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.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 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?

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