You post pseudonymously on a Yahoo bulletin board, referring to the company's products as "crap," among other things.
How many people do you think are going to listen to you? How many big investors will make their stock buying and selling decisions off of your trolling?
If you said zero, you're right. But that's not the opinion of the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled that AOL must disclose the personal information of a subscriber who posted such things to message boards starting in 1999. Yahoo gave up the email address instantly, but AOL didn't want to. After all, what would this mean for internet privacy?
The company, a Hong Kong manufacturer called Nam Tai, says that this individual and others were attempting to "manipulate the price of Nam Tai stock to their advantage." On a Yahoo group?
Here was this guy's comment: "This low tech crap that they produce is in an extremely competitive and low profitability industry. I see see-sawing of the stock with no real direction." Now, leaving aside his personal opinion, the guy was right - the stock was see-sawing.
I'm sorry, but first of all, stock price manipulation takes a hell of a lot more than bitching about products on Yahoo. If your stock can be manipulated that easily, perhaps it deserves to be.
Second, since when is a comment like that grounds for a libel suit? What will we see next, Ford suing those who have those lame 'boy pissing on Ford symbol' stickers in the back window of their rusty Chevy pickup trucks? Microsoft going after anyone who says that Playstation 2 is better than XBox?
The worst thing is, according to this ruling, corporations can do just that. Goodbye, being able to post a fairly innocuous comment with your username - seems that companies will now be able to find it out. Imagine if you posted a flyer about a corporation and they forced the police to dust for fingerprints - or if mailing a complaint got you subpoenaed.
This is a violation of privacy rights of the worst kind. I hope the SCOTUS overturns this case.