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Judge orders Indiana newspapers to ID online commenters

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Bob Cook, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member


    A judge said that Indiana's shield law does not protect commenters on online news sites, so The Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis Business Journal must turn over any identifying information to the attorney of the former chief executive of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana. This story doesn't mention it, but apparently when the guy left, there were questions about financial improprieties, and online commenters went to town on him.

    The IBJ has already turned over info. The Indianapolis Star is still fighting it. WRTV Channel 6 will learn later this week whether it will have to turn over info as well.

    What happens is, the attorney can use the IP address and email provider so it can issue subpoenas to the Internet provider to get the commenters' actual name. This came into prominence during the late 90s/early 00s, when corporations and CEOs issued so-called SLAPP suits to get information on people saying bad things about their companies, and their stocks. Generally, Internet providers don't fight these cases, and gladly hand over the identifying information.

    What do you think? Should newspapers be forced to hand over identifying information on commenters?
  2. Knee-jerk:
    On-line commenters? Yes.
    Most websites that allow comments outline in the user agreement that there is no expectation of privacy.
    Commenters aren't sources. Their anonymous opinions from who knows who.
  3. This could be avoided if newspapers required people to post under their real name. We don't run anonymous letters to the editor. So why online?
  4. Because people would stop coming back 12 times a day if they couldn't comment anonymously and smarmily.
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