Online Commenters Who Targeted CEO Must Be Identified, Judge Rules
Posted Mar 3, 2011 6:49 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
An Indianapolis judge has ruled the state’s shield law does not bar the release of identifying information about online commenters in a defamation lawsuit.
The ruling by Judge S.K. Reid of Marion Superior Court requires the Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis Business Journal to release information about anonymous posters, the Indianapolis Star reports. The judge was set to decide this week whether a third outlet, WRTV, must release the information.
The defamation suit filed by Jeffrey Miller, former chief executive of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, targets online statements that allege, among other things, that he “most likely” committed a criminal act and is “the most greedy man I’ve ever known,” the Indianapolis Star reports in a separate story.
The Star quotes David Hudson, an ABA Journal freelance writer and a scholar with the First Amendment Center in Nashville. He said the public should be concerned if fear of lawsuits inhibits anonymous online comments on public issues.
But Miller’s lawyer, Kevin Betz, doesn’t see a problem. “I don't think the media should be interested … in protecting the identities of cyberbullies,” he told the newspaper.