State Sen. Kelsey files bill to protect identities of online commenters
NASHVILLE, Jan 25, 2013 (The Commercial Appeal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
State Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown has filed a bill in the state legislature to protect the identities of people who post comments on online news articles without using their real names.
Kelsey said he filed Senate Bill 106 after attorneys for the Shelby County Commission filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters on The Commercial Appeal's articles about the push to create new municipal school districts in the Memphis suburbs. The judge denied the request but Kelsey said "this issue will come up again and needs to be clarified in Tennessee law. News organizations themselves should determine how much identifying information of online commenters to make public.
"This legislation will safeguard the free and open exchange of ideas," the Republican lawmaker said. "Politcal discourse should be encouraged -- not discouraged through fishing expeditions by over-zealous lawyers."
As of Friday, no companion bill had been filed in the House of Representatives -- a prerequisite for legislation to become law.
Kelsey's bill would add a new provision to Tennessee's "shield law," which protects newsgatherers from having to disclose the identities of confidential news sources, except for the source of any "allegedly defamatory information in any case where the defendant in a civil action for defamation asserts a defense based on the source of such information." The law defines circumstances in which courts may compel disclosure.
SB 106 would expand the definition of protected information to include "any information related to the identity of a person who participates in online services offered by the news media or press, including, but not limited to, name, phone number, postal address, e-mail address, or IP address."
The bill can be viewed online here: Senate Bill 106
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