Bloggers and the Law--Attack on Room 8
Anonymity on the Internet
Recently, criminal prosecutors in the Bronx, New York, sent a grand jury subpoena to "Room 8" a political website apparently in an effort to get the names of individuals who posted certain comments on the Room 8 site. And earlier this year, a federal judge in San Francisco reversed an order disabling a Web site that allowed anonymous posting of documents, after weighing concerns about the lower court order's effect on free speech. He found that free speech concerns outweighed any harm resulting from the comments or material posted on the Web site.
These issues arise both in the context of civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions. "In the criminal context it's trickeier because it's the government asking for stuff, and I think it's going to be harder to fashion a rule especially when the government is not exactly willing to part with the reasons," for requesting the information in the first place, said Jonathan Sittrain, a Harvard law professor.
Without knowing the motives of prosecutors, he continued, judges may be hardpressed to balance their needs against the importance of free speech.
Bloggers concerned about possible litigation may want to check the privacy policies of their internet service providers, to see whether they include a pledge to notify any user whose site is the subject of a subpoena, professor Zittrain said.
A New York Times 7-15-08 article by Jonathan D. Glater on which the above was based is linked below.
At the Intersection of Bloggers and the Law Jonathan D. Glater in the NYTimes 7-15-08
- Intersection of Bloggers and the Law
Serious issues are arising in civil and criminal court cases involving the preservation of the anonymity of individuals who post comments or information on the Web.
Room 8 NY website
- Room 8 Website
Room 8 NY is a website that provides information and commentary on controversial political issues in the city and state. Recently a criminal prosecutor attempted to subpoena the names of individuals who posted anonymous comments on the site.