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Comments and the Law

I had someone - a lawyer, no less - insist to me today that posting comments on a blog using someone else's name and email address is illegal, a "federal fucking crime" in his words.

At the bottom of this entry, you'll see a space for adding a comment. If you don't sign in via TypeKey, you can enter any name you choose, like "Steve Jobs," "George W. Bush," etc. You can even provide an appropriate (if fake) email address and URL.

Typically, I delete the comments. Sometimes I change the name to "I Made Up a Name" or something like that if the comment is at all worth keeping (it is usually not). But are these people breaking the law? According to the lawyer above, they are. For "hacking into someone's site."

The lawyer, of course, is critically clueless. But in a not-very-amusing sort of way.

9 Responses to "Comments and the Law"

  1. And if you do start selectively editing and/or removing comments, then (it would seem) that you become an editor and more responsible for the views that they espouse.

  2. There were rumblings about editing and even displaying comments - who was responsible for them - a year or so ago, but I haven't read much about that side of things lately.

    The entry above addresses an entirely different issue, though.

  3. When I look at law and government, I see a mess. I think this is one of the greatest possible changes programmers could make. It would be amazing to see an entire government use a specified language based solely on logic in order to properly define how laws lay out.

    The internet has immense ambiguity and there would never be a case about some post on NSLog(). If you were to search for my name, you'd think I was a CPA, doctor, vacation coordinator, biologist, or wholesale distributor. Only someone with some sort of agenda would even attempt something as silly as legal action.

  4. Derek, good points.

    FWIW, the laywer in question believes that a site has been "hacked" merely because someone used someone else's name and URL in a comment. Not simply because someone else's name (or, in fact, username) was used.

  5. hmmm.. i imagine it's illegal in some countries and not others....

    I certainly know of no precedent here in New Zealand

  6. my point being: who's to know that the person who posted as Bin Laden actaully resides in a country where such activity is illegal?

  7. This lawyer is obviously an idiot. Are you sure that this guy is really a lawyer??

  8. thank goodness my name is only slightly different from a famous french composer/conductor.

  9. Scrap. If you came across someone else password, and enetered and read there email, is that illegal? I dont think it is. I think the methods used to enter might be, such as hacking, but if you just find it scribbled on paper, then theres no expectation of privacy, so i wouldnt see how its illegal. Impersonating someone else though, is illegal. A fake person no, but if you tell someone your someone whos real and pretend to be that person, then yes, thats illegal. But its only gonna get ya in trouble if you do something like try and obtain a credit card, social securtiy number etc... or if it becomes harrasment, like emailing sams freinds, saying your sam and you just became gay or something.