poly: Free Speech

From: Richard Schroeppel <rcs@cs.arizona.edu>
Date: Fri Apr 10 1998 - 14:33:35 PDT

I have a philosophical preference for "total free speech" ...
No libel/slander laws, etc. If the Enquirer prints an article
saying Clinton has sex with aliens, people merely consider the
source and chuckle.

The net offers some interesting "better biz bureau/consumer
reports" possibilities: You need a plumber, your web-agent
optimizes over cost, location, skill, availability, and
testimonials. When the job's done, you file a two sentence
report (or more) as a courtesy; if you didn't like the work,
you file a detailed report for revenge or negotiating
leverage. Some computer program keeps track of kudos/bricks,
replies, etc. The advanced version notices if Joe files a
lot of complaints and derates them a bit.

I've always wondered if something like this could work.
false complaints, false compliments.
genuine disputes, due to miscommunication etc.
name changes, false ids, mistaken ids
too-effective, too long-lived reputation damage
you've got to allow anonymous complaints, but they have a whole
  extra set of problems.

We've got libel laws to cope with some of the problems, but
the consequences are sometimess either harsh or crazy.
Recent news reports include an author's works being tied
up at the publisher, who is in bankruptcy because of some
unrelated libel.

Another vignette: In the 1960s, Paul Krassner's "The Realist"
ran a stupid insult to Barry Goldwater: a full page ad saying
approximately "1000 psychiatrists say Goldwater unfit to
be president". I think it turned out to be a total fabrication.
Goldwater sued for the libel, and got The Realist shut down.
Krassner waited a couple of years and started a new rag, new name.
The court ruled it was a continuation of The Realist, and shut
it down again.

Now we have Matt Drudge.

Of course, filing a libel suit is usually a bad idea: even if
you win, the guy can't pay; losing is a catastrophe; the guy with
the most money wins; you can't really regain your reputation;
juries are random; etc.

There's "true libel": Joe Goldblum is Jewish. John Smith is
gay. George Doe has Aids. Jack Roe buys Zocor. etc.
There's pain-in-the-ass invasion of privacy: Jackie got up
at 7:30 (pix), had two eggs for breakfast, watched channel 6,
went to the store, bought a loaf of wonder bread, etc.etc.

On another front,
We've seen Soldier of Fortune held responsible for a hitman ad.
I don't know how Loompanics survives.

If we take free press literally, it allows forgery and some frauds.
Instructions for the commission of a crime are problematical.
Few governments would ignore the publication of military secrets.
The whole copyright tarball. Medical malpractice; unlicensed
lawyering; computer viruses; tobacco advertising; etc.

Anyone got new ideas?

Rich Schroeppel rcs@cs.arizona.edu
Received on Fri Apr 10 21:33:53 1998

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