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SG-W:/ Levels of Public



I would like to applaud Jeff's decision to limit access to the archive
to only persons who are members of this listserv.  Those non-members of
the listserv who need to review the archive for stated research purposes
could do so by requesting temporary membership.  It is also possible to
provide a copy of the archive to the Bentley Library, where legitimate
researchers may conduct in-person work (after registering).  The Bentley
is the official repository of Michigan history, and stores electronic as
well as paper records.

The listserv archive decision is not just a matter of private versus
public discourse.  There is an important distinction in levels of
"public" exposure in this situation.  A listserv discussion is public
only in the sense that it may include a large group.  But everyone in
the group is identifiable and accountable, which tends to reduce
irresponsible behavior.  Members have agreed to certain rules about
their participation.

In contrast, the anonymity of the internet is a very different level of
"public," where very bad things can happen because people are not
accountable.  As a longtime Board member of Safe House, I helped to
write Michigan's Stalking Law at the dawn of email.  We included
email/internet stalking, and in fact, this type of threat has become
common and is more often prosecuted than you may think.  I know of cases
where women were stalked at their homes simply because their name was on
someone's careless joke forward.  (Which is why you should Bcc: all
jokes and mass emails.)  You might be surprised to know how easy it is
to find a person's home with only an email address to start with.

But women are not the only targets of internet violence.  All of us
participating in the environmental movement are special targets.
Whether we like it or not, we are perceived as obstacles to those who
would make hundreds of millions of dollars.  The more successful our
movement, the more we will become targets.  As a candidate for local
office, I received telephoned death threats.  While serving in office,
I was SLAPP sued by a developer for a statement quoted in the
newspaper.  (The suit was later dropped but the intention was to
intimidate me from activist speech.)  A similar suit could use any
statement, no matter how vague, you might post electronically.  Even
after a suit is dropped, you are still stuck with $1,000+ in attorney
bills to defend yourself.  If your statement was on a completely public
web site, as opposed to one limited to members,  you would be considered
as if you had published it in a newspaper.

We do not need these kinds of chilling effects on our listserv
discussion.  I appreciate the action to limit the archive, and would
also urge that we periodically remind members to refrain from disclosing
personal information in messages to the general listserv.  I would also
urge that one of our rules be that no email is forwarded to, or copied
to, persons outside of the listserv without the permission of the
author.

--Jan BenDor




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