A Canadian court has forced 12 Internet service providers to reveal the identities of members who posted defamatory messages on a bulletin board.
America Online, Compuserve and PSInet are among the ISPs that may have to hand over the names and addresses of offending subscribers, all of whom criticised Philip Service Corporation.
The court orders must also be backed by a US court before the ISPs will be forced to comply.
Philip Service, a waste recycling firm based in Ontario, Canada, claimed that a number of individuals posted messages criticising its practises on a Yahoo bulletin board. It also alleged that malicious attacks were made against its employees, some of which extended to racial slurs and threats of violence and stalking.
Yahoo removed the more defamatory messages, but Philip Service insisted that the account information of the individuals should be revealed so that they could be tracked down.
As with any legal case concerning the Internet, this will have global implications. If the UK were to face a similar case, David Kennedy, chief executive of the ISP Association, believes that ISPs would generally seek to work with the authorities.
?ISPs have a difficult balancing act, trying to protect their customers? interests while cooperating with authorities,? he said.
With the Internet rapidly becoming a more mainstream medium for communication, Kennedy thinks this can only be a positive move for ISPs. ?It is important from our respect that ISPs are not held responsible for the actions of others. Individuals have to accept the consequences of their actions,? he said.
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