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Huckleberries Online

Vestal: Why Defend Right To Insult?

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. 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/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.

Question: Do you agree with SR columnist Shawn Vestal that Internet speech should be chilled, in light of Judge John Luster's ruling last week that the SR must reveal source of questionable comment?


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About this blog

D.F. Oliveria is a columnist and blogger for The Spokesman-Review. Print Huckleberries is a past winner of the Herb Caen Memorial Column contest by the National Association of Newspaper Columnists. The Readership Institute of Northwestern University cited this blog as a good example of online community journalism.

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