Tag Archives: identify

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.”

Bill Would Publicize Abortion Data

State lawmakers are debating a measure that would require the Department of Health to publish more details about abortions, reports The Tennessean.
Supporters say the bill, scheduled to come up Wednesday in a state House committee, only requires state health officials to post information online that they already collect. But critics say the measure is intended to intimidate women and doctors involved in abortions, even in emergency situations.
“I think publicizing this information will do nothing but cause serious consequences,” said state Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville. “This is dangerous. This is a dangerous piece of legislation.”
Known as the Life Defense Act of 2012, or House Bill 3808, the measure gives Tennessee lawmakers a rare opportunity to tighten regulations on abortion, which the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in 2000 is a right protected by the state constitution.
That ruling has kept Tennessee lawmakers from considering controversial proposals floated elsewhere in the nation, such as a new law in Virginia going into effect July 1 that will require women to receive an ultrasound before abortions. Similar measures have passed in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Texas, although court challenges to them are pending.
The Life Defense Act contains two parts. The first would require doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital near where they perform abortions, while the second would require the Department of Health to release more information on abortions, including the name of the doctor who performed the procedure and demographics about the women who receive them.
The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said at an initial hearing on the bill earlier this month that the reporting requirement writes into law a form that the Department of Health already asks providers to fill out whenever they perform an abortion.
“The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it,” he said. “All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.”
Hill said the bill was suggested by Tennessee Right to Life, an anti-abortion group. Brian Harris, the group’s president, said the bill would give people better information about abortion in Tennessee.
“I think it’s fair for folks on both sides to see how prevalent abortion is in our counties and in our communities,” he said.
The Tennessee Medical Association and Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, have expressed several concerns about the bill.
They say the reports required by the measure could be used to identify women who have abortions.
The bill would require the publication of data — including the age, race, education and number of children — of women who receive abortions. The Department of Health reports such information, but it aggregates the data by region, making it impossible for others to figure out who underwent an abortion procedure.