Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic just filed an amicus brief with the Illinois Appellate Court in support of establishing burdensome "procedural safeguards" to protect the anonymity of online speakers in defamation lawsuits. The effort was supported by the Berkman Citizen Media Law Project and others.
These groups at Harvard are comprised predominantly of law students who believe that they can write the rules of the web by investing a tremendous amount of time and effort in filing briefs in cases and encouraging the protection of the miscreants, crooks and scofflaws of the web. This latest attempt is actually coming under attack from the most unlikely of places, their comrades in arms on the left coast at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.
Some internet law attorney have long argued that making it more difficult to sue anonymous posters is exactly the opposite approach the courts should be taking. Given this latest effort, one must wonder if putting up more roadblocks to the victims of online anonymous attacks getting justice actually provides ammunition to support the repeal of Section 230 immunity protections for websites.
These Harvard law students can't see the forest for the trees. A Stanford Center for Law and Technology fellow (yes, an actual lawyer) points this out in her reaction to Harvard's latest move:
"...in designing solutions to this problem, we must be careful not to place a premium on anonymous speech. While there are certainly circumstances under which anonymity is necessary, those situations are and should be limited. There is a reason why journalists are strongly discouraged from quoting anonymous sources – it prevents accountability. As we transition into an environment where more people than ever have the ability to communicate their ideas and opinions, it is more important than ever that we encourage accountability in the marketplace of ideas. Incentivizing anonymity is certainly not the way to do that."
Well, I have to agree with that. Seems like Stanford, at least on this point, has a much better feel for the web, the constituents of the web, the business of the web, and the future of the web.
But I just don't understand that. Harvard is in Boston, the area known for world class technology innovation since the 1970s, an area overflowing with Venture Funds that have funded much of the growth of e-commerce, the home of many of the leaders of the online business world, and the epicenter of the movers and shakers of the web as we have known it, know it today, and will know it in the future. Right?
Of course not. That's the Silicon Valley.