In his essay “Douse The Online Flamers” Andrew Keen writes that because of the easy anonymity afforded by today’s cyberspace world, people are apparently having their reputations sullied and are being caused harm by these “faceless critics” (Keen 68) I disagree with Mr. Keen and his assertion that anonymity is irreparably damaging the internet as we know it.
‘Flaming’ (hostile and insulting interactions between internet users) is not illegal. Online speech is protected by the United States Supreme Court’s 1995 decision in McIntyre V. Ohio Elections Commission which protects anonymous online speech and of course the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which protects freedom of speech. Keen asks “Is today’s law adequately protecting us” (Keen 69)
Take the case of 13 year old Megan Meir, a troubled teenage girl who ended up committing suicide over being told by a fictitious person that ‘… the world would be a better place without you.’ Now this would seem to make a strong case for better laws against the so called “Cyber-Bullying” and perhaps it is, but for someone to take words, harmful as the intent behind them may have been, so literally, to me this indicates a much deeper problem.
Self published content such as message boards and other web pages have made the legal debate on anonymous users even more difficult. Keen cites the case of Dr Lisa Krinsky, a Miami, FL based president of a drug corporation who filed suit against her anonymous flamers on a Yahoo message board. This of course begs the question, if someone is believing everything they read on the internet does it really matter what they think?
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