Response to Wendy Cockcroft: Work in Progress

I have decided to respond on my blog simply because I actually value the opinion of the person to whom I am responding and, let’s face it, all the other commentators want to do at Techdirt is level abuse at me. For that reason I decided to write a blog post and put the URL in the response on Techdirt.com. Currently it is being ‘held for moderation’:

Update 11 August 2017:  My comment with the URL was not published on Techdirt. I want to be able to address some of Wendy’s views on Free speech in a respectfull and meaningfull way because although I do not agree that free speech is an inalienable right, she has some extremely though provoking ideas published on this blog post.

However, I cannot do it today so I have marked this blog post as a work in progress and will revise it in due course. I am tired today because of a family illness and I want to be able to think through my response. That said, I stand by my initial ’emotive’ response although I also want to read through Wendy’s blog post and respond in an objective manner. I am leaving my emotional response on this post, although I will revise it. I gave up a long time ago apologising for who I am and what you see is what you get. But Wendy has points that I want to dissect. I am not sure yet what I think about them but I will write a respectfull and considered response.

So this is Wendy’s comment:

Dr. Duffy, I dissent and my views aren’t hidden because I don’t make wild accusations against people, I just argue my point.

Does anyone think that leaving comments unhidden that a woman is a ‘cunt’, and comments referring to people as loons and that falsely describe them as criminals is an exemplar of ‘free speech’?

Yes. It’s mean speech. It’s rude speech, and no doubt unwanted speech by the target of the speech (you should see what I’ve been called and accused of. Wait…), but it is free speech. So, then, what do we do about it? I presume there’s a valid reason as to why I’ve not had an answer to the question “How many clicks does it take to get a post hidden?” but that’s a moot point: comments are hidden by the COMMUNITY. If they don’t want to see the comment, it is replaced by a greyed-out link. If I want to see the comment for myself to determine whether or not it’s worth reading, I can click on the link.

WARNING: UNWANTED SPEECH

It is nobody’s job to hide speech that targets or offends a particular individual. I click the report button on principle but unless enough of the others to, it’ll stay.

“Loon” is a pejorative. It’s not nice to be on the receiving end, and I do sympathise with you for having suffered so. It may be worth asking yourself what the commenters are complaining about; a change in your behaviour might influence theirs. I’ve had to change mine; I’m opinionated but now I’m more open to new ideas. I defend my opinions using logic rather than emotional arguments. This has proven beneficial as the effects of being made to change the way I think affect the way I interact with other people at home and at work as well as online.

I myself have been falsely accused of being involved in criminal behaviour; this resulted in my having to explain myself to my employers all for the sake of a drama troll’s idea of a joke. Have you noticed how I handled it? Basically, I took my own advice and since then I have actually been promoted.

I know you read my blog, On t’internet, so you know I’ve struggled with some of the more outrageous aspects of free speech, particularly where unwanted speech is concerned. However, in my personal experience, liars gonna lie; the question is, when people check you out, what will they find on your side of the story? People checking me out find that I’m curious, creative, opinionated, a bit of a smart alec, and I’m fascinated by politics and the internet. Why? Because that is how I present myself in my attitude and actions.

Free speech, then, is not about being nice, it’s about being able to say what you want without being dragged off to a gulag for saying it. Does it have consequences? Yes. Do you have a right to be heard? No. Should people be able to ignore or skip over comments they don’t want to read? Yes. Should people be nicer to each other online? Well, I think so, but the value (which is hard to see sometimes) in allowing mean speech is that meanness is in the eye of the beholder; TD is full of examples of reasonable criticism being silenced because the target thereof didn’t like it. We can’t seem to chuck out the bathwater without sending Baby off with it, so yeah, we have to put up with the existence of speech we don’t like to protect the freedom of our own right to speak.

My Response: Note that it is late and I may review my comments later. 

Wendy, I am responding in detail to you because I have a lot of respect for the way your mind works. Whether or not it is published is up to the moderators. This is not about free speech but about power, or rather the abuse of power. Techdirt, like Ripoff Report, is a highly ranked blog. It has approximately 20 or so million visits a year of which almost 2% are from Australia. It ranks on page 1 for a search for my name. Quite apart from the ridicule levelled at me since June 2015 on Techdirt, there are false accusations that I am involved in reputation management and extortion scheme posted by, yes, a Ripoff Report employee. I did ask for at least the comments that I am a criminal to be removed but was told NO by Masnick and Cushing.

While this garbage is online I will never be able to work in my chosen field of medical research because ANY imputation of impropriety will preclude returning to my profession. I did not cause or choose ‘this’ (the original Ripoff Reports) to be published by any ‘dodgy’ behaviour. I had a support group for people who got scammed-that’s all! In 2006 I got very sick through a medical condition that resulted in a very severe ‘black’ depression. But I pulled myself out of it and started a support group to help others. The reason those ‘reports’ were and are published was to break up the support group because the scammers were losing money. They used the Ripoff Report page rank to try and frighten people who were trying to help themselves. Ripoff Report is an extortion racket-but you know that. It relies on the publication of false content and the severe impact upon reputation to make money. It is NOT about free speech but profit.

At that time I did not know anything about the Internet! I did not even use Google. Believe me, I tried everything to just get the false content removed so that I could get on with my life. I did NOT do anything dodgy on the internet. I was NOT a ‘fatal attraction’ sort of person and this would have been evident had you read all the evidence at trial. I got sick, I got better and tried to help others who were being scammed. I did not deserve to be described as a stalker, loon, whatever. I did NOT deserve to have my ability to work in a profession destroyed. I certainly did and do not deserve to be the recipient of threats of rape and harm as well as what amounts to emotional abuse because I stood up for my rights. No-one does and to use the right of ‘free speech to excuse this is wrong!

No, I was not an exemplary witness during the trial, but what do you expect when I was in a court room alone, with no legal experience, up against all the legal power that 100’s of billions of dollars can buy and facing a whole lot of highly paid lawyers determined to break me? I could barely stand up from exhaustion on day 1 of the trial. In fact, the Defendant’s own shrink testified at the subsequent damages trial and said that I only just survived it because I had more resilience than most. At one stage I was sobbing outside the courtroom during the lunch break and the Defendant came up to me and said to withdraw the case. I refused and they said, well Dr Duffy, call Lifeline.

As soon as the trial was publicised I was attacked on Techdirt. I responded and then walked away but the attacks continued including accusing me of crimes, ridicule, and referring to me as a ‘cunt’! After December 2015 I did not respond. And yes, the person was (and is) a long term Techdirt follower (or whatever they are called). He tried publishing the statement that I am a ‘loon’ and a ‘vexatious litigant ‘ (after 1 court case, how does that work?) on Techdirt. I did not respond so he sent that to my blog with a ‘come at me Janice’. I did not bite! I just let that sit and a couple of days later the threats and attempts at intimidation were sent to my blog. I know who he is and where he lives simply because he is not as smart as he thinks and left a few crumbs of identity (despite using a TOR exit node). I simply followed the crumbs and went to the Electoral Commission. Recently my home address was published online and a Techdirt ‘fan’ put a ‘note’ in my letterbox threatening (again) to ‘do me slowly’ and to kill my ‘mutt’! All in the name of free speech! Of course I went to the police-again-but there is nothing they can do! Since this is in the hands of the authorities I have not published it.

There WAS a mob rule approach to me on Techdirt and Twitter and it continues today. When I watched the CDT video of Masnick giving his chilling effect speech my blood ran cold. I have never in my life felt such distain. Masnick could have critiqued Dr Ayyadurai’s claim on the invention of email without decimating him and he could have critiqued Australian law without his smug, condescending put down of my want to preserve MY Rights as ridiculous and setting me up for attacks. And yes, Masnick did set me up in posts about other Australians. If you think he doesn’t know what he is doing then I am sorry but you are not seeing the full picture!

But you are correct Wendy! We can in some respect choose to define our online identity. But that choice has been taken away from me in that I can never just go back to a quiet life. I absolutely hate it but I will NOT roll over and take what is an abuse of power masquerading as free speech. So I have chosen my path and that is to stand up for abuses of power that use free speech to hide and excuse illegal actions. That does not mean I have to put up with accusations of crimes I did not commit and abuse. No-one should be subjected to this and especially not when there is a huge power differential that favours the platform on which the abuse occurs. This is nothing new. The ability to abuse is always about power – one exercising it over another, and the excuses are as old as human existence.

Wendy, I did not choose this path but I cannot change the past and even when I walk away from the Techdirt and Ripoff Report goons they come after me so I may as well stand up. I and we do NOT have to put up with speech we do not like to enable free speech. That was never the intention of the doctrine of free speech. It is not an inalienable right-but one that is recognised only if it does not impinge on other rights.

If someone in a local social group published or communicated defamatory and/or abusive content it would not worry me. If it was published in a small usernet group on obscure blog I would not worry. But Techdirt and Ripoff Report, by virtue of their ‘Google power’, have the ability to break people and therein lies the crux of the issue. This is not an exercise of free speech but an abuse of it for their own personal gain-profit!

 

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