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The Courts Government Privacy United States News Politics

NJ Blogger Fights for Anonymous Free Speech 406

Ponca City, We Love You writes "A New Jersey blogger is fighting for his right to blog anonymously and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a Superior Court judge in New Jersey to preserve the blogger's free speech rights as he faces legal threats from local government officials. On June 13, 2007, the New Jersey Township of Manalapan filed a malpractice suit against its former attorney Stuart Moskovitz, alleging misconduct regarding the Township's purchase of polluted land in 2005. The decision to file suit was met by a lively debate in the regional press and among local bloggers. One blogger who was particularly critical of the Township was datruthsquad. Attorneys for the Township issued a subpoena to Google demanding that the identity of this anonymous critic be turned over, along with datruthsquad's contact information, blog drafts, e-mails, and 'any and all information related to the blog.' Despite repeated requests from EFF to explain how this could be anything other than an attempt to out a vocal critic, attorneys for the Township have refused to withdraw the subpoena and informed EFF that it can go to court to object to the subpoena. In a motion to quash the subpoena, EFF has asked the court to block the township [PDF] in its attempt to uncover the identity of 'daTruthSquad' and allow the blogger to continue to write about this or any other issue without being forced to identity him or herself."
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NJ Blogger Fights for Anonymous Free Speech

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:21PM (#21563729)
    But if you are slanderous or libelous, you should be held accountable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ZWithaPGGB ( 608529 )
      Public officials should not be protected in this way. They protect themselves with "Parliamentary Privilege", so they should not have protection from others.

      In New Jersey, being identified as the person who outed corrupt officials could be lethal (mob).
      • by djasbestos ( 1035410 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:56PM (#21564089)
        Indeed...I don't think it should be considered a tort if Lewis Black calls George Bush an asshole.

        And datruthsquad doesn't seem at all libelous or slanderous (from what I read on his blog), so it sounds like a vindictive city council. Which, needless to say, is bullshit.
        • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:58PM (#21564889)

          Indeed...I don't think it should be considered a tort if Lewis Black calls George Bush an asshole.

          According to the Supreme Court decision in Falwell v. Flynt, that wouldn't be susceptible to libel because no one would interpret that literally to mean that George Bush is actually a sphincter. However, if you say that George Bush has embezzled a billion dollars, that would be libel if it's not true.

          That's not to weigh in on this case, but there's some delineation between obvious insults and actual slander.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2007 @06:11PM (#21565059)

            no one would interpret that literally to mean that George Bush is actually a sphincter.

            I'm not so sure. I think I could be persuaded to interpret that literally.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by beckerist ( 985855 )
            To sum your post up concisely: the difference is the objectivity of the statement. You can't be charged/arrested for having an opinion. You CAN be charged/arrested for an untrue objective statement.
    • by Beavertank ( 1178717 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:30PM (#21563801)
      Ok, but before you get to dig through all of my personal information and destroy my anonymity you have to prove libel occurred.

      Were the things I said injurious to the character and reputation of a person/organization? Were the things I said untrue?

      If the answer to either of those is no you can take your accountability and go straight to hell.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by abigsmurf ( 919188 )
        If you don't turn up to court to defend your writing against libel, if wouldn't be terribly difficult for a court to find most things injurious to the character and reputation of a person/organization. The paradox is that without a defence, you're not likely to be cleared but to mount a defence you have to give up anonymity. Hence why these things can't really have initial hearings. Only chance is if a judge thinks there's no case to answer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by module0000 ( 882745 )
          Do you have to be present in the courtroom yourself, or can your attorney represent you without your actual presence being required in this type of suit?
          Would a judge not see through their attempt to forcibly his/her anonymity by getting him to show up in court?
          • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:50PM (#21564781) Homepage
            IAAL. But if anyone takes this as legal advice you're on crack.

            The issue here is the subpoena is aimed at Google, not the anonymous person. I know in the federal courts a party can't object to a subpoena issued to a third party, unless the former has some sort of private right in the information/documents sought. In this case it might be, I don't know what any contract or license says regarding google's privacy policy. But in most places it would be up to Google to object to the subpoena, not the individual.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              It would seem to me that to the extent that the township has any right to this information (the township claims to believe that the blogger is the defendant, in which case it is possible that there are comments on the blog that will have bearing on the defendant's testimony), there are two possible reasonable answers. First, and preferable, Google is compelled to answer whether the blogger is indeed the defendant. If the answer is no, end of story. Second, and only acceptable if there is reason to believe t
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        destroy my anonymity you have to prove libel occurred.


        You have to prove more than just libel...
        you have to prove that there was no malice in the intention, that you were not presenting an opinion (that you were presenting your statements as pure facts), and that the statements were false.
        • by Uart ( 29577 )
          I AM a Law Student...

          Generally how it works is that for a case to proceed you must prove that you have a cause of action. Which means that you need to show BRIEFLY that the case isn't frivolous. Once you get beyond those initial pleading phases, however, the defendant needs to be actually involved in the case.

          I don't see how that CAN be done anonymously.

          I suppose you COULD sue "John Doe," but that seems a little silly.
        • you have to prove that there was no malice in the intention

          Ooops, I meant

          you have to prove that there was malice in the intention

          I am still not a lawyer. Probably a good thing....
        • by brjndr ( 313083 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:36PM (#21564599)
          IAAL, but not in New Jersey. This is a general synopsis, not specific to any state. Check with a lawyer to determine your own situation. Usually....

          The truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

          You have the other part wrong. The burden is on the plaintiff to show that there was malice, not on the defendant to show there wasn't. And that is only if the person defamed is a public figure. A city counsel person should be a public figure. Normal people who are defamed usually don't have to show malice.
      • Just a practical consideration...

        If legal proceedings are being brought because of slanderous/libellous things being written in an anonymous blog, then some work is required to ascertain the identity of that person. To reduce this work, it is logical to remove the right to anonymity. The problem is that, if writing anonymously is breaking the law, then you have to put that same work in to ascertain the identity of the writer.

        Uh, I'm not explaining this very well... but by removing the right to anonymi

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mdielmann ( 514750 )
          Writing anonymously isn't against the law. So the question is, is the blogger straying from facts, or portraying opinions as facts? If he isn't doing those in his blog, then whatever he's doing out of his blog has little or no bearing. After all, if they knew who he was, they wouldn't be asking these questions.
          Besides, if the RIAA has taught me one thing, it's that cases can be brought against John/Jane Does where it can be decided that there is enough merit to do so, and then the name can be subpoenaed.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:56PM (#21564101)

      But if you are slanderous or libelous, you should be held accountable.
      I agree.
      The closest analog here I think is the issue of anonymous Pamphleteering. As I recall the common law is that you can do so anonymously. But there's also no right to that anonymity. That is, the Government or whom ever is not prevented from piercing your anonymity if they can.

      Additionally there's the common law of prior restraint. With few exceptions, the government cannot act to prevent you from saying something that would be illegal or uncivil for you to say.

      Thus the desire to prevent you from speaking something can't be ground for the government to require non-anonymous speech.

      On the other hand the soapboxes we use to connect to the web are all owned by entitites. Those entitities can set up their own rules and policies. And one of those could be non anaoymous free speech.

      I suppose other countries--not the USA-- may have different rules. Things may be different in china and stockholm.

      • by Amouth ( 879122 )
        that is a very good way to look at it.

        somethign that has always bothered me about blogs and people not liking what is said on them and the blogers calling it free speach is this..

        if i use my right to free speach - then i am talking.. i am standing next to you and talking.. you can choose not to listen to me but you will still hear it because i spoke it.

        but if i write something and you read it.. that is diffrent.. the blog is out there for everyone to read.. it is like leaving a book on a park bench.. you ch
        • And even if you hear me, you can ignore it. The only time free speech is a problem is if it interferes with someone else's right to free speech. You don't have a right to not be offended or not hear things you don't like. You have a right to make your viewpoint known, and that's it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Maljin Jolt ( 746064 )
      But if you are slanderous or libelous, you should be held accountable.

      Thank you for accountable informative comment, dear Anonymous Coward!
    • The bar for slander and libel is much higher when the person being slandered is a celebrity (not necessarily in the Brangelina sense, but a celebrity within the community where the slander occurred). It's much harder for a person of note to show damage from an anonymous commenter on the Internet than it is for a normal person, who might only be known to others via the slander.

      If you look at the court's treatment of slander and libel, at least in the U.S., the tend to err on the side of the speaker except in
    • It's extremely difficult for me to take anonymous libel & slander seriously, simply because it is anonymous. We all know that there are just too many people out there with time on their hands & nothing on their minds... or perhaps an agenda. Because of this, I don't usually think any less of an anonymously libeled or slandered party; ergo, no harm is being done to their reputation; ergo, no punishment is warranted.

      Also, from a writer's point of view (whose purpose is to persuade his audience), rath

    • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:49PM (#21564769)
      But if you are slanderous or libelous, you should be held accountable.

      The problem if you get rid of the ability of slandering while anonymous you also remove the ability to tell the truth while being anonymous.

      Throughout western history the ability to publish works anonymous has brought about great social changes during great repression by central authority. Eramus [] was often thought to have written works criticizing the Pope for his militant ways during a time when such texts would result in torture and/or burning at the stake.

      Many of the Founding Fathers wrote works with pseudonyms in order to escape persecution from British authorities. In Eastern Europe during Soviet Occupation, anonymous pamphlets, shortwave radio broadcasts, and later fax machines were the only way to speak out against the repression.

      Libel and slander are a bad thing, but they are small price to pay for having anonymity that lets you speak the truth when things are really that bad but you fear for your life or your family.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "The problem if you get rid of the ability of slandering while anonymous you also remove the ability to tell the truth while being anonymous."

        If this premise is true, then the rest of the argument follows. Can you provide evidence that this is the case? Citing examples of outright oppression does not provide any support to your assumption, as there was an absolutely no intent to separate truth from fiction in those cases.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kingrames ( 858416 )
      In other words, it's okay to say anything as long as you approve of it.

      The first and fifth amendments to the United states constitution both apply here.
      1. I can say whatever the fuck I want, without worrying about the consequences of doing so, because, damnit, it's absolutely necessary to preserve my other rights.

      5. My words cannot be used against me in any court of law. If you intend to convict me of a crime, you need goddamn evidence. Testimony of any kind is UNRELIABLE no matter what. To ask som
  • Can you feel it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:27PM (#21563781)
    First they can bully their way through to getting a critics name. Next they won't have to bully because it'll become common practice. Its sad... can anyone else feel it? One by one our freedoms are being taken away, and the majority of the American populace is too busy watching who is going to be the next American Idol or seeing who is Dancing with the Stars to give two shits. Its pathetic. This apathy and ignorance is probobly the biggest slap to the face to the founders of this country, even moreso than the current administrations' abuses of the constitution. If there are any fine, foxy Canadian ladies out there interested in adopting a cynical geek from the states, send me a PM, I can't stand living here anymore.
    • Cake and circuses. That's what keeps the masses distracted. Meanwhile the powers that be scheme on how to build checkpoints in our neighborhoods in order to verify that we are carrying the proper papers. The ones we assign authority too will do this as soon as possible. Sure I may look like I need a tinfoil hat right now, but wait and see.
      • Look at Roman history - the most corrupt years of their government came during the Roman obsession with the games.
        • by Amouth ( 879122 )
          odd - i was about to make the same refrence to his comment....

          well not so odd.. as it is the truth - and a very scary one at that...
    • by PrescriptionWarning ( 932687 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:33PM (#21563851)
      You are being just as bad as the apathetic by taking on a cut and run mentality. I'm sure the founders of this country would hate you even more for being aware of the problems and not trying to get them solved. It's one thing to be ignorant of issues and quite another to know the issues and turn away.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Can we stop using the phrase "cut-and-run"? It's empty political rhetoric coopted by those who associate realism with cowardice.
      • by Grandiloquence ( 1180099 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:59PM (#21564917)
        Specifically, they would have said:

        "If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." -- Samuel Adams
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      the American populace is too busy watching who is going to be the next American Idol or seeing who is Dancing with the Stars to give two shits. Its pathetic.

      I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. However, the problem isn't that people are obsessed with bad TV shows. The problem is that people don't know what to do about it. I am one of those people. If I wanted to do something about decreases in freedom of speech, I wouldn't even know where to start.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by fotbr ( 855184 )
        You could start blogging about it and pretending it'll make one damn bit of difference.

        Sure, it won't REALLY accomplish anything, but maybe you and a couple hundred other like-minded bloggers can all get online and whine about it and convince yourselves it matters.
        • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:48PM (#21564003)
          "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is gravely important that you do it." - Ghandi
          • Wow. I had not read that one before.

            That one's going up on a plaque in my office.

            Although, I'm not sure what side Gandhi would be on re: this article, to whit:

            I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.

            A modern Gandhi might say he believes in equality for everyone, except reporters, photographers, and bloggers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Grimbleton ( 1034446 )
        Pick up your rifle. Band together with others of like minds. March on your government.

        Once there are enough of us, we open fire.

        Figuratively speaking of course. Violence has never been the way to secure your freedom from a corrupt government.
        • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )
          "Figuratively speaking of course. Violence has never been the way to secure your freedom from a corrupt government."

          Tell that to the people of the Boston Tea Party, or Lexington, or Bunker Hill, or any other famous battle of the Revolutionary War.

          Of course it could be said that we simply secured our freedom from one corrupt government by installing another. But that's a whole other argument.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tompaulco ( 629533 )
        If I wanted to do something about decreases in freedom of speech, I wouldn't even know where to start.
        Start by sending a letter to your local congresscritters. If they don't care about your privacy, then vote someone in who does. If there is no one to vote in that cares about your privacy, then get involved in politics. It's not as hard as it sounds. Unless you are in a really large city, there are probably empty board seats on the city council in which you could probably run unopposed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by techpawn ( 969834 )
      I think you where trying to get across the point of a chilling effect [] but you lost me half way through your little diatribe...
    • As much as I can feel our freedom slipping away a can also feel the pull in the other direction. People are getting pissed. One by one people are realizing that stupid laws like this are getting passed. Soon people will realize that they can do something about it. As it is the current administration got a good slap on the wrist with the last election for congress. More needs to happen but it's start. My hope is that with the internet it will soon be the norm that all the governments doings will be posted on
      • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )
        Man I hope you're right, but I think it's going to take a lot longer and a whole lot more lost. I've had, in the last month, several people tell me they'll gladly give up their rights to "catch the bad guys". When I query who decides who the bad guys are they have no answer. That scares the hell out of me.
    • Re:Can you feel it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Torodung ( 31985 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:53PM (#21564055) Journal

      This apathy and ignorance is probably the biggest slap to the face to the founders of this country, even moreso than the current administrations' abuses of the constitution.
      Yup. And any time we "refuse to discuss politics because it's stupid or biased or subjective," or claim that "all politicians are crooks," "nothing is done right in Washington" we add to that apathy, and turn more fully towards a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Everyone telling you that any whole party in Washington is a cadre of crooks is, in fact, a crook trying to get you to surrender your political power. There are a few crooks, quite a few, but on the whole, many more of them do just as we ask them to, and their best despite that. We have the government that meets our superficial apathetic attitudes towards all things political.

      (*gets on soapbox*)

      My fellow Americans, do what you do best. Follow the money. There's several trillion dollars per annum tied up in politics, and all that money equals vast power. If we want our country back, we need to put politics back on the table, and drop this 1960's attitude that politics are for weenies and crooks. Politics are important and it is our civic duty to discuss the "State of the Union." All the corporations with lobbyists at Washington know this. We don't bother, because discussions about politics are "unsavory" and politicians are "worthless."

      The hippies were wrong. All the governments they formed have faded, or been incorporated. This huge government is still getting larger, and it is critical that its people demand its service.

      Sure, we might get into fist fights over it at a party, but everyone needs to put politics back on the table. Now. Fist fights be damned.

    • Interestingly, right here on /. I have been modded troll for being a bit paranoid about the government's progressive march through our constitutionally guaranteed rights. Odd how one day paranoia is good, on another day it is not. Perhaps it's just the way it sounds coming out from under the tin foil hat? I think that now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant against any intrusion on our rights, any at all, no matter how small. All such forays into authoritarianism or fascism should be pushed back against
    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
      The grass is always greener on the other side, eh?

      It has always been like this and likely used to be much much worse (after all it used to be that no one knew of such things), except that you are likely a young twit who has never looked at history in his life. Hell do you not know of the red scare or even the the war on drugs that burned justice on a stake?

      Welcome to reality, enjoy your stay and pleas learn some perspective.
    • by davetd02 ( 212006 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:19PM (#21564387)
      I can't stand living here anymore.

      This is hardly the first time in US history that local officials have bullied their way into a legal mess, and I'm sure it won't be the last. The difference is that the Internet makes it much easier for the EFF and other advocacy groups to publicize local abuses that in other eras would go completely unnoticed. The good news is that the court will resolve the dispute between EFF and the government according to our laws and constitution; we have a system of checks so that courts can stop overzealous government from infringing on individual rights. The court is working exactly as it is supposed to -- both sides are presenting their arguments and explaining why their actions are or are not legal.

      If you don't remember, the free press in this country has always been in tension with the demands of government. It's a constant back-and-forth that over time has led to a reasonably stable balance of protecting individual rights. The examples go very far back: In 1798 (yes, "seventeen-hundred and ninety-eight") the Alien and Sedition Acts [] made it illegal to criticize the government, on pain of criminal prosecution. Lincoln arrested three newspaper editors for publishing stories he didn't like [] (two for publishing the story and one because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time) and suspended publication of the same papers for two days. The Sedition Act of 1918 [] made it criminal to criticize the government during World War I (repealed 1921). The list goes on and on.

      National coverage of these issues is good, and the legal system is functioning as it should. One side is demanding more than the legal system can support and the EFF is properly standing up in a fair proceeding to stop it. The right answer isn't to leave the country, but to recognize that this is part of a long back-and-forth over rights that is an important part of American history. Have a sense of proportionality and your urge to flee will lessen. It's important that EFF fight the good fight here, but the fact that we're hearing about the story is a good sign -- it means the press is still doing its job. Anyway, you can do far more good here than in the vast frozen tundra of the far north.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to s
    • One by one our freedoms are being taken away, and the majority of the American populace is too busy watching who is going to be the next American Idol or seeing who is Dancing with the Stars to give two shits.

      That's because TV is more important than fringe freedoms. At least, that's how the people democratically voted it. The founding fathers are going to have to deal with face-slaps because in a democracy, you simply can't control what people believe in. As soon as you do, the system becomes decidedly less

  • Post Anonymously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:28PM (#21563787)
    I submit that we should all Post Anonymously to this thread in support.
  • by CodeShark ( 17400 ) <ellsworthpc@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:29PM (#21563797) Homepage
    To the extent that "all government is local", this is a very important case, because while Uncle Sam may be great big and far away, if you are in a small city or town and are critical and can be outed via a simple subpoena, then what's to stop the local city or town government from instructing the local chief of police to make sure you get more than your fair share of traffic tickets, building inspectors from condemning your home, power co. operators from playing with the juice, in short any or all other governmental or quasi-governmental person who stands to benefit from a critic being silenced from engaging in a pattern of harassment, deception, etc.?

    That said, with both the EFF and Google being against the subpoena, I don't really think that this stands a snowflake's chance in hell of surviving the legal challenges. And if the Superior Court judge gets it wrong, I would still see this going all the way to SCOTUS for resolution before the blogger would be outed.

  • Does NJ have whistle blower laws? And if so, do bloggers count or would one have to go to a "reputable" news place to have a legal shield? I'm not even sure if it would apply though; you have to be somehow involved in the thing you are critiquing to be considered a whistle blower.
  • That was dumb... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:32PM (#21563829) Journal
    While agree with the EFF's premise (in that someone shouldn't be forced into identifying him/herself just because they've been vocal about a public issue), I have to wonder... WTF would the township do with the info?

    Sure, if the blogger turns out to be a public employee of said township, he/she would prolly be fired. Then again, the nanosecond after they did such a thing, esp. after outing him/her in such a public manner, would likely put themselves at substantial legal risk.

    But the main point for the township being stupid by doing it is this: what was once a thing that could be scoffed at as 'some guy on the Internet who knows nothing about this'... now has credence, credibility, and a firm aura of truth; all of which has now been granted to him/her/it by the township's idiot legal team.

    Personally, if Congress wants to do something useful (well...), they could work on something legislative-like that would prevent government-as-plaintiff in a civil suit from ever being allowed to out any anonymous posting, publication, or what-have-you.

    Man - some people just can't grok the concept of not using every tool they have for a difficult problem, simply because they're all there and sitting in the toolbox.


    • Re:That was dumb... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:34PM (#21563855)
      You are probably breaking three or four laws right now and you do not even know it.

      The township can make the guy's life hell-- can make his friend's lives hell so he loses his friends (assuming it is a guy).

      Ben Franklin would have been outed very early in his career under this standard.
      • by internic ( 453511 )

        You are probably breaking three or four laws right now and you do not even know it.

        The township can make the guy's life hell-- can make his friend's lives hell so he loses his friends (assuming it is a guy).

        This is very likely true. To amplify this point, I can say that in my town (a small town of a little over 1000 homes) there are many laws about all sorts of ridiculous minutiae that are only selectively enforced. These include laws that say, for example, that your trash cans can't be visible from

      • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
        The township can make the guy's life hell-- can make his friend's lives hell so he loses his friends (assuming it is a guy).

        They can't do that to a woman? Am I reading you wrong?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )
      Then again, the nanosecond after they did such a thing, esp. after outing him/her in such a public manner, would likely put themselves at substantial legal risk.

      But with lawyers involved, thats not how it works. They would ignore him for awhile, giving the coworkers better performance reviews (not bad for the employee, but better for the others) ensuring the others get promotions. They would slowly change the scope of work of the employee, to set them up to fail. They would also start doing LOTS of rando
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:33PM (#21563849) Journal
    They should realize they are some small city government in New Jersey. They seem to think they are China. Only to China, Google and Yahoo will dutifully genuflect and bend over. Not to New Jersey.
  • by Grampaw Willie ( 631616 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:39PM (#21563895) Homepage
    Blogging, and writing web pages are non-invasive: I am not going to receive the material unless I search for it and select it. Non-invasive postings are like a newspaper in that respect. If I don't like your newspaper I don't subscribe and after that if you continue to drop it off on me that is littering. anonymous non-invasive postings are fine eMails, phone calls, FAXs, and executable codes are INVASIVE. If you bust through my door without identifying yourself and stating your business I like to put a boot in the seat of your pants. we have already won on FAXs and on Caller-ID. Next will be eMails and executable codes. NO SIGNATURE? NO EXECUTE.
  • Par for the course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:41PM (#21563915) Journal

    Welcome to the Garden State. Never let it be said local officials were ever too happy about having their judgment questioned. When it comes to mayors, school boards, and township committees, N.J. is a hotbed for corruption, and whenever someone calls someone else out, there's always some under-handed move by local government to quash the opposition. The sad part is, despite his campaign promises, out illustrious governor hasn't done a damned thing about political corruption on any level in New Jersey.

    I frankly don't think this subpoena has a chance in hell of surviving, but I do feel it's going to have to go pretty far up the chain before it gets choked off. NJ just has the kind of effect.

  • "Freedom of Speech" has never meant "Freedom for Responsibility." The right to speak your mind does not mean that you cannot be held accountable for your statements.

    It is important that anyone speaking out, or even breaking the law, understand that there are possible consequences, and assess whether on the balance they still wish to move ahead. Obviously datruthsquad has a rather sketchy understanding of the law, and is now being threatened for his actions.

    Rather than trying to find some cloak of i
    • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

      Since when does "responsibility" equate to retaliation by some petty bureaucrat as in the case here?

      It seems to me the responsible citizen doesn't let their government officers get away with strong-arm tactics, thievery and all out corruption. That's where responsibility comes in. Not with "leave an easy trail for someone to key your car".

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:27PM (#21564475) Journal

      Rather than trying to find some cloak of invisibility he should be preparing his defence with his lawyer.
      You're not American, are you?

      It should be noted that America's laws re: libel and slander are much more permissive than those in Britain or most formerly British colonies.

      This is most certainly political speech, and anonymity is important to preserving free speech when fear of retribution is a factor (Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 65 (1960).

      See Dendrite International, Inc. v. Doe No. 3, 775 A.2d 756, 771 (N.J. App.Div. 2001) for establishment of criteria underwhich the state of NJ can/should overturn the right of anonymity in favor of the defamation claims.

      It's also important to note that the NJ Constitution is even more protective of free speech rights than the US Constitution -- the state (and local governments) have much less right to abridge free speech in NJ.
  • by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:55PM (#21564081) Homepage
    Ok maybe this is an tangential question to the subject. But I'm wondering does the ability to post anonymously create more truthful revelation because people are not afraid of retribution? Or does it create more bogus BS because people know they can't be held accountable?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      On the internet most anonymous stuff is considered noise unless it has very good references. How much credit would you put on a picture of a public official with marker colored mustaches on it in a public bathroom? That level of public pamphleteering is so over used to be pointless... much of the internet is the same way.

      Look at Paula Jones of GrokLaw. She? is relatively anonymous so why should we credit her? But we do credit her because she produces official certified documents that are available publi
  • Bearing on the case? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Xchagger ( 655731 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @04:55PM (#21564087)
    According to the article, they are attempting to discover the bloggers identity not to call them out or persecute them, but to make sure it isn't the defendant in the case.

    The township subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity -- as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google has about the blogger -- claiming that the defendant in the case is actually writing the posts. The defendant, however, has already sworn under penalty of perjury that he is not "daTruthSquad."
    Why this was left out of the article summary, I am not sure. While I don't personally think that giving away the person's identity is right, I do think the prosecutors have the right to know whether or not the defendant is posting these blogs to cause a big ruckos and to support their cause. Especially since the defendant has already testified it is not them. If they lied, they are guilty of purjury. If google could just verify that the blogger is not infact the defendant, I think that would be fair enough.
    • None of what you say should matter in the slightest bit. He was asked this question and had to answer truthfully under oath. By your argument, all you have to do is ask the question and they lose their right to be anonymous, which is unconstitutional.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Xchagger ( 655731 )
        If you are involved in the case, yes, you should have to divulge your identity. If the blogger is not involved in the case, their anonymity should be safe. Hence why I said, at best, Google should have to divulge whether or not it is the defendant. If it is, they are guilty of perjury, if not, then the person remains anonymous. I'm sure legally it can't work that way. The law system has a tendancy to be all or nothing. Just saying that I believe the prosecuters have a right to know whether or not it i
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      I do think the prosecutors have the right to know whether or not the defendant is posting these blogs to cause a big ruckos and to support their cause.

      Google can answer that with a simple "yes" or "no".
  • founder, but: []

    From the URL:

    "Facebook founder loses court battle to keep personal data offline
    Poked by his own petard... bitch"


    "Mark Zuckerberg has been given a taste of his own medicine: his personal information is being plastered all over the web forever.

    The Facebook boss has failed in a court bid to gag a magazine that published data including drunken extracts from his college diary and his social security number.

    Federal judge Douglas Woodlock to
  • How critical is the key fact that is missing. If he is saying the Township is not doing a good job and is criticising their actions in relation to this case then he is fine. If he is libelling individual, identifiable, people and/or breaking accepted laws in any other way then he should be held accountable.

    If it is the former then his comments are no different to thousands of letters published in local newspapers all over the world every week criticising decisions and governance - a process that is wel
  • EFF Twists Truth? []

    David Weeks, an attorney representing Manalapan, says the foundation is twisting a routine legal request in a local lawsuit into a First Amendment case.
    "We're not asking to interfere with anyone's right to speak," Weeks said.
    Instead, Manalapan's attorneys are simply asking Google to establish whether Moskovitz was telling the truth when he denied he was the blogger in court papers related to the land deal lawsuit.
    "I don't know one way or the other if it's him," Weeks said. "It could be him."

    So, some facts:

    a) The guy getting sued is being sued because he didn't file EPA paperwork on a land deal. In NJ, that's pretty dumb, so he could be guilty of malpractice.
    b) The guy getting sued is actually the former mayor of the same county that is suing him.
    c) Yes, NJ is crooked.

    However, with that said, if DaTruthSquad is the former mayor, and he is posting on about stuff, he could be violating various other things, compromising a sealed case, who knows, and therefor, the government -does- have an interest in knowing if it is him.

    Note that the point is, Google isn't getting sued to see -who- DaTruthSquad is. Google is getting sued to reveal if the guy is the former mayor. Not to say that everyone is angelic, but, in all probability, DaTruthSquad is probably a crook himself.

    As Bob Dylan wrote: "In Jersey everything's legal, as long as you don't get caught."

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:16PM (#21564331)
    But what if the blogger is in fact the guy being sued for malpractice or someone directly involved in the case? Should that still be protected? Should someone be allowed to create 'sock puppet sympathizers' to defend them? To editorialize on their behalf? To criticize their opponents with impunity?

    Something seems wrong with that. When speaking anonymously its easy to say things because you have no personal accountability for what's said. That can be used for good and for evil. I'm not sure it should be automatically protected.

    After all, we'd be outraged if Walmart managers started series of grassroots anti-union blogs in a number of places... "I'm just an anonymous low level walmart employee like you whose against the unionization because... reason reason reason reason... and I'm posting anonymously because I fear retaliation from the union rabble rousers who just want to consolidate power for themselves. I we unionize they'll win, and we'll all lose. And then over the following weeks posted all kinds of stuff criticising the union organizers in every way imaginable."

    Each blog would repeat the others and manufacture 'truth by repetition'.

    There'd be no way to prove it was management, because of course:

    We must protect anonoymous online journalists!!111!

    • Why are we listening to blogs in the first place? If what the blogger says is true, does it matter if it's the old mayor? If it isn't true - why keep on reading it?
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @05:22PM (#21564417) Journal
    Can someone give me his name and address? I want to personally congratulate him on his noble crusade for anonymity!

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.