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Sunday, February 21, 2010


Roger Meyer

Under current law, can a journalist be compelled to reveal the identity of an anonymous source in a libel suit? If not shouldn't the same apply to them as one could as easily be defamed by a newspaper article or broadcast story as by a blog posting.


Good Question, Roger. I don't know that South Dakota has a shield law, but some states do. The obvious purpose of such laws is to shield the anonymity of sources, in order to make it easier for journalists to uncover the truth.

Newspapers are much easier to go after. We know where they live. That's why Courts have been concerned to protect them against certain kinds of legal action. Newspapers are also professional in a way that most bloggers are not. Bloggers are amateur journalist, nothing more nor less.

Erik Sean Estep

KB: This is interesting. A couple of questions, what other state legislatures are following South Dakota's lead? It suprises me that SD is doing this, since my guess is that there is a libertarian culture out there. Also, how would this affect a site like Facebook? One of the advantages of blogging on FB, is that you have to show your "face" more or less, that is why I go there. I think that anonymity does allow for great irresponsibilty and a real cheapening of discourse on the 'net.


Erik: the legislators pushing these bills are honestly and deeply concerned with protecting people's reputations. They ought to be. But I think that the means they choose are too broad. Your comments about Facebook are telling. There is no way to make everyone who posts take responsibility without shutting down very large avenues of internet discourse.

I agree that "anonymity does allow for great irresponsibility". That's the trouble with free speech. People we don't like may speak in ways we don't approve of.

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