Share/E-mail This Story

Email This



ACLU Explains Why It's Fighting To Protect Info On Anonymous Vegas Newspaper Commenters

from the you-should-be-able-to-criticize-the-gov't dept

We recently wrote about the fishing expedition US prosecutors went on trying to get all sorts of info (much of which didn't exist) on anonymous commenters on an article by the Las Vegas Journal-Review. The newspaper fought (publicly) the request as being way too broad, leading the feds to back down and greatly narrow the request to just info on four commenters. The newspaper appears to have no issue giving up that information, but the ACLU is still protesting, claiming that one should be able to anonymously criticize the government without having US Prosecutors track you down. Specifically, the ACLU notes that the US Attorneys are really stretching things to call the comments in question "threats" to the US Prosecutor involved in the lawsuit the article was about. It does seem clear that the comments weren't meant seriously. It sounds like people who disagree with the result of the case venting in the same way people vent on pretty much any forum online. That said, I would agree with the ACLU if the newspaper were being compelled to hand over the info. But if it voluntarily is handing over the info after being asked, then I'm not sure it's an issue for the ACLU to get involved in, because the decision is the newspaper's to make.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    "But if it voluntarily is handing over the info after being asked, then I'm not sure it's an issue for the ACLU to get involved in, because the decision is the newspaper's to make."

    Perhaps the newspaper feels threatened by the government and that's why it's handing over the info? Not to mention if the newspaper agrees to terms that it will not hand over info to the third parties unless required by law then it must honor that (in which case the ACLU may correctly intervene). Users should be made aware that their info will be handed over to those who ask before they start posting. Isn't this a privacy issue? Some marketing agency can't simply ask for my info and have you hand it over without raising some legal privacy issues. Why should the government be any different. If an entity has no legal authority to compel another entity to hand over information then handing it over should raise privacy issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Re:

    It's like allowing anyone on the Internet, like someone I purchase goods from, to hand over my all my info (or to sell it) to anyone they feel like (ie: marketers). If there is no statutory obligation to do so then why should they be allowed to do so? Unless they tell me ahead of time, if you purchase a product from us you agree that we can hand over your information (or sell it) to anyone we wish. They have to make that clear. The government is a third party subject to these laws just like any other third party (including telemarketers and others) unless there is a statute that compels entities to hand over info to the government upon government request.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    Think of it this way, I now subscribe to Internet service, can my ISP arbitrarily hand over (or sell) my info to other ISP's or to cable providers or to corporations that sell televisions or to marketers or to anyone who wants it? Why should the government be any different in this regard?

    "But if it voluntarily is handing over the info after being asked, then I'm not sure it's an issue for the ACLU to get involved in, because the decision is the newspaper's to make."

    I'm not saying you're wrong but I think you are greatly oversimplifying the issue. Many privacy concerns are involved here, corporations can't just arbitrarily hand over all information on their customers to anyone they feel like. Why should the government be any different if no laws compel the corporation to do so?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Christopher Smith, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    The ACLU's issue

    If the newspaper is doing something the ACLU disagrees with (especially if it's likely that there's behind-the-scenes pressure applied), then the ACLU also has the right to criticize the newspaper...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    Re: The ACLU's issue

    "especially if it's likely that there's behind-the-scenes pressure applied"

    and this is another point I was trying to make which further complicates things. We may not know what's going on behind the scenes and I think Mike is greatly oversimplifying a very complicated issue here (for several reasons).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    At the end of the day, if you have the balls to bitch about the government, you need to have the balls to sign your name.

    I don't bitch about the government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re:

    Free expression could come with consequences if someone doesn't like what's being expressed. If we live in an oppressive society, with an oppressive government, people should have the freedom to communicate that oppression without consequences. Removing anonymity might very well suppress a lot of very important information from the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:14pm

    Re:

    "if you have the balls to bitch about the government, you need to have the balls to sign your name."

    I think the benefits to society of allowing anonymity far outweigh your unsubstantiated conviction that all speech should not be anonymous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:15pm

    Re:

    "At the end of the day, if you have the balls to bitch about the government, you need to have the balls to sign your name.

    I don't bitch about the government."
    Wow.

    So that's what [y]our rights have come down to? Unless we wish to risk our lives, we should talk about the government?

    Things sure have changed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Re:

    The problem is it is easy to hide an an anonymous and lob verbal bombs (many of us do it here). But every so often there is a real whackjob who isn't just lobbing verbal bombs, but in fact planning something.

    There has to be some sort of happy medium where the cranks can get called out before we have a collection of dead bodies or something similar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:42pm

    screw the government it only well worked in theory like flying cars, and dictatorship
    ACLU can reach me at crazymonkyyy@gmail.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The problem with your happy medium theory is that it relies on trusting the ISPs not to hand out private information on individuals at the drop of a hat and the government not to overextend its authority (especially for the wrong reasons). And as we can see from stories like this, neither ISPs nor the government can be trusted in this regard. The price of free speech ranges from dealing with the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory to empty "I'm gonna kill you" type threats.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "But every so often there is a real whackjob who isn't just lobbing verbal bombs, but in fact planning something."

    We are not referring to someone who is "planning something", or making threats, we are referring to people who are criticizing the government or some organization. It's ridiculous to think that just because someone criticizes the government they must be "planning something" and therefore deserve no anonymity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 7:47pm

    This may be the only case the ACLU has ever taken up that actually had something to do with there supposed purpose to exist. Normally they are just a bunch of progressives who act like terrorists using the laws of this once great nation against itself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 8:30pm

    "At the end of the day, if you have the balls to bitch about the government, you need to have the balls to sign your name.

    I don't bitch about the government."

    This has to be one of the most asinine comments I've ever seen posted.

    In a perfect world I could express my opinions and not worry about government stooges sitting outside my house recording my phone calls and monitoring my internet usage but sadly that isn't the case. Even when someone does post a valid anonymous criticism of a government official (see stupid sheriff in Florida who had her gun stolen) they abuse the system to try to squash any negative opinion and try as hard as possible to identify said poster...even going as far as saying just because it's true doesn't make a good defense against getting sued for libel.

    If I have a valid criticism of a police officer do you think it's ok to have a whole battalion of police officers out gunning for me because I exposed a serious flaw or corruption within their ranks?

    When you bash me for using my first amendment rights you bash our country. This is in integral right that our founding fathers fought for. Should Mike make your IP address and any other pertinent information publicly available because of that?

    Didn't think so....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 28th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Asinine comments

    Try this one on for asinine:

    "If you don't vote, you can't bitch."

    Really? I don't vote and I will continue to bitch nearly incessantly. Why? Because I pay taxes.

    And as for these people who advocate killing/bombing politicians to alter the country's course: give me a break. If anyone really thought that would work, it would have been done already.

    What would happen is this: AC#1 kills Pol #1. AC is branded "nutcase." Pol #1 is declared "instant martyr." The media will exult the "bravery" of Pol #1, who has spent his entire taxpayer-subsidized career selling out his constituents, earmarking billions for himself, whoring himself to any special-interest group that'll give him a second look and resorting to chickenshit bipartisan infighting at the slightest provocation.

    And it's not as if taking one politician out really changes the equation. As long as law schools continue to crank out graduates, there will always be a steady supply of jackasses with just enough knowledge to rip their constituents a new loophole while building a paper-thin legal facade to deflect attention.

    Those demanding this info aren't really afraid of a threat to national security or anyone's well-being. They're just used to being able to throw their weight around with impunity. I'm sure they hoped to have the info in hand before anyone could object.

    They're behaving like every cliched corrupt cop in every cliched movie involving corrupt cops. Do this, do that. Yer not from around here. Yer taillight's out. You got the right to stfu. Etc.

    "Because I said so," only works with those under the age of 8. Possibly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re:

    "So that's what [y]our rights have come down to? Unless we wish to risk our lives, we should talk about the government?

    Things sure have changed."

    Welcome, my friend, to the Fourth Reich.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    The Fourth Reich, aptly put.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This