for the identity of all 60 posters and said a narrower request might be acceptable.

Les French, who went by the handle "Whadayaknow," was tracked down by his former company Itex Corp. in 1998 after he issued complaints about the company. They sued him for misrepresenting the firm, but he counter-sued and won $40,000, which he used to set up a non-profit foundation to help other anonymous posters.

"Anonymity gives birth to free speech," he said at the time. "It encourages people to say things that are really on their minds." But Fischman said anonymity is fleeting and not all free speech will be protected. Offenders will be subject to the power of the subpoena. "I’m sure there are people and companies that abuse the privilege. I can assure you that not all (subpoenas) are meritorious. But in our legal system, plaintiffs have the right to proceed in court."
If they're going after those with deep enough pockets to sue, then most pilots should be safe, anyway. :)

This may be a new thing for corporations, but agencies have been doing it for a long time.

I've never considered this anonymous. In fact, any time you log onto a site, your information is recorded. If you enter into a search engine, your preferences and selections are recorded.

Depending on your set up, your computer and hard drive is often "scanned" when you're surfing the net; other information you may have on the computer is accessible and can be had by just about anybody who wants it. Not anonymous or secure, but easy to get, and open for the taking.

I guess what I don't quite understand is why web hosting services, webmasters, moderators, ISP's etc. would continue to maintain records. Is there some governmental requirement to keep IP addresses logged? Does it serve some other purpose other than to monitor who comes and goes on your website or ISP? Seems to me that in many situations (aviation is a great example) less is more. The lack of a paper trail, electronic or otherwise, lessens exposure and risk to this sort of litigation for all involved parties. When the feds come knocking on your door wanting information you can truthfully say "we don't keep those records." That is unless you are compelled by some other statute to maintain them. In many ways I believe that some ISP's/webmasters bring this on themselves by requiring discussion board posters to 'register', thereby creating a trail of breadcrumbs for lawyers looking for a quick buck to follow.

Why are we better off knowing who said what instead of taking what people say at face value?

We've gotten too thin skinned in this country!
Here's one reason that comes to mind. There are many cases of websites themselves being sued over content displayed by posters. One notable example of this is the old Propilot.com board that was shut down after they were sued over a flamebait incident.
Webmasters and ISPs have found it's easier and less liability to hang you out to dry rather than to defend your privacy and take the heat themselves.

I'm not specifically speaking of Mark or this site. Ask him how he feels about this. I'm only speaking about websites in general.

Now the "National Association for the Preservation of Chickens and Watermelons" will hunt me down like a dawg.

I knew I should have used dgs' screen name to post those stories!

It's not the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Mindless Dinner Birds and Falling Fruit you need to worry about, it's the North American Right to Sprout League. Those seeds could have been somebody.
Here's the cure for this...

Just be sure to use a public terminal if you want to vent. Let's see the cops try to trace you then.
Truth is the ultimate defense..... Don't "vent," just speak the truth, and let others form the same opinions as you.

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