Several people on the IAG-members group at yahoo described their experiences and feelings about a group of trolls, who wrote scathing abnormally negative reviews about their books on Amazon. Some of them obviously never read the book at all and in some cases, hid behind pseudo-names, fake personnas and did not reveal their true names and identities. The comments escalated into a full blown battle and flame war and the author being criticised research the identity of one of the commenters and found that they worked at a school district in California, and was using district equipment. When this was shared with the group their was concern expressed about an alleged “invasion of privacy”.
I am a former attorney and I do not see the author’s actions in a negative light at all. So I’m responding to the remarks that there has been an invasion of privacy that was inappropriate. I respectfully disagree.
If one is being harmed, whether it or outright physical harm or emotional or economic harm as the situation here, it is perfectly within the rights of the person experiencing the pain to know the identity of the person or person who is harming them.
Lying about, slandering the good works of another, defaming someone, and hiding one’s identity are all actions that create actionable legal liability. There are numerous cyber-bullying cases that have resulted in criminal and civil penalties and judgments against the wrongdoers.
A “silly flame war” can escalate to the point of actionable slander and defamation as soon as the lies and abuse go beyond reasonable opinion, turn personal, and have the clear intent and express ability to be economically physically and mentally harmful.
The law allows and even encourages people who believe they are being harmed to protect themselves, and it is appropriate to contact the individuals and identify where they work, what else they are doing, or seek out and contact their employer and share with other people or with authorities near or associated with them the nature of their conduct and the substance of their communications.
There is no invasion of privacy, because the law only protects people who act appropriately in society and typically where the law has declared people can have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Those rights, should they exists, are also explicitly waived in many cases by the voluntary participation or use of a site like Amazon, or the use of computers at work. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy here.
And yes, when you do confront people like this, there are also risks in doing so. They may yet react again or even escalate the battle in new ways.
The people who hide behind fake names remind me of the KKK Klansmen on horses in their white robes and hoods. The try to inflict pain and ride away unscathed. They must be uncovered, brought into the light, identified, and be made to face the consequences of their actions in society.
It is important remain vigilant and be prepared to take purpose-driven, affirmative, firm and well thought out, and decisive action in the face of evil. I admire the author for doing that and I support the actions he has taken.
In my view it is appropriate to investigate ISP contact information and employer information and reach out to inform people administratively.
I believe there are more steps that can yet be taken.
One of my clients has also written on the subject of Amazon one star reviewers. Here is the link:
Robert D. Smith is the manager of Andy Andrews, and I’ve worked with both gentlemen for almost ten years and six books, three of which became NY Time best sellers. Andy last book was relevant to this discussion. The title of this book is How Do You Kill 11 Million People?
The books’ answer is based on the actions of a single individual, Adolf Hitler. The answer is that ‘you lie’.
The promulgation and the perpetuation of lies is what the trolls are doing to authors they focus their sights on.
As I said, we must remain vigilant and be prepared to take action in the face of evil.