Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Commission Goes Fishin' for IDs of Memphis Daily Online Posters

Commercial Appeal on Union Avenue in Memphis, ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Shelby County (Tenn.) Commission yesterday voted 8-5 to endorse subpoenaing the E.W. Scripps. Co.-owned Memphis Commercial Appeal (MCA) to determine the identities of anonymous posters on the daily's Web site,  the MCA reported.

The lion's share of 1,200 online comments following the MCA story about the subpoena vote were critical of the Commission, according to the daily. Commission attorneys in June filed a motion in federal court to derail referendums by six county municipalities seeking separate school districts.

The Commission contends referendum supporters want to create discriminatory white-majority suburban school districts from the newly formed unified school system, and argue that knowing the identities of anonymous bloggers who made racially charged comments in the online edition of the MCA will enable the body to discover whether the same critics backed legislators who sponsored bills advancing the referendums.

Strangely enough, Shelby County Commissioners didn't consult this blog before Monday's vote, but the ever-eager to help "TUOL" staff nevertheless is happy to opine: What were you guys thinking? 

Sticking a governmental nose into the operations of  a daily newspaper and betraying the privacy interests of thousands of readers who choose to share their opinions anonymously on the flimsy premise that the identities of a handful of the fake-monikered commenters might pertain to the Commission's referendum litigation goes beyond a mere "fishing expedition" all the way to a full fleet of Japanese trawlers on a frenzied tuna run.

Worse than going overboard, the Commission has gone over-broad in its request, to the detriment of MCA readers and the First Amendment.

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