The internet is fast becoming a world of avatars, 'sock-puppets' and fakes. The material world has mutated into an electronic one over recent decades. And as a result, our day to day grasp of reality is now predicated upon our faith in the intangible electron. How can we really know that anyone is who they say they are nowadays?
Hi, I began on that rather dour note with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek! As you might know, the 'glamour model' who did yesterday's piece poked fun at boring old lawyers. And here I am, a boring old lawyer, offering you my take on the internet. (And I don't mean take in a pecuniary sense!) But the point is, I'm not actually so boring when you think about what I have to say.
And what I have to say is this: internet identity fraud is becoming a big, big issue. It has quite literally become an issue for this website, although because of a super-injunction issued last night, I cannot refer specifically to why that is. But believe me, it is.
Now, whilst I must remain silent in that respect, I can however consider a contingent issue that is not - to the best of my knowledge - the subject of any injunctions. This is the use of fake IDs and web names in the ‘comments’ sections of this and other blog sites.
It all seems like a lot of fun at the time, doesn't it readers? Popping up on different websites, posting comments under pseudonyms? You know the sort of thing: "Comment by David Cam-moron... Climate change deniers are no better than the Catholic church that crucified Galileo..." or "Comment by Maggot Thatcher... NuLiebour will never ever be trusted again and will be booted into the gutter in 2010..." We don't even need to give silly fake names, if we don't want to. I, for example, could pretend to be plain 'Gordon Brown' as I log on to Tractor Drivers Monthly, and make comments like, "Nothing gives me more pleasure than driving my tractor stark bollock naked over the hills and valleys of Buckinghamshire."
You see, the internet is fast turning into a new Wild West where anything goes. I, you or anyone else can go onto the BBC, Sky or Guardian websites and sign in as whoever we want to be (assuming someone has not taken the names we wish to assign ourselves). And it might seem very amusing at the outset, but it can cause a lot of upset, a lot of anguish and pain to the parties involved. In fact only yesterday there was a case where a number of prominent 'Daily Mail' journalists were supposedly posting foul mouthed claptrap under their 'real names' on numerous blogsites. One of them admitted getting turned on by stained underwear and another claimed regularly to enjoy shoving small, furry rodents into a place where the sun don't shine! Now that can't be right, can it readers?
Do we want a world where we no longer trust anything anyone writes? Where people, pretending to be someone or something that they're not, make allegations that they know won't generally be traced back to them? It might seem funny now readers. But one day when someone is attacking you or something that you believe in, and when your name, or that of someone you admire, is taken in vain, then you might not be laughing anymore. Oh no! You won't find it funny when someone pretending to be you says they enjoy the aroma of their partner's poo, or that they like to masterbate whilst watching old repeats of Frasier or The Vicar of Dibley!
So here is what I think people like me will be able to bring to the table in the future. We all know what copyright law and patent law are. Why not work at developing identity law that can grapple with the integrity of internet IDs? No more silly names, no more silly allegations. Because even you, you sock puppet, even you, you fake George Osborne, you fake Polly Toynbee, you fake Andrew Neil with all your 'weird little hobbies', if you carry on using those names and you are not those people that you say you are, then you will find that the only thing stuffed where the sun don't shine is the legal documentation that I serve on you, matey boy!
Anyway, these are my ruminations on where I think the internet and internet law might be heading. I really think that these changes are going to be needed. All that we lawyers now need to do is consolidate the technical expertise. And finally, I hope that this wasn't as boring as our 'glamour model' Kayla suggested it would be. Who knows, even she might find something of interest in my brief, painless, and, simply written, discourse on internet fakery!
This post was brought to you by Ferdie Doberman, Litigation Partner.