A recent PaidContent.org post about Twitter and media law listed several examples of lawsuits involving Twitter and correctly stated that “established laws are not holding up under the weight of billions of 140-character messages.”
It’s not just the new medium of Twitter that’s bringing this problem to the forefront, however. Nearly everywhere one turns, there are online issues involving intellectual property, freedom of speech, privacy (read the New York Time’s article about the infiltration of personal email accounts by hackers-for-hire), identity theft, reputation management, defamation, and others such as gamed consumer reviews. The list is seemingly endless.
As was recently quoted in Minding the Workplace:
Applying pre-Internet rules of engagement to a world comprised of communication that’s instantaneous, global, and non-retractable is problematic. Furthermore, the application of laws is challenging in and of itself – while what may be permissible in one state or country may be impermissible in another, the Internet and what we do online aren’t jurisdictionally bound. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let these issues dissuade us from expecting the legal system to provide appropriate recourse for victims and to hold transgressors fully accountable for their actions.
But while we are waiting for the law to catch up to and strike the correct balance between protection, recourse and personal freedoms, perhaps we should focus our efforts on what we can do:
That having been said, we cannot rely on the legal system to create norms of behavior. We need individuals and the communities they belong to, both online and off, to step forward and model a positive online environment that supports and fosters freedom of expression via passionate debate and spirited dissent, while at the same time safeguarding the right of others to engage online without fear of physical, reputational or psychological attacks.