Should news organizations look to shield laws in fighting subpoenas for posters' identities?
This is a condensed version of a white paper on available means of protecting the identities of anonymous commenters on news web sites, which will be published in the near future.
By opening their web pages to anonymous online commentary, news organizations have opened themselves to subpoenas seeking the commenters’ identities. Sometimes the subpoena is sought so the commenter, once identified, can then be sued for defamation. Sometimes a prosecutor or a defendant in a criminal trial would like to call the commenter as a witness, based on posts that suggest the commenter has relevant information of the crime. Sometimes prosecutors or defendants simply want to keep the commenters off the jury, based on their comments online.
Whatever the reason, news organizations have an interest in protecting the anonymous speech of those who post to their websites.