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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

An interesting debate about anonymous speech on the internet, CDA 230, and the related issues of privacy, information flow and libelous harm. My position on the issue is expressed in my two comments on the thread.

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Conversations, news and movies inform me that it is pretty common for a person to say bad things about his or her ex. I have always found that practice mystifyingly alien. It is not that I necessarily have any moral objection to saying such things; just that I cannot ever imagine myself doing it.

A part of this attitude has probably to do with my general distate to voicing private matters in public, even to close friends. But a lot of it also has to do with pride and self-respect; it seems to me that it is impossible to say really bad things about someone you were close to for an extended period of time in the past without disrespecting yourself. How can you today badmouth someone you loved and respected in the past without implying that your judgment, taste — in a sense your entire existence then — was in some fundamental way flawed or false? I mean I see that people can feel pretty strong negative emotions after a bad break-up but still… I simply don’t get it. I don’t think I can ever publicly put down or even strongly criticize anyone I had been together with for a reasonable period of time; however acrimonious the break-up, however hurt I were in the process. Maybe I am just weird in this way.

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Celebrity couple Rihanna and Chris Brown are back together again, three weeks after Brown hit her during an altercation that left her with visible injuries. However, the case against Brown may not be dropped, despite Rihanna’s decision to forgive her man. In a criminal case like this, the police has the power to press charges against someone even if the alleged victim refuses to testify.

Now Rihanna is probably dumb to get back with someone who hit her. However she certainly has the right to make that decision and I strongly believe that if she does not want to press charges against him, the law should leave them alone.

It all boils down to consent. Theft is a crime only because it is involves takings without permission. If I take my friend’s car keys and go for a spin without asking him and he later finds out about it and gets mad, he has every right to demand legal redress. However if he is perfectly ok with my disappearing act, it would be laughable to suggest that the law should override his wishes and punish me.

Rape is prosecuted not because it involves force or sex but because one of the parties has not consented to the act. Many birthday parties in India involve birthday bumps, where the special person is hoisted in the air and roundly smacked around. It is a violent act, but all good-natured and fun. However if you give bumps to a person despite his protests and he later goes and complains to the police, you will surely be charged with at least a misdemeanour assault.

For there to be a crime, there has to be a victim. The fundamental premise of libertarian jurisprudence is that there are no victimless crimes. And it is consent  alone that determines if there is a victim. Undoubtedly, in cases like murder where the victim can no longer testify, or cases involving abuse of children or the mentally disabled, the law is perfectly justified in presuming their victim-hood. However, when two adults are involved, their is no need for the law to make such value judgements. 

What people consent to is their business. When society imposes its fiat on such a matter, it infantilizes the parties involved.

For most couples, occasional verbal fights are a perfectly normal part of the relationship. However, if a couple happens to think that it is also ok sometimes to slap each other, what right does society have to use the force of law to stop them?

One of the arguments advanced for treating assaults and other violent crimes not as torts but as crimes against society is that if the victim is allowed to drop the case, many will be intimidated to do so. Even if that were true, surely the obvious solution is to protect the victim from intimidation or reprisal! Laws that provide strong deterrence and efficient justice in the case of a violation, a system where it is easy to file cases, obtain no-contact orders and get police protection, where the victims know that the police is fighting for them, not against their wishes — will provide far more security from intimidation than one where the victim’s wishes are not respected.

In the end, it is a simple affair: if Rihanna is ok with Brown hitting her and does not want any charges filed against him, it her private matter. If the police still go ahead and prosecute him, it means that they are prosecuting a victimless crime. Not uncommon and not unsurprising but an affront to liberty nevertheless.

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A new Georgia law requires anyone convicted of a sex offence in the past to hand over all their user-names and passwords to the government.

Mind you, this law isn’t aimed only at child rapists and suchlike. It will cover everyone who has ever been convicted of a sex related offence. In essence, what this law says is, if you err sexually once — however minor your crime is — you lose all  privacy rights for the rest of your life. Oh — and did I mention that past laws have already made it impossible for these people to find a home or get a job long after they have finished serving their sentences?

Actually, I think these are great laws. For they further a very important principle: offenders must never ever be allowed to reintegrate into society.

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Since the Judge Kozinski story broke three days ago, I have frequently visited The Volokh Conspiracy hoping that Eugene Volokh — an outstanding blogger who I frequently cite —  would post on the issue. My interest was piqued not only because I admire Kozinski — a brilliant judge with a libertarian streak — but because Volokh had once clerked for him. Here is the expected post, at last.

I’ve tried to avoid blogging about the Judge Kozinski story, because I’m so obviously biased on the subject. I clerked for the Judge. The Judge officiated at my wedding. I talk to him often. I consider him a close friend, he’s taught me a huge amount, and he’s helped me tremendously in my career, and not just by giving me a valuable credential. What I say on the matter will naturally and properly be discounted because of my bias. Still, I can’t help myself any longer, so I’ll pass along what I think, and you can give it whatever credit you think is due.

Here is a link to the rest of Volokh’s article, which I recommend. I agree completely with all his points. However, I am a tad disapponted that he places so much emphasis on the fact that the images on the judge’s site were tame. In other words, while I agree with his conclusion, 

We should all leave Kozinski to his own privately expressed sense of humor, as we’d like the world to leave us to ours,

I would have been happier if he had added it didn’t really matter even if that sense of humour was much racier than what it actually is.

It would be a great day for freedom when the obscenity law is finally repealed. The root of the current controversy is that Kozinski was also going to officiate this case.  Of course, because of the controversy, he has now recused himself from it. The defence, I suppose, would have fancied their chances if he had remained the judge — Kozinski has always known to be a staunch defender of free speech. The prosecution must be chortling with glee.

On another note, I really hope that the LA Times, which broke the story, publishes a retraction and offers Kozinski an apology. They have displayed an astonishing lack of journalistic integrity in their coverage of the matter. It has, to put it lightly, been full of misleading errors. For instance, they said that one of the images showed a man ‘cavorting’ with a donkey when it wasn’t even close to that. But if the LA Times did apologize to this supposedly conservative judge, it wouldn’t really be the LA Times any more, would it?

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She was 82. He was 95. They had dementia. They fell in love. And then they started having sex.

What happened next? Read this to find out.

Speaking strictly for myself, I will do everything — and I really mean everything — in my power to ensure that my freedom can never be curtailed by a loved one or anyone else. I’d sooner end my life than give in to a situation where someone else has the power to vet my actions. 

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France is perhaps the worst place in Western Europe for individual liberty — recall the recent conviction of Brigette Bardot for hate-speech — however, their courts do get things right once in a while. In a marriage annulment case, much in the news lately, the French judge did rule in favour of privacy and freedom. Here’s an excerpt from the Chicago tribune report (emphasis mine).

The bride said she was a virgin. When her new husband discovered that was a lie, he went to court to annul the marriage — and a French judge agreed.

The ruling ending the Muslim couple’s union has stunned France and raised concerns the country’s much-cherished secular values are losing ground to cultural traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

Justice Minister Rachida Dati, whose parents also were born in North Africa, initially shrugged off the ruling — but the public clamor reached such a pitch that she asked the prosecutor’s office this week to lodge an appeal.

What began as a private matter “concerns all the citizens of our country and notably women,” a statement from her ministry said.

The hitch is that both the young woman and the man at the center of the drama are opposed to an appeal, according to their lawyers.

The young woman’s lawyer, Charles-Edouard Mauger, said she was distraught by the dragging out of the humiliating case. In an interview on Europe 1 radio, he quoted her as saying: “I don’t know who’s trying to think in my place. I didn’t ask for anything. … I wasn’t the one who asked for the media attention, for people to talk about it, and for this to last so long.”

The court decision “is a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women. We are returning to the past,” said Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara,

“In a democratic and secular country, we cannot consider virginity as an essential quality of marriage,” said an expert on French secularism, Jacqueline Costa-Lascoux.

I am sorry, expert, but the question isn’t what you or I think are the essential qualities for a marriage. The issue is extremely simple — the two parties mutually agreed there should be an annulment on the basis there was a breach of contract, the annulment was granted and they are happy. Stop thinking for other individuals. The government has no business encroaching into private consensual affairs, whether or not those offend your fine sensibilities.

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