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Free speech cum libel suit

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A suburban Illinois politician will be told the name of a man who allegedly made disparaging remarks about her teenaged son on a newspaper website's comment section, a local judge has ruled.

During a bitterly contested election in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, an online flamewar erupted on the website of the local rag, the Daily Herald, about a candidate for Village Trustee, Lisa Stone.

In the user comments section, Stone's 15-year-old son became upset over posts by a person using the screen name Hipcheck16 and entered into a back-and-forth argument, the Chicago Tribune reports.

During the course of the row, Hipcheck16 allegedly made "deeply disturbing," comments towards Stone's son. The paper says that at one point, Stone's son challenged to him to debate the issues in person - in which Hipcheck16 responded "Seems like you're very willing to invite a man you only know from the Internet over to your house - have you done it before, or do they usually invite you to their house?"

Stone said the comment crosses the line, and petitioned to Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Lawrence by way of a pre-suit subpoena that the Daily Herald should reveal the identity of Hipcheck16. She claims the comment was directed to a minor and was defamatory.

The newspaper was only able to supply the reader's IP address, leading mama Stone to include Comcast in the filing.

In a six-page written ruling, Judge Lawrence said the poster's name and address can be turned over to Stone, her attorneys and staff, and law enforcement so she can take legal action.

Her attorney tells the Tribune that First Amendment free speech protections are only designed to protect anonymous political debate, but not what he defines as sexual insinuations about children.

The attorney who is representing Hipcheck16, known in court documents as "John Doe," said his client has not decided whether to appeal, arguing the comments were innocent and are being "mischaracterized" by Stone.

The article's comment thread still exists, although the relevant posts at the end have been removed for violating the newspaper website's terms of service. ®

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