Tag Archives: commenters

Bill Protecting Anonymous Commenters Clears Senate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A measure to block courts from granting subpoenas for identities of anonymous commenters on news websites has passed the Senate.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was unanimously approved 32-0 on Wednesday. The companion bill was also scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Currently, a person who gathers information for publication or broadcast isn’t required by a court, a grand jury, the General Assembly or any administrative body to disclose information or the source of any information “procured for publication or broadcast.”
Kelsey’s proposal adds to the current law. It does not apply, however, in cases in which defamatory comments were made.

Bill Would Protect Identity of Online Commenters

Legislation filed by state Sen. Brian Kelsey would make keeping confidential the identity of those making comments on online news stories a matter of state law.
According to a news release from Kelsey, R-Germantown, the bill (SB106) was inspired by the Shelby County Commission’s efforts to subpoena the identities of all online commenters on the Commercial Appeal stories about moves by Memphis’ suburban cities setting up their own separate school districts. A federal judge rejected the subpoena request.
“This legislation will safeguard the free and open exchange of ideas,” said Kelsey. “Political discourse should be encouraged– not discouraged through fishing expeditions by over-zealous lawyers.”
“News organizations themselves should determine how much identifying information of online commenters to make public.”
The bill’s text says it would apply to “any information related to the identity of a person who participates in online services offered by the news media or press, including, but not limited to, name, phone number, postal address, e-mail address, or IP address.”
That language is added to a portion of state law listing “privileged communications” that cannot be used as evidence in court proceedings in most situations. Other examples include conversations between a husband and wife, private conversations with a member of the clergy, and communications between a psychiatrist and patient.
The bill’s summary on the Legislature’s website says it block demands to news media for such information from “a court, grand jury, general assembly or other administrative body.”

Commenters Steamed Over Shelby Subpoena

Whoever posts at commercialappeal.com under the name “Timeout” is steamed at the Shelby County Commission, and he’s far from alone. So reports the Commercial Appeal:
At 2:33 p.m. Monday, Timeout posted his thoughts on the commission’s controversial 8-5 vote to support a subpoena seeking to force the newspaper to reveal the identities of anonymous commenters on its website.
“What’s next? … Will drones with listening devices be flown around my house? Background investigations for those who have put up pro-muni signs in their yards? Why are some of the commissioners acting as if they are taking direction from Vladimir Putin?”
Timeout’s rant joins nearly 1,200 other posts on the newspaper’s website since the subpoena story first broke Sunday. A majority of those comments are highly critical of the commission’s actions.
The subpoena arose as part of the federal court motion the commission’s attorneys filed in June to block the referendums on separate school districts for Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington. In that motion, attorneys argued that those behind the referendums are trying to discriminate by carving out majority white suburban districts from the new unified school system
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Shelby Commission Subpoena Seeks Identity of Online Commenters

The Shelby County Commission has filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters in The Commercial Appeal’s stories about suburban plans to create their own school districts.
More from Sunday’s CA:
Editor Chris Peck called the request a “fishing expedition” and an unwarranted invasion of readers’ privacy, and the newspaper’s attorney, Lucian Pera, said he will resist on grounds the subpoena infringes on the work of the newspaper and the rights of readers.
County Commission attorney Imad Abdullah said in the subpoena the county wants first and last names, postal addresses and telephone numbers of all account users who posted comments, including comments the newspaper’s digital media staff removed because they were racially charged or otherwise inappropriate.
Abdullah did not specify a reason for the request nor how the information would be used, and he did not return calls or e-mails asking about the county’s motives. But Lori Patterson, a spokeswoman for his law firm, sent an e-mail saying, “At this point, we would prefer not to comment on the purpose of the subpoena.”
The subpoena the attorneys filed this week specifies 45 newspaper stories dating from Nov. 19, 2010, to July 12, 2012. The earliest story was about the Memphis school board’s initial consideration of surrendering its charter, a move that ultimately led to the merger of city and county schools. The latest story was about U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel ‘Hardy’ Mays’ ruling allowing municipalities to hold referendums on whether to set up independent school districts with the caveat that the constitutionality of the referendums will have to be decided later.
On June 26, the County Commission attorneys filed a federal court motion to block the Aug. 2 referendums to start school districts in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington. They argued that the people who arranged the referendums are trying to discriminate against African-Americans by carving out majority white suburban districts from the new unified school district.