Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anonymous Posts Might Not Be
As Anonymous as You Think

On July 30, Wired posted an article by Ryan Singel entitled Yale Students' Lawsuit Unmasks Anonymous Trolls, Opens Pandora's Box, about how someone, presumably a law student, posted a particularly offensive comment on a website thinking it was anonymous. Well, it turns out that it was not as anonymous as the poster believed. Be forewarned!

"'Women named Jill and Hillary should be raped.'

Those are the words of "AK-47" -- a poster to the college-admissions web forum AK-47 was one of a handful of students heaping misogynist scorn on women attending the nations' top law schools in 2007, in posts so vile they spurred a national debate on the limits of online anonymity, and an unprecedented federal lawsuit aimed at unmasking and punishing the posters.

Now lawyers for two female Yale Law School students have ascertained AK-47's real identity, along with the identities of other AutoAdmit posters, who all now face the likely publication of their names in court records -- potentially marking a death sentence for the comment trolls' budding legal careers even before the case has gone to trial.

* * *

A federal judge ruled in January that the attorneys [for the two women] could serve subpoenas on ISPs and webmail providers. Using that power, the lawyers have unmasked some -- though not all -- of the AutoAdmit posters.

Now they're asking the judge to give them additional time to try and determine the identities of the remaining defendants, who are currently being sued under their AutoAdmit handles: among others, PaulieWalnuts, Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey, The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah, Patrick Bateman and HitlerHitlerHitler."

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