Background: Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas are seeking the identity of two anonymous commenters on a Las Vegas Review-Journal article about the tax evasion trial of local business owner Robert Kahre.
The prosecutors’ initial request was for the names, IP addresses, email addresses and other personal details of more than 100 commenters on the article.
The paper has agreed to hand over the information in response to the ‘whittled down’ request, but civil liberty groups argue that the prosecutors’ action could ‘chill political dissent’.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that no right-thinking person would read the two comments in question and see them as a threat, ‘particularly considering the context, where hyperbolic political speech is to be expected’.
“They are definitely not unequivocal and unconditional direct threats against anyone. At most, they are exaggerated expressions of the authors’ objections to the case, and are fully protected by the First Amendment,” said EFF attorney Kevin Bankston.
Context, subjectivity, freedom of speech – an interesting case in community management and reader interaction.