Jacqueline D Lipton, Righting Cyber Wrongs

Jacqueline D Lipton, Righting Cyber Wrongs

Comment by: Rafi Cohen-Amalgor

PLSC 2010

Workshop draft abstract:

In light of recent instances of cyberstalking and cyberharassment, particularly involving female victims,some commentators have argued that the law should do more to protect individual autonomyand privacyonline.   Others reject these views, suggesting that such developments would be undesirable, unnecessary, and potentially unconstitutional.  The proposed paper would argue for greater protections for individual privacy and autonomy online.  The author suggests protecting victims of reputational damage by providing new, more affordable avenues for redress than are currently available.  Existing literature has focused on judicial remediesand some market solutionsto remedy reputational damage, and have noted the limitations of each.  Problems identified include the fact that judicial remedies are time and cost-intensive,and it can be notoriously difficult to identify individual defendants,or, in the alternative, to proceed against operators of online services that host damaging content. Current market-based solutions are also problematic, because of the costs to victims.

This paper would advocate a multi-pronged approach to give victims of cyber-harassment better access to meaningful remedies.  The author advocates a combination of: (a) developing pro bono reputation defense services for online harassment; (b) developing public education programs to empower victims to combat such harassment themselves; and, (c) encouraging existing pro bono legal services to take on more cyber-harassment cases.  Advantages of this multi-pronged approach are that pro bono reputation services can utilize reputation protection tools currently utilized by for-profit services, but can do so at low or no cost to victims.  Public education likewise can empower victims to utilize these strategies for themselves at little to no cost.  Supplementing these approaches with a focus on reputation defense by pro bono legal services would capitalize on law’s expressive functions to send messages to the wider community about conduct that should not be tolerated online.