Julia Allison’s Defamation Problem and Overzealous Father
Take one self-promoting pseudo-celebrity (Julia Allison), a heavy handed attorney who happens to be her father (Peter Baugher), vocal internet critics, mix them all together and what do you get?
A you-know-what storm erupts.
So who is Julia Allison? Perhaps Wired.com came up with the best description.
Allison is the latest, and perhaps purest, iteration of the Warholian ideal: someone who is famous for being famous. Like graffiti writers who turned their signatures into wild-style gallery pieces, she has made the process of self-promotion into its own freaky art form. Traditionally, it takes an army of publicists, a well-connected family, or a big-budget ad campaign to make this kind of splash. But Allison has done it on her own and on the cheap, armed only with an insatiable need for attention and a healthy helping of Web savvy.
She has been called one of the most hated people on the internet ahead of someone who tossed puppies off a cliff and a woman who drove a teen to suicide by mocking her. In the end, Allison blogs, tweets and posts about every moment of her life and has gotten people to watch her every move. Along with that, has come a steady stream of detractors.
The removed blog responded via their tmblr account:
Well hello bunnies. An update on the lunacy that has gone on in the past day or so. Dadsers sent us an e-mail yesterday, with an attached threatening letter on his own letterhead, not his firm’s. The language was similar to, though not nearly as insane as, the e-mail sent to us at 2 a.m. the night before from an “anonymous person” — nudge nudge wink wink. The problem was, Dadsers also faxed this letter to the workplace of someone who has nothing to do with RBNS. We pointed out to him that this person was a complete innocent bystander, someone his daughter erroneously believed was behind the blog and had harassed several weeks earlier. There was no lawsuit threatened. He simply wanted us to keep the blog down and to tell us who we were. We told him we were not resurrecting the blog but could not stop other blogs from starting up and if they did, he’d have to attempt what was successful with WordPress. He wouldn’t be getting any information out of us.
To the extent copyright issues were occurring, that material should be taken down immediately. A simple DMCA Notice would suffice. It is unclear what happened here, but the blog was gone.
And that was that.
Now the controversy came to light again when Techdirt.com (which has its own strong opinions about internet anonymity) commented on Julia’s father’s (the aforementioned Peter Baugher) editorial in the Chicago Tribune regarding this issue.
This messy situation and all of the fixings associated with it illustrates the issues with anonymous defamers and attackers on the internet. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity for the “publishers” of such material and courts have given this immunity a wide berth. The problem we have now is that because the immunity granted has been so broad, publishers have no incentive to help those subject to unfair and unwarranted anonymous attacks.
There needs to be a happy medium between unmasking anonymous internet users and the current situation, which is untenable. Maybe a DMCA type of system that requires certain proof to be submitted to publishers? What are your thoughts?
This post was written by Eric S. Crusius, Esq.