April 13, 2012
Bernstein on "Real Remedies for Virtual Injuries"
Social networking, which offers enhancements to human lives at a low marginal cost, also contributes to dignitary and other nonpecuniary harms. Statements and images presented in electronic media can give rise to defamation, invasion of privacy, trademark infringement, and false advertising claims. Accurate enough as descriptions of harm, these doctrines do not do an adequate job of repair. An injurious communication preserved by electronic means and distributed through social networking is more likely than its spoken or paper-written counterpart to spread (a phenomenon expressed in the metaphoric adjective “viral”), to reach people whose disesteem the victim cares about, and to retain power to inflict more harm after it has been adjudicated as unlawful. Injuries in the virtual realm call for remedies that recognize how information travels through — and lingers inside — electronic media. After summarizing how current remedies for virtual injuries fail to effect repair, this Article proposes a court-annexed alternative dispute resolution scheme.
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