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Internet Anonymity Being Challenged in Court

Via Network World:

"Be careful the next time you engage in an Internet flame war: it could land you in court.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is taking up a case this week that could have major implications for Internet users' ability to anonymously post their opinions on the Web. The case revolves around Zebulon Brodie, a Maryland businessman who is alleging that he has been defamed by anonymous Internet users who posted messages on a Web site owned by Independent Newspapers, a community newspaper company that owns local papers in Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Maryland.

Specifically, Brodie wants Independent Newspapers to disclose the names of three anonymous users whom he alleges defamed him by calling him a polluter.

According to a report in the Maryland Daily Record, an attorney representing Independent Newspapers argued in court Monday that the First Amendment grants citizens the right to make anonymous controversial comments and that compelling hosts to disclose the identities of anonymous posters would have "a chilling effect" on free speech."

This case is worth watching for a number of reasons. Specifically for bloggers but especially for commenters who use anonymous names to post comments that sometimes border defamation and slander. Bloggers have to be especially careful because no matter what they are responsible for the content of what's on their blog.

It's one of the reasons I have such a strict moderation policy and occasionally have to delete a comment.


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