Protecting Anonymous Commenters: Should News Organizations Look to Shield Laws in Fighting Subpoenas for Posters' Identities?
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.