By: Joel Davis
Case Could Be Landmark In Cyberspace
An unusual libel case is unfolding in San Francisco, where an English instructor
at a community college wants to halt an Internet site that posts anonymous
critiques of teachers by students.
Daniel Curzon-Brown, a 20-year veteran at the City College of San Francisco, has
been called a ‘homomaniac’ and ‘mentally ill’ on the site, called Teacher Review.
Curzon-Brown is an openly gay playwright and author, who says the site has him
‘depressed’ and that he ‘can barely stand going to class.’
Other teachers have been called racists and womanizers and are accused of having
oral sex, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last year.
The lawsuit names Webmaster Ryan Lathouwers of San Francisco as a key defendant,
along with 25 ‘John Does,’ who wrote anonymous opinions. The college and student
government body, which have home pages linked to the site, are also named in the
suit, which contends the connection implicitly endorses the Teacher Review site.
‘This is the first libel-by-linking lawsuit that I know of in the country,’ Roger
Myers, an attorney representing the Associated Students, told the San Jose Mercury
News. ‘And it would have a dramatic impact on one’s ability to link one site to
another. It would basically prevent people from surfing the Net or using search
engines. People would err on the side of caution and not link anything anymore.’
The case is set to be heard in court March 29, and is considered very important
because Internet service providers have traditionally been considered immune from
libel liability since the federal Communications Decency Act became law in 1996.
Joel Davis ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is West Coast editor
for Editor & Publisher magazine.
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher