Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free Dominion Vs. Dr Dawg: Dawg Wins This Round

Some people might know that Dr. Dawg took the Fourniers to court for allegedly defamatory comments made some time back by FreeD member Roger Smith (aka Peter O'Donnell).  In the first go-round, Dawg lost a summary judgement when the judge decided that pretty much anything goes in the political blogosphere and the appellant (Dawg), when confronted with the alleged defamation, should have, according to the Internet's implicit rules of engagement, shot back with a snappy rejoinder.  Sort of like:

A: You are a pedophile.
B:  And you are another.

In today's decision, the court of appeal decided that the original judge accepted a certain account of blogospheric etiquette too soon, given the nascent state of the law surrounding defamation on-line:

Dawg's off golfing, so this will have to do until he can write up something for himself.  Naturally, over at FreeD they are confused and disappointed.


Kurt Phillips said...

Good to hear this.

They were very confident that they were going to have the appeal dimissed. Sort of like they are very confident that they will best Richard Warman in his copywright suit against them.

I often get the impression that the folks at Free Dominion live in a very different world than most of us.

Marky Mark said...

It was a very strong appeals panel and the like their reasoning. The key thing is the view that the case shouldn't be decided by summary judgment and that things like cross examination still should matter even when there is a written record of hyperlinks and screen shots. We'll see what happens at trial. (And, to your A and B, I think this case is hugely important to that one.)

Harry Abrams said...

Sounds expensive. Oh well, I suppose they deserve each other.

Marky Mark said...

Well one interpretation of the judgement is the panel saying litigation is a serious process and giving a signal that that will be quite expensive--i.e., this deserves a proper trial, but make sure you understand what will be involved in that process.

Marky Mark said...

As much as a trial would be interesting and the case ground breaking, I would have thought it is way too much money for the individualls involved and that they should find a way to settle it, even if it means going to a panel of other bloggers for a decision!

thwap said...

I don't know how I feel exactly about this case.

Dawg's knuckle-dragging enemies made a big deal about trumpeting his real identity, and being called a Taliban supporter is probably not good for one's career or international traveling.

On the other hand, it's just a bunch of people insulting each other on the internet.

But I do know that I felt a form of existential sickness being at that board and looking at their stupid avatars and reading their stupid quotations and their stupid attempts to make sense of the world around them.

I don't like associating with such people and I don't like observing them socializing with each other. There's something vaguely sinister about them. Like this group of really stupid people who have gathered in a corner at at a party and are staring out sullenly at everyone else once in a while while they whisper to each other.

Marky Mark said...


Let's go with your insults theme and play with the limits. This is what us crazies who are lawyers tend to do--ask yourself how you'd feel as the one making the remark about someone whose views you loathe and about being on the receiving end--for clarity, these have nothing to do with the case that prompted the post and are more about the idea that people insulting each other online may be OK:

1. X is a total asshole. I bet he cheats on his wife, steals at work and beats his children.

2. X is a big supporter of fascism. He would goose step all the way to Parliament Hill if he wasn't too fat to go that distance.

3. X is such a Nazi that he whacks off to Mein Kampf.

4. X is a troll who pretends to be a progressive while really spying on us and feeding information back to the HarperCons.

5. I really dislike X. He argues in bad faith and really should be banned from that site.

Now, in thinking about these examples, does it matter if you know who X is in real life? If you don't, but others do, does that matter? If those questions are relevant, do you then have a duty to search the handle and see if the real name turns up, so you can answer those questions as a matter of diligence, or is that akin to stalking? And let's say you don't know and you think you're insulting an anonymous handle, and then the person's identity comes out publicly down the road-at that point do you have to go back and delete old comments that you wouldn't have made if you knew you were talking about a real person?

In short this is complicated and while there are some easy examples, there is a bit of a spectrum and I don't think we yet know where we are.

bannedFD said...

"Dawg's knuckle-dragging enemies made a big deal about trumpeting his real identity"

As somebody who has been banned from FreePanama twice now.... I can tell you that chasing down your real name and employer is a standard rhetorical tactic over there. At least for a couple of those wackjobs. They can't stand to lose an argument.

Meir Weinstein said...

I just can't understand why this blog would support Dog. This guy promotes Israel Apartheid Week.

Harry Abrams said...

I'm with you on that one.

oldgoat said...

I just got a fundraiser email from Connie, and was shocked to discover I was a member in good standing on that board. Then I remembered way back at the beginning someone banned from pissed me off so much I followed him back to his fetid lair.

My own feeling is that people have real lives even if they are odious and reprehensible human beings, which can be impacted by internet comments, and some rules have to apply.