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Skiers Cyberbrawl

Fall Line

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A bitter online feud among people who use an Internet ski chat group has raised questions about First Amendment rights in cyberspace. Early this season, a judge banned a Seattle man from an Internet skiing forum after a dispute over free lift tickets snowballed into an ugly online “flame war,” with threats, insults and accusations being e-mailed between the combatants. The imbroglio began during a trip to Whistler, B.C., organized by the cyber ski group. When a dispute arose about the distribution of lift tickets by Scott Abraham of Seattle, the quarrel continued online after the travelers returned home. In response to a complaint, a King County judge barred Abraham from posting any comments on the site. Legal experts say barring someone from posting comments to an electronic forum may be unprecedented, and raises free-speech issues. Robert Cumbow, a Seattle attorney who specializes in Internet law, is surprised by the cyberbrawl. “I have known cases of religious talk groups and cults and anti-cult talk where emotions have run very high,” Cumbow told The Seattle Times. “But in the context of skiing, it’s amazing that things got to this extent.”