Indiana Judge Forces Newspapers to Rat Out Anonymous Posters

Paul Lilly

Be careful of what you post online, those comments could come back and bite you in the backside, even if you post anonymously. Marion County's Superior Court Judge S.K. Reid set what could become a precedent by being the first Indiana judge to rule on whether or not media outlets are forced to disclose names and/or other personal information of anonymous posters on their websites. The ruling won't please privacy advocates.

A little background information is in order. Jeffrey Miller, a former chief executive of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, took exception to comments made about him on websites run by The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Business Journal, and WRTV Channel 6. This prompted him to file a defamation lawsuit, in which all three sites were served subpoenas to turn over identifying information about posters to their sites, reports. The three sites fought the subpoenas, but the judged ultimately ruled that each one had to fork over identifying information.

"We are seeing more and more defamation lawsuits being filed, that's clear," said David Hudson, a First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn. "If this happens, then people will be less likely to comment" on public issues, he warned.

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