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The Internet - Defamation

prodigy libel posted forum

The Internet has evolved as a community where there is a profound lack of mutual respect as demonstrated by flame wars and railing in forum discussions. Anonymity has contributed to the public trashing of others as if libel laws are suspended. They are not. The laws that apply to written speech still apply online. Saying things that defame, libel or invade the privacy of others is grounds for legal action.

Business fraud, false advertising and forgery are also problems. For example, in 1996 a forger posted an ad for child pornography in thousands of newsgroups and gave the name and address of an innocent man. In the early 1990s a Prodigy subscriber was hit with a $100 million libel suit for comments posted in a financial forum. It turned out someone else had used the Prodigy member's account, so the lawsuit was aimed at Prodigy. Authenticating the source of a message is difficult.

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