Feeds

US feds subpoena names of anonymous web commenters

Should have hired a Moderatrix

Top three mobile application threats

The all-too-typical violent hyperbole found in reader comments across the internet has landed one Las Vegas newspaper in the hot seat with US prosecutors.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal says it has been served with a federal grand jury subpoena seeking information on people who posted supposedly threatening anonymous comments on a story about a tax fraud trial.

According to LVRJ, the subpoena seeks the identities and contact information of those who made certain posts prosecutors believe allude to acts of violence against the jury and others involved with the case.

In late May, the paper reported on the trial of Robert Kahre, a man accused of paying contractors with gold and silver coinage so he could report their lower face value to the IRS for tax purposes. On the paper's website, the story rather characteristically received hundreds of angry comments condemning the IRS, the court system, the US treasury, paper money, public schools, communists — what have you.

But two posts in particular caught the eye of the US Attorney for Nevada;

"The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury who will convict him. They should be hung along with the feds," posted one of the offending commenters.

Another wagered "quatloos" (an alien currency from Star Trek) that one of the federal prosecutors wouldn't live to see his next birthday.

(Both comments have been removed from the website).

The paper originally received a subpoena on June 2 demanding the identities of every commenter on the article. LVRJ editor Thomas Mitchell declared he would fight the request, saying anonymous speech is "a fundamental and historic part of this country."

Before he could launch a protest, however, federal prosecutors decided their original request was overly broad. Instead, they narrowed their request to the two comments.

Mitchell now says he will comply with the subpoena.

"I'd hate to be the guy who refused to tell the feds Timothy McVeigh was buying fertilizer," Mitchell was quoted by the LVRJ, referring to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a downtown federal building.

"We want to be good citizens and do the proper thing," Mitchell continued. "We will give them what we have, which frankly isn't much, since most postings are anonymous."

Meanwhile, The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada believes the narrowed request is still unreasonable.

"We don't think any of the comments we've seen are the appropriate target of government inquiry," ALCU staff attorney Margaret McLethie told the paper. Although the organization admitted it hasn't seen the comment that bets on a prosecutors death, it has moved forward with its own motion to quash the subpoena and offered to represent any of the commenters who want their help. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.