Philadelphia court battles internet troll
A Philadelphia judge has ordered Philly.com to reveal the identity of a commenter in a defamation suit.
The internet is crawling with trolls and bigots whose confidence is fueled by the freedom of anonymity. Say what you wish, no matter how harsh, rude or offensive, because no one will hold you accountable. However, that culture may be changing. In Philadelphia, a commenter being sued for defamation will have his or her identity revealed.
The identity of a Philly.com commenter who called union leader John Dougherty a "pedophile" will now be revealed. Dougherty sued in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Judge Jacqueline Allen agreed—defamation is defamation, despite anonymity. Therefore, Allen ruled, the news site must reveal who made the comment under the name, "fbpdplt."
While anonymity online can lead to a freer marketplace of ideas, it can also encourage offensive and sometimes threatening comments, especially to women. Earlier this year, two Twitter users were jailed in the UK for sending threats to feminist Caroline Criado-Perez, sending a message to anonymous users everywhere that internet harrassment is not out-of-bounds for law enforcement, no matter how many usernames one hides behind.