(Picture by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr)
Anyone who has read blogs and websites for a while has run across the ‘hit and run’ totally angry troll commenter who doesn’t really respond to the post at all but wants to hurt and insult the writer or some of the previous commenters. Sometimes those comments could have been taken as actual threats if they were given in person. But the anonymity of the Internet leads to a given amount of hyperbole that most are able to discount and dismiss.
However in a recent case, the Federal Department of Justice was not nearly as forgiving. In fact the Feds are seeking the real identities of some commenters and forcing a website to turn over all of their user and commenter records. The government officials considered some heated comments made in jest to be actual threats against a federal judge. From Motherboard:
The Department of Justice has ordered libertarian website Reason.com to turn over the information of six commenters after they made threats against the federal judge who presided over the Silk Road trial.
Ken White of the blog Popehat obtained the grand jury subpoena issued by the Department of Justice last week, which demands "any and all identifying information” the website has pertaining to the threatening commenters. This includes email addresses, telephone numbers, IP addresses, and billing information associated with the accounts.
So there you have it. Threatening sounding comments can not only get the commenters in legal trouble but even the blog or website they are allowed to appear in. This is another reason that every site needs to have an official ‘Comment Policy’ and closely regulate everything that is posted. Read my following post on this issue:
Also read my following articles on commenting and responding to comments:
Some Thoughts on Blogging Etiquette (comment section)