Pwned! Judge Agrees to Reveal Anonymous Poster

Buffalo Grove trustee will get the ID of rude anonymous commenter

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Commenters beware!

    Internet trollz, beware. Ur nasty n00b notes and immature, insulting comments could land you in court.

    For as long as the Internet has existed, there have been online ogres with little-to-no lives, who lurk on message boards and comment sections, waiting to insult anyone and everyone. Hiding behind a username, these Internet imps use anonymity to get their snark on.

    But a judge has agreed with Buffalo Grove trustee Lisa Stone, who said a commenter at the Daily Herald site took things too far, and ruled that she is entitled to the offender's true identity.

    In April, the Daily Herald posted a story online about the village's elections. A heated political debate ensued between Lisa Stone's 15-year-old son and a commenter known only as "Hipcheck16." (Many of the comments in question have since been removed.)

    But the conversation went from political to personal, alleges Stone. She says "Hipcheck16" began aggressively insulting the 15-year-old, making the case for defamation.

    Stone then went to court, demanding to know the real name of "Hipcheck16." Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ruled Monday that the identity of the anonymous poster—known in court records only as "John Doe"—must only be released to Stone, her attorneys, and the Cook County Sheriff.

    "The federal court held that the right to speak anonymously, on the Internet or otherwise, is not absolute and does not protect speech that would otherwise be unprotected," Lawrence said in his opinion. "The right to speak must be balanced against the right of an offended party to seek redress."

    Stone has not yet decided if she will sue Mr. Hipcheck16, whose attorney has indicated that he will appeal.

    First Amendment supporters, who want to protect freedom of expression, are watching this case diligently.

    Stone and her attorneys have both expressed their firm belief in protecting the freedom of speech, but that freedom is reserved for political and religious beliefs, not personal attacks on minors.

    "There is always a mixture of freedom and responsibility," Stephen Tyma, an attorney representing Stone, told the Chicago Tribune. "People ... think that freedom is the right to do anything with unbridled restraint. And they don't understand that in some instances when they do things, those things that they do injure other people."

    Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger—First!