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article imageBlog Almighty? Not if you’re a jerk, and someone takes you to court

By Paul Wallis     Jun 9, 2008 in Internet
A couple of Australian bloggers with a penchant for persecution have hit the wall. The Hack and Caz, who were best known for their attacks on people who disagreed with them. The result of their nasty blog war has been a bit of conspicuous discretion.
The Sydney Morning Herald explains how things got out of hand when a celebrity spoof blog got nasty:
...And the most vicious were Caz and the Hack. Protected by anonymity, they would aim broadsides at anyone they wanted to. Those who disagreed with them could expect swift retribution.
When a blogger started a petition to have the site removed, the Hack replied: "Do f--k off and die, vermin."
Others who posted on the site anonymously had their identities bandied around the internet, allegedly often with their home addresses and details of employment.
But when they came close to being identified by one of their targets, Caz and the Hack withdrew from the site.
They were outed last week by another blog. Then things got a bit complicated:
Both have refused to speak to the media, but a website entitled The Lulz Start Here has been devoted to "outing" them and recalling their most scathing blogs.
It tells readers: "The Hack and Caz are two gutless morose cowards and internet standover merchants who have spent the past four or five years tormenting and harassing numerous other people they've never met, purely out of spite and jealousy, from behind the shield of their own closely guarded anonymity; a point they love to gloat about."
The result has been full-scale blogger war.
Responding to the website, Mr Duncan and Ms Hamilton went to court for an interim intervention order against Bill Dennis, a blogger they suspected was responsible. The couple, who live in Eltham, alleged Mr Dennis was "stalking" them through the site.
Not so simple. There was a problem with a court case, because it would have meant cross examination, admitting their own identities, and the alternative to that was perjury. The case was dropped.
While it is rare for blogs to be the subject of court proceedings, it could become more common, says RMIT's internet expert John Lenarcic.
"Communication on the internet, especially in blogging sites, often becomes a kind of graffiti conversation. People feel freer to say what they want without any fear of the consequences and this can lead to almost child-like bullying.
"There is no refereeing process and none of the editorial constraints that are found in newspapers or magazines. The anonymity of the system empowers people to act in a way which they wouldn't do in their normal life."
That’s debatable. You’d have to be fairly naïve to assume you could attack people with impunity on the net.
While you might be safe trying that on infants, or dead people, many people on the net can do more than just take offence.
Trashing sites isn’t difficult. I once saw a shop front site with “Don’t buy from here” in bold red type, 72 point font pasted on it. (Apparently the idiots hadn’t even bothered to check out their own front page.) Advanced hacking techniques can get a lot meaner than that, and they aren’t that hard to find, either. There are some people you just shouldn’t annoy.
Another point here is that whatever the story about internet regulation, personal privacy is a law, globally. You can’t, in fact, assume that you can get too cute with providing information protected by privacy laws.
Look at it this way: if you can be proven to have made an anonymous phone call and disclosed private information about someone, you’re in trouble, just about anywhere on Earth. Conceptually, blogs are much the same. Names are usually OK, but addresses and other personal information, no.
This wasn’t cross-jurisdictional, either. It happened within Australia, and the law wasn’t made to find reasons for not applying itself.
It's a pity this case didn't get to court, because it might have done some good in shutting down the internet bullies.
Sooner or later, it will happen.
More about Blogs, Privacy, Internet bullying
 
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