Monday, May 18, 2009

A Harbinger of the End of the Online Commenting Free-for-All?

According to an article that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Saturday, a judge told a local paper in Alton, Ill., that they must disclose the identities of two anonymous online commentors (a new word?) who posted their thoughts on the beating death of a 5 year old. The judge found that the two posted information that might help the murder investigation.

The Alton Telegraph tried to quash the subpoenas for the commentors' identities by asserting Illinois' journalism shield law, which protects anonymous sources, but the judge axed that attempt.

This reaffirms an adage that most journalists (and probably all lawyers) should know, and likely know already: When it comes to electronic communications, you are never anonymous, and there is no privacy.

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