A judge has ordered this newspaper to turn over information about a person who made a potentially libelous comment under an assumed name on the website.
This, of course, will have a chilling effect on free speech. A chilling effect is what we in the free-speech business always warn about. We do not want to chill speech; we want it hot and loose.
This speech, though? This anonymous lobbing of insults?
Chill it. Give it frostbite, even.
It feels traitorous to say so. My training and background and beliefs lead me to certain articles of faith: More speech is always better; protecting the identity of sources is noble; anonymous information is often an important tool for getting at the truth; journalistic organizations must stand against government efforts to usurp newsgathering for their purposes.Shawn Vestal, SR
“But what has emerged in the era of online commenting is, about three-quarters of the time, a sewer of stupidity and insults and shallowness.” I'm sure Shawn's not referring to HucksOnline ;-) But he makes an important point: Freedom of speech has limits.
And I especially like what he says here: “Because there is no speech that is quite so gloriously free as things no one knows you said. Speech that you do not have to own at all. Frail, cowardly insults, tossed out from behind an opaque veil, with the paid legal protection of an actual journalistic organization.”