Beware Anonymous Commenters

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Last October, a story about Boise City Council candidate TJ Thomson broke in BW's comments section when an anonymous online commenter made assertions about Thomson's past. Controversy stirred not only around the comments, which proved to be true, but also about the degree to which news outlets should police (or not) online comment sections.

It's an issue the industry has been learning to deal with nationwide, and an Illinois court recently made a ruling that could change the game.

The Huffington Post reported:

A downstate Illinois newspaper must reveal the identity of an anonymous online commenter, according to a new appellate court ruling that could have wide-ranging implications for Internet privacy.

The anonymous commenter libeled a couple in the online comments section of a story that appeared about them on a news website. With the commenter's identity revealed, the couple intends to file a defamation suit.

The lesson? Watch what you say online, folks. You might eventually have to own up to those words and defend them in court.

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