Battle over releasing identities of newspaper commenters - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Battle over releasing identities of newspaper commenters

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County Commissioners want the CA to release the identities of people who posted racial comments on their website. County Commissioners want the CA to release the identities of people who posted racial comments on their website.
The CA reported in their Sunday paper that they do not plan to release any identities. The CA reported in their Sunday paper that they do not plan to release any identities.
Commissioner Steve Mulroy says he believes there is a misunderstanding about the intent of some commissioners. Commissioner Steve Mulroy says he believes there is a misunderstanding about the intent of some commissioners.
Commissioner Terry Roland called a news conference Sunday to denounce the subpoena. Commissioner Terry Roland called a news conference Sunday to denounce the subpoena.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Some Shelby County Commissioners want the Commercial Appeal newspaper to release the identities of people who posted racial comments about the Memphis and Shelby County school merger. 

One commissioner says the action could prove racism instigated school merger legislation, another commissioner calls the subpoena reverse racism. And yet another commissioner is now calling for an executive session Monday.

The firestorm began when the Shelby County Commission subpoenaed the Commercial Appeal newspaper to turn over the identities Friday.

The CA reported in their Sunday paper that they do not plan to release any identities.

"It was very unusual to get a request like this," Commercial Appeal Editor Chris Peck told Action News 5.  "To me, it looked like a fishing expedition to get some information."

Peck said the paper protects its commenters' privacy, except in the event of a heinous criminal act.

"We have a Terms of Use Agreement with everyone who uses our website, that allows for anonymous comments, where we say we won't release their names or personal information," Peck added.

"I think there's a misunderstanding of what we're trying to do," retorted Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

Mulroy says the goal is to identify if some of the people who made the racist comments are some of the same people who influenced legislation allowing the suburbs to avert a merger with urban Memphis schools.

"We don't care about disclosing anyone's names," explained Mulroy.  "We'll say John Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. We'll keep their anonymity, but we're entitled to see if there's an overlap."

"That's what you call reverse racism," Commissioner Terry Roland criticized.

Roland called a news conference Sunday to denounce the subpoena and is now considering a lawsuit against the government body on which he sits.

"The suburbs, all of them are in my district, District 4," he explained. "I think there's some discrimination going on here."

Meanwhile, hundreds of CA readers commented on the subpoena:

  • July 29, 2012, 6:58 a.m Thereitis writes: "This is disgusting!"
  • July 29, 2012, 2:58 a.m. k9chess writes: "…an illegal attempt to intimidate…"
  • July 29, 2012, 6:26 p.m. Jake writes: "…we certainly do not have to right to post lies and defame others from behind a rock…"

Commissioner Chris Thomas, who is against the subpoena, has scheduled an executive session Monday.

Commissioner Mulroy says if the paper does not comply, this new fight could go to court.

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