Thursday, I wrote about Google being required to reveal the identity of an "anonymous" blogger who was being accused of defamation. Friday morning, I spoke with Craig Carpenter, VP and general counsel of Recommind. He agrees with most who have taken the time to comment on the ruling to this point. It will change the way people act online. "Frankly," he said, "I'm surprised it hasn't hit the legal blogging circuit."
The whole case is indicative of a trend he and his colleagues see among end users and how they think about and treat digital data. "People have this idea with electronic data that they're anonymous, that they're protected behind the veil of anonymity... and that the data just kind of goes away, or disappears....You make a blog post, you send an e-mail. you tweet on something, and it's gone...Nothing could be further from the truth."
Not only is the document created online now in an archive somewhere forever, but just as it's difficult to maintain context in an e-mail, it's difficult to maintain the context of a blog post or a tweet. In fact, Carpenter says Twitter showcases "the same phenomenon -- but on steroids." There are so many discrete transactions, and a lot of them are posted "in passing" such that people don't even think about what they are saying. There's more danger of liability there, according to Carpenter, but no one thinks much about it.
We agreed that the moment someone is held liable for a tweet, things will change. "And it's going to happen," he says.