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Web Security, Privacy & Commerce, 2nd Edition by Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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Actionable Content

Computers and networks give us great opportunities for communicating with the world. In a matter of moments, our words can be speeding around the world, destined for a large audience or for someone we have never met in person. Not only is this ability liberating and empowering, it can be very entertaining. Mailing lists, “chat rooms,” multi-user dimensions (MUDs), newsgroups, and web pages all provide us with news and entertainment.

Libel and Defamation

Unfortunately, this same high-speed, high-bandwidth communications medium can also be used for less than noble purposes. Email can be sent to harass, news articles can be posted to slander, web pages can contain defaming stories, and online chats can be used to threaten someone with harm.

In the world of paper and telephones, there are legal remedies to harassing and demeaning communication. Some of those remedies are already being applied to the online world. We have seen cases of people being arrested for harassment and stalking online. People have been successfully sued for slander in posted Usenet articles. There have also been cases filed for violation of EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at http://www.eeoc.gov) laws because of repeated postings that were sexually, racially, or religiously demeaning. Even screensavers with inappropriate images have been the subject of litigation.

Words can hurt others, sometimes quite severely. Often, words are a prelude or indicator of other potential harm, including ...

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