Maureen Dowd has an interesting column today about people being mean on the internet. Also, she has apparently always dreamed of being a cocktail waitress? Dowd starts her column, "If I read all the vile stuff about me on the Internet, I’d never come to work. I’d scamper off and live my dream of being a cocktail waitress in a militia bar in Wyoming."

Her column talks about some interesting incidents where the mean internet world has crossed over into the real world—once leading to the much-discussed suicide of a young girl and the another time when a supermodel sued Google to reveal the email of a blogger who called her a "skank." Dowd quotes the court decision (which, btw, would have been hilarious to hear read aloud by a somber judge):

“The words ‘skank,’ ‘skanky’ and ‘ho’ carry a negative implication of sexual promiscuity,” wrote Justice Joan Madden of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, rejecting the Anonymous Blogger’s assertion that blogs are a modern soapbox designed for opinions, rants and invective.

The judge cited a Virginia court decision that the Internet’s “virtually unlimited, inexpensive and almost immediate means of communication” with the masses means “the dangers of its misuse cannot be ignored. The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions.”

There are not a lot of court cases testing the protected anonymity of bloggers and commentors, but the Mercury and WW fought out a similar case in Oregon courts last year. In that case, the court decided in favor of protecting the anonymity of "Ronald", a commentor who described the subject of the post as a "cantakerous obnoxious dishonest new money pig self proclaimed god." Because we're a newspaper and Ronald's comment was about the topic of the post, the judge decided he was protected under the same shield law that keep anonymous news sources safe.

So it seems like the rules are this:
Starting up just to call people skanks - NO.
Referring to a public figure featured in a news article as a "cantakerous obnoxious dishonest new money pig self proclaimed god... skank." - CONTINUE AS USUAL!