Sue You, Sue Me

So… one of my professors assigned Blown to Bits to be read in 7 days. I am capable of completing this assignment, but believe I will have failed come next class. Anyhoo, for the sake of brevity, I began scanning the TOC and reading sections which sounded tantalizing.

I’m a sucker for free speech and privacy discussions, so I dedicated some time to the section titled “You Can’t Say That on the Internet.” In it, they discuss a few landmark legal decisions which have shaped the course of internet regulatory practice since its popular inception.  I already knew about Cubby v. Compuserve, but had never heard of Oakmont v. Prodigy.

Essentially, Compuserve was absolved of responsibility for user-posted content, and Prodigy was not. Prodigy had made the mistake of trying to be family-friendly, so had taken editorial control of content. No wonder it’s so hard to find large-scale, family-friendly web services…

Whenever I read about a lawsuit, I immediately dislike the plaintiff. I know I shouldn’t; not all lawsuits are frivolous, and they’re generally preferable to more violent (and less gratifying) attempts at justice-seeking. To me, someone threatening a lawsuit sounds like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum. It’s my default reaction.

I feel the same way about web content-disputes. I know some people have valid grievances against other netizens, but they sound like crybabies to me when they moan and complain and start flame wars. There are some really creative and effective ways to correct the record and seek revenge on the web; when someone does not utilize them properly, it comes across as a sign of web ineptitude to me. Lawsuits move beyond standard whining, and seem to have no place on the internet.

It’s an opinion, and not one I ever anticipate becoming legal precedent for any type of grievance, but I reserve my right to mock people when they pout and/or lay on the ground kicking and screaming.


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