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Internet Libeler gets 23 years in Prison

In a highly lauded decision, a Colorado court has sentenced an internet Libeler to more than 20 years in prison.  This is a major move towards making anyone who publishes on the web fully responsible for what they write on web sites and blogs.

This Durango Colorado article notes that a Colorado man was sentenced to 23 years in prison for criminal libel for acts relating to defamation on the web,  for "spreading lies over the Internet":
Stephenson instilled fear and terror into his victims' lives by spreading lies over the Internet, creating fake posters and sending phony letters. . . 

One example of how he victimized was creating a Web site in a professor's name identifying her as a sexual deviant and asking anyone reading to come rape her. He then posted the professor's home address.

He also sent a fake obituary to an Alaskan newspaper announcing that a jail guard had died of AIDS. The guard was actually alive and well.

We see an increase in criminal libel charges as citizens lose their tolerance for malicious lies being published on the web.  In this article, the criminal offender was jailed for publishing that some of his victims were "sluts":

A Milford teen spent seven days in a juvenile detention center and was forced to leave the state after being charged with criminal libel for statements he made on his personal Web site.

Ian Lake will face a misdemeanor charge of criminal libel for referring to his principal as "the town drunk," naming girls at his high school as "sluts" and making derogatory remarks about the intelligence of several teachers.

In typical civil libel suits, if an individual is libeled that person can only recover monetary damages from the person who defamed him or her. In the rarely used criminal libel charge, the state can prosecute a person for libel and impose jail time.

Also see the book on protection from Cyberstalkers


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