Should Online Newspaper's Comments Be Protected By Journalism Shield Laws?

from the are-they-sources? dept

Having just discussed whether or not journalism shield laws should apply to random bloggers, it's worth noting an interesting case going on in Indiana, where the key question is whether or not such a law applies to comments on a newspaper website. The paper, the Indianapolis Star, is arguing that Indiana's shield law protects anonymous commenters in the same way that it protects sources. After all, anonymous commenters can be sources. Of course, it may come down to the specific language in Indiana's shield law. A more interesting question is should such laws protect anonymous commenters? I'd argue that the First Amendment should, generally speaking, protect most anonymity, so I'm not sure a specific shield law provides much more that's useful beyond that. However, if you were definitely applying such shield laws to comments, perhaps it should just be limited to cases or individuals who actually are acting as sources (i.e., providing news) in the comments.

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  • identicon
    Difster, 14 Dec 2011 @ 11:21pm

    Equal Treatment

    Shield laws should either A) Protect everyone who does any sort of reporting at all or B) Be eliminated.

    Just because someone works for a "recognized news source" should not give someone any extra protection under the law than some random blogger conveying information across the inter tubes.

    No one should ever be compelled by law to give up a source of information. Either facts matter or they don't.

    The law needs to catch up with technology and it needs to favor liberty.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2011 @ 11:50pm

    Laws that discriminate and try to carve out niches should have a very, very, very good reason to be, otherwise I don't see why anyone reporting anything should not be protected, is free speech now only for journalists?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2011 @ 12:01am

    So many stupid laws.

    Congress will allow the military to wage cyberwar, now it is not just imagination it will become real.
    www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/12/internet-war-2/

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

    • icon
      A Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2011 @ 12:42am

      Re:

      It wasn't "imagination" before. Foreign powers already use the internet as a tool to attack US interests. I am sure some in the US do the same. This is just codifying what is already happening.

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

  • icon
    mike allen (profile), 15 Dec 2011 @ 12:05am

    Just this week our local paper has stopped reader comments on their wed site just for this reason free speech may not exist in the UK.

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

  • icon
    Nigel Lew (profile), 15 Dec 2011 @ 12:19am

    "perhaps it should just be limited to cases or individuals who actually are acting as sources (i.e., providing news) in the comments"


    Ehh, I agree with most things on this site but who gets appointed to suss that bit out?

    :)

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

  • icon
    A Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2011 @ 12:52am

    Who Defines News

    News is in the eye of the beholder. Any comment, any analysis, any opinion could be news to someone.

    We should have strong privacy laws that allow electronic publications and users to define what privacy protections exist and how data may be shared in most circumstances.

    Unfortunately, until we repeal the abortion of liberty that is the patriot act, it will remain a pipe dream.

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

  • icon
    average_joe (profile), 15 Dec 2011 @ 6:18am

    Thin "reporting" as usual, Mike.

    The paper, the Indianapolis Star, is arguing that Indiana's shield law protects anonymous commenters in the same way that it protects sources. After all, anonymous commenters can be sources. Of course, it may come down to the specific language in Indiana's shield law.

    You think? Of course the specific language of the shield law is determinative of the law's scope. That's obvious. Duh. Too bad you aren't adding any actual analysis (that's apparently too much to ask).

    If you want to see what they are actually arguing, you can read their actual arguments: https://www.eff.org/files/miller_appellant_brief.pdf

    Your EFF friends filed an amicus brief (I can't believe you didn't link/embed it!): https://www.eff.org/files/miller_amicus.pdf

    I tried to find the appellee's brief (unlike you, I like to hear both sides of the argument), but I didn't have any luck.

    A more interesting question is should such laws protect anonymous commenters? I'd argue that the First Amendment should, generally speaking, protect most anonymity, so I'm not sure a specific shield law provides much more that's useful beyond that. However, if you were definitely applying such shield laws to comments, perhaps it should just be limited to cases or individuals who actually are acting as sources (i.e., providing news) in the comments.

    So your argument is that shield laws shouldn't cover every single comment. Well, duh. That point hardly seems worth mentioning since it's so obvious.

    I appreciate you posting the "story" because I was unaware of this case (I'm enjoying the briefs with my morning coffee), but it's a shame you yourself don't try a little real journalism. It's no wonder you have 40,000+ blog posts if this is the amount of effort you put into a post.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 15 Dec 2011 @ 8:18am

    I agree with the judge on this one. The exception I think should be for comments made by the "journalist".
    As a semi-anonymous commenter, I expect that my comments are protected speech and a court order be required to release my IP address. I don't expect that shield laws extend to my comments. If I was looking for that I would send my comments directly to Mike and hope he quoted me. (Good luck, I know)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2011 @ 11:56am

    Shield laws, to the extent they exist for journalists (and there is no uniformity among the states...some provide a privilege and some do not), are in large measure predicated on the importance of preserving the confidentiality of anonymous sources of information used by the journallist in the conduct of his/her activities.

    I daresay many anonymous posts do not lie within the historical basis for why such laws were enacted in the first instance.

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


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