[Bioforum] Re: Bionet public discussions future: please comment

Brian Fristensky frist at cc.umanitoba.ca
Tue Jul 18 17:57:41 EST 2006

Don Gilbert wrote:

... stuff about people demanding that their posts be deleted...

I support the principle that posts to bionet are no different than
letters to the editor. The nature of the medium implicitly
goes with the assumption that all postings are public. I believe
that libel requires that the plaintif demonstrate that someone
else has made a false statement about them. It is concievable
that failure to include all parts of a previous message
could leave the person posting the message open to libel.
On the other hand, my experience has been that journalistic
media (newspapers, TV, radio) always edit down what you

> Dave,
> Thanks much for your comments.
> I can't discuss publicly details of people who ask postings from
> Bionet be removed, some who are threatening legal action and have the
> ability and probably determination to proceed, until such
> comments become part of some public record.  I welcome
> them to share their views publicly here.

> Indiana University's legal counsel has helped with an opinion that Bionet
> is a public record, and personal privacy is never an expectation when
> using such a public venue.  But I'm leary of the costs to myself and
> to IU of legal actions, and think they will impact Bionet's operations
> beyond possible orders to remove postings. It isn't a question of
> copyright infringement or some otherwise legally actionable misuse of
> Bionet; just ordinary posts with the person's name that show up in
> Google searches.

bionet is only the tip of the iceberg. There are endless forums
(newsgroups, mailiinglists, websites) that let anyone post
one's name (and sometimes other personal information) onto
the Internet. People have to learn that that's the nature of
the Internet.

My personal feeling is that these whiners should act like
adults and take responsibility for their own actions. Our
society is being ruined by the fear of law suits.

> Two or three times a week now, someone asks for removal of postings,
> even recent posts this year, due to the Google-ones-self phenomenon.
> What is somewhat more distressing is these often are quite suitable
> biology-related postings, which in no way reflect poorly on the poster,
> and with continued value to readers who search
> and find useful knowledge via Google et al.  Some 40,000 searchers /
> day are using Bionet archives to learn much about biosciences.  Any
> removal of postings on personal request is something Bionet needs to
> do in a way that is fair to all, not just the people bringing
> pressure, including fair to those many thousands of scientists and
> general public who find continuing value in these science discussions.

I wonder how much of the motivation behind these complaints is that
some posters are flooded with spam after posting, and want their
email addresses off the newsgroup for that reason. Nonetheless,
it's simply unacceptible that webmeisters or newsgroup moderators
or editors of newspapers should have to jump every time
someone has second thoughts about what they have written.
Too late, fella.

The other side of the coin is
a) people have short memories
b) as the world-wide collective memory of the Internet gets bigger,
what you said once 20 years ago really doesn't matter.
Everyone will have something out there that they regret having
said. Live with it people.

> -- Don Gilbert

I suppose one way would be to register bionet.* from a domain in

Brian Fristensky

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