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Illinois judge rules shield law does not cover anonymous comments

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
A judge in Illinois has rejected the Alton Telegraph's argument that the identities of anonymous commenters on a newspaper's Web site…

A judge in Illinois has rejected the Alton Telegraph‘s argument that the identities of anonymous commenters on a newspaper’s Web site are protected by the state’s shield law, The Associated Press reports.

In response to the Telegraph‘s motion to quash a subpoena seeking the names, addresses and Internet Protocol addresses of five commenters on a story about a murder investigation, Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli  wrote that the shield law "does not address the applicability of the Act to online bloggers."

According to the AP, the newspaper must name two of the commenters who might be useful in the investigation, but not three commenters who appeared to be merely discussing the story.

The ruling contrasts with decisions in Montana, Oregon and Florida, where judges have held that their state shield laws protect newspapers from having to give up the identities of those who comment anonymously on their stories.