Friday, April 16, 2010

Crawl out from under your rock

I usually don't agree with judges who order news media to reveal their sources.

But I do support a ruling that Internet anonymity is not absolute, made by a judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on April 14, 2010.

The judge ordered Google and The Coast, a weekly newspaper, to reveal to Halifax firefighters the identities and IP addresses of seven people who allegedly defamed them in anonymous comments on The Coast's website.

Whether or not a court finds that any comment in this case was defamatory, the ruling highlights the unfairness of anonymous comments.

Why should I be able to publish online any opinion of you that I feel like, and then hide under my rock of anonymity?

In a broadcast or print format I would have to identify myself, and rightly so.

And no, I still don't think news media should be forced to reveal their anonymous sources.

There is a clear distinction. Battles over anonymous sources involve facts that the sources provide, which are then checked by journalists before broadcast or publication.

Most anonymous web comments are notably fact-free. They are opinions, often breathtakingly ignorant ones.

Unlike mine, of course.