Friday, November 30, 2001

The Social Security Administration keeps track of the names of applicants, and has released information about the popularity of first names for different time periods, on the web.

The Global Positioning System is run by the U.S. military and controlled by the government. It is the only functioning network system of its type, and is used by other governments. It is managed by a multi-agency board, and run by the Department of Defense. A number of other governments see the American standard that this system brings as an American monopoly, and are working hard to develop systems of their own.

The American Bar Association has published a stance on judicial vacancies, and they would like to see those filled as quickly as possible. They begin this position statement with the following paragraph:
Protracted delays in the judicial nomination and/or confirmation process weaken the federal judiciary by depriving it of the judges needed to resolve disputes expeditiously. Protracted delays also contribute to dangerously crowded dockets, suspended civil case dockets, overburdened judges, and understaffed courts.

Message Boards and Libel

There are many people who write messages in forums and message boards on the internet, and often those messages are opinions rather than published facts or news articles meant for dissemination to the world at large. But sometimes the topics discussed become statements about people or companies that may be untrue, or cast the subject of the conversation in a negative manner.

Large corporations have taken to visiting message boards, and to using software that allows them to find online statements about their companies. Sometimes the statements can appear to be so harmful as to threaten the company's reputation. Sometimes the statements might impact negatively on the corporation's value in the stock market. The 'Lectric Law Library's definition of libel is:
Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; The defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, The material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published; distinguished from slander.

In California, a court of appeals has just issued a ruling regarding statements made in message boards about a public company. The court decided that that the message board was a "public forum," the statements of the people posting were opinions of shareholders and not competitors, and that the matters discussed were an "issue of public interest." This means that a California statute protected the statements from action against the company.

Be warned, this ruling is limited to certain types of statements and to California. A court in another state, or with somewhat different facts might make a completely different ruling. This matter will probably be appealed to the California Supreme Court, so this isn't the last word on postings in message boards in California.
-William Slawski

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