More Criminalization: “Harassment” and Stop-Talking-About-Plaintiff Injunctions
I’m continue to serialize my forthcoming UC Davis Law Review article What Cheap Speech Has Done: (Greater) Equality and Its Discontents; you can read the Introduction, but in this post I’m talking about how “cheap speech” has led to criminal remedies for the disclosure of private facts. Recall that the article is mostly descriptive, focusing on what’s happening, for better or worse.
[* * *]
Some courts are also issuing broad injunctions against “harassment” or “stalking,” often barring defendants from posting anything at all about plaintiffs. And these orders are often just responses to defendants’ repeatedly criticizing plaintiffs, even in the absence of defamation or true threats.
Let me offer three examples:
The poet: Linda Ellis wrote a poem called The Dash, about life and death. Many people found the poem moving, and posted it on their own webpages — only to draw letters from Ellis threatening copyright infringement lawsuits, and demanding payments of thousands of dollars as settlements. People began to criticize her in discussions on a site run by Matthew Chan, which had been set up to criticize allegedly excessive demands by copyright owners; there were eventually thousands of posts condemning her. Ellis then sued Chan and got an “antistalking” injunction, which ordered Chan to remove “all posts relating to Ms. Ellis” from the site — not just allegedly defamatory posts, not just allegedly threatening posts, but all posts.
The police officer: Patrick Neptune believed police officer Philip Lanoue cut him off in traffic, gave him an unjustifiable ticket, and then informed Neptune’s parents of the incident. Neptune responded by criticizing police officer Philip Lanoue on the site copblock.org, sending several letters to public officials, and sending three letters to Lanoue’s home address. Lanoue got a court order barring Neptune from, among other things, “posting anything on the Internet regarding the officer.”
The ex-girlfriend and successful video game developer: Zoë Quinn, a prominent video game developer, had a short romantic relationship with Eron Gjoni, also a video game programmer. After the relationship ended, Gjoni posted a webpage that condemned what he saw as Quinn’s emotional mistreatment of him. This led to a torrent of online criticism of Quinn by others, including some threats of violence, partly because Gjoni’s post was interpreted as suggesting that some of the favorable reviews of Quinn’s games were written by reviewers who were themselves romantically involved with Quinn. That in turn led to an ongoing debate between Quinn’s supporters and opponents — the Gamergate controversy, which is too long and complicated to detail here. But what is signific
Article from Latest – Reason.com