"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


Glenn Reynolds:

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."

I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Friday, June 04, 2010

"Is this cool, or what?!" The Court is Not Amused

Clear v. Superior Court:
[P]etitioner created a page on the MySpace Web site purportedly in the name of a pastor of a church. Petitioner and his family had left the church about a year before the pastor discovered the Web page. The Web page purports to be written by the pastor and contains statements that he has engaged in homosexual activity and narcotics use. The pastor reported to a detective from the San Bernardino County Sheriff‟s Department that these statements are false. The pastor expressed concern because he is the pastor of a church ruled by a board of trustees and a higher church echelon and such allegations could influence board members to fire him and church members to leave. He said that church members had questioned him about the Web page and some had left, although he had not been fired.
The decision is on the equivalent of a motion to dismiss, which means the case can now go to trial as to whether these actions constitute criminal "false personation":
Section 529 prohibits anyone to falsely personate another in either his private or official capacity and in such assumed character either: “3. Does any other act whereby, if done by the person falsely personated, he might, in any event, become liable to any suit or prosecution, or to pay any sum of money, or to incur any charge, forfeiture, or penalty, or whereby any benefit might accrue to the party personating, or to any other person.” (§ 529, subd. 3.)
California apparently no longer retains criminal defamation or libel, although it seems clear that a civil action would lie in this instance.

The more interesting situation is that in which an identity is taken on and used to express things that are objectively true -- but derogatory -- or which constitute opinions. Surely one is allowed to say, "My ex-boyfriend is a cheating [true], lying [true], scumbucket [opinion], who seldom bathes [opinion? true?]." So should one be similarly allowed to claim to be the ex, and announce "I slept around the entire time I was with Mary Ann"? Should we care if the claims are implausible, and the impersonation clumsy and unbelievable? Or should we instead concern ourselves with proof of objective harm? How about subjective harm, such as psychological trauma?

We ourselves never assume that, when on the Interwebs, we're looking at what we seem to be looking at, or that we're talking with whom it's claimed we're talking. If we did otherwise, we'd be dating 300-pound teenage boys sitting at a keyboard in Singapore.

Labels: ,

Comments on ""Is this cool, or what?!" The Court is Not Amused"


post a comment