28 March 2005

Lucy Sherriff of London's The Register reports that "Anonimity no protection for online libellers" (24 Mar 05). In this particular instance, the "libel" (remember, this is under UK law, so do not assume that it applies in the US—nor, for that matter, should you assume it doesn't!) concerned allegations of illegal and fraudulent conduct on the Motley Fool's UK bulletin board. The Motley Fool was forced to reveal the identity behind the screen name, which was the first domino.

The key lesson that one should take away from this is that one should not, except in extreme circumstances, post material "anonymously" on the Internet if anonymity is truly important. One should particularly not expect to get away with disparagement—regardless of whether it arises to being libel—solely because "they won't know who I am." They do. You would be absolutely shocked at how easy it is to backtrack from most bulletin board systems if there's any chance of access to system logs. Well, maybe you wouldn't; but that's no skin off my knuckles.