Dan Kennedy through his Media Nation blog has called to my attention a really interesting situation taking place in Cohasset right now that should strike a chord — and maybe renew a conversation? — with some of our Village 14 bloggers. According to the Cohasset Mariner, town officials in Cohasset are trying to uncover the identities of commenters to the paper’s Wicked Local website. Allegedly, some anonymous commenters have made some nasty claims about town officials, and selectmen want to know if town computers were used in the process. So, they’re seeking IP addresses, and they’ve subpoenaed the Cohasset Mariner for that information. According to this story, they’re pulling together a subpoena for the Patriot Ledger too. (The Cohasset Mariner and Patriot Ledger are both GateHouse Media papers, as is the Newton TAB.) There’s a libel suit in progress as well.
Personally I’ve never been a big fan of anonymous posting, but I really don’t like that a government body can force a news business to give them information on a commenter’s identity. Especially when they’re going to use that information against the commenter.