Writing on a ‘Clean Slate’
The judge in Joan Orie Melvi did more than reject assertions that she was writing upon a "clean slate" when she ruled on an online publisher's contention that she had a legal right to remain anonymous. Justice Antonin Scalia, in writing for the Court, recognized that online communication allows for images to be copied many times, nearly instantaneously. Importantly, judicial recognitions of the potentially democratizing value networked communication tools hold for discourse among citizens consistently existed alongside concerns that these emerging technologies have the potential to harm or limit understanding in democratic society. Indeed, in J.O. v. Township of Bedminster, the court framed the case as revolving around an individual's abuse of the democratizing nature of online communication. In rejecting the publisher's claims that the police seizure of his computers broke the state statute, the court devoted substantial attention to how online communication functions.