U.S. criminal law and blogging

Just finished reading the N.Y. Times article, “At the Uneasy Intersection of Bloggers and the Law.”

For those of you blogging in the US, you should read this article. It talks about a recent attempt to gather the real identities of people blogging anonymously, without their knowledge. The subpoena said that anyone disclosing information about the subpoena “could impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with law enforcement”, effectively a gag order.

Two short paragraphs caught my eye:

“The demand for secrecy raised the unnerving prospect that prosecutors could quietly investigate anyone who posts comments online, while the person making those comments is unaware of and unable to respond to the risk. The tactic also robs bloggers of one of their most powerful weapons: the chance to spread the word and turn the legal attack into an online cause célèbre.”

and that our legal precidents seem ill prepared for criminal vs. civil actions:

“But there are fewer precedents explaining how courts should evaluate criminal subpoenas, according to legal experts. Perhaps that is because prosecutors are more cautious about the risk of violating the First Amendment and so issue fewer criminal subpoenas, or because the subpoenas themselves carry language prohibiting disclosure of their terms.”

Just something else to keep in mind when you blog in the US….


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