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2 Case W. Res. J.L. Tech. & Internet 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/caswestres2 and id is 1 raw text is: DEFAMATION OR DISCOURSE?:
RETHINKING THE PUBLIC FIGURE
DOCTRINE ON THE INTERNETt
INTRODUCTION
Freedom of speech is one of the core liberties guaranteed to our
citizens, immortalized in the Constitution and fiercely defended
throughout history. This freedom has traditionally included expression
through print, speech and even conduct. However, technological ad-
vancements, coupled with a substantial increase in access to the Inter-
net, have created an unprecedented medium of expression with vir-
tually no limits on the dissemination of ideas. In its early stages the
Internet provided users with limited functions like access to email,
messaging with friends and chat room dialogues, but this landscape
has changed dramatically with the introduction of thread messaging,
blogging and social networking sites. Virtually every person with a
computer has the opportunity to engage in some form of online dis-
course-whether it be reconnecting with friends, making social com-
mentary or engaging in politically volatile debates.
The expansive accessibility provided by the Internet has undoub-
tedly increased the ability of users to disseminate their ideas and opi-
nions to wider audiences.' Further, many users rely on the anonymity
that the Internet easily provides to express controversial, yet impor-
tant, ideas that would otherwise bring disrepute. While online ano-
nymity is valuable as it encourages the speaker to distribute his ideas
freely, it is also dangerous as it widens the potential for cognizable
legal harm to individuals in the form of online defamation. Thus, a
t Awarded Journal of Law. Technology & the Internet Note of the Year, as
selected by the Volume I Editorial Board.
1 See Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, Silencing John Doe: Defamation & Discourse
in Cyberspace, 49 DUKE L.J. 855, 894-95 (2000) (One of the most significant ways
in which the Internet promises to change the nature of public discourse is by allowing
more participants to engage in the public discussion and debate. The Internet gives
citizens inexpensive access to a medium of mass communication and therefore trans-
forms every citizen into a potential 'publisher' of information for First Amendment
purposes.) [hereinafter Lidsky. Silencing John Doe]; see also Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky
& Thomas F. Cotter, Authorship, Audiences and Anonymous Speech, 82 NOTRE DAME
L. REv. 1537, 1556 (2007) (describing how online anonymity has expanded public
discussion to an unprecedented level).

1

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