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Anonymous Blogger’s Identity Being Pursued Through Lawsuit by City of Memphis

MPD Enforcer 2.0 is a blog about the Memphis Police Department and run by an anonymous blogger. The blog has been critical of the MPD, citing examples of sexual harassment and prisoners’ rights violations. The MPD would like to shut down the blog and has filed a lawsuit and subpoenaed the information from AOL.

Those seeking the identity of bloggers have largely been unsuccessful in the courts and Ars Technica posits that this suit will likely meet with the same fate as the others.

For those who say that this isn’t fair, please note that there are no charges of defamation or copyright or any illegal acts that are taking place on the blog. The only alleged wrongdoing is that the blogger is anonymous. And before anyone cries, “but I have the right to face my accuser”, that only applies to you if you are charged with a crime. It’s part of the Sixth Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

As you can see, it does not apply to anonymous blogging.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

7 Comments

  1. Michelle
    Jul 25, 2008 @ 09:11:15

    Would freedom of speech not cover the blogger, or am I missing something?

  2. DS
    Jul 25, 2008 @ 12:07:09

    Access to information would be lost if it were widely known who the bloggers are. Others would no longer feel free to act and speak in front of them. Therefore, they would be a much less useful source of information. The 1st Amendment might protect their right to speak but their effectiveness would be destroyed by the loss of anonymity.

  3. SonomaLass
    Jul 25, 2008 @ 13:29:00

    I fervently hope this gets “the same fate as the others.” Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  4. Robin
    Jul 25, 2008 @ 13:29:55

    The First Amendment applies to government intrusion on the right to free speech, which would include the Memphis PD. But the First Amendment does not provide protection for certain types of expression, including defamation, obscenity, harassment and certain types of commercial speech. Although in the case of the first three, at least, the speech would have to be deemed by a trier of fact (jury) as outside Constitutionally protected limits to be penalized.

    Sadly, though, our society (US, that is) has IMO gotten very intolerant of critical speech, and rather than engage in rebuttal, people often just want the critic to shut up. Which probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal in individual cases, but as a political and social trend, it scares me, because it goes against the notion of a *participatory*, representative, Constitutional democracy. And let’s face it: we’re already in the danger zone as far as being a democracy of any type. Freedom of speech is usually the first civil liberty to go in dictatorial regimes, because it undergirds most other civil liberties.

  5. SonomaLass
    Jul 25, 2008 @ 18:16:07

    Robin,

    I agree absolutely. The best response to free speech you don’t like is more free speech! Not suppression, because we don’t want to go that way, do we?

  6. sula
    Jul 26, 2008 @ 10:42:01

    What Robin said. This is a disturbing trend. I hope that this case shares the fate of the others.

  7. Karen Scott
    Jul 26, 2008 @ 17:38:02

    If there isn’t a defamation charge, does that mean he’s likely telling the truth about the sexual harassment etc?

    You’d think the MPD would be a little more worried about that, than the blogger’s identity.

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