Here's a switch. Instead of newspapers trying to protect the identities of the people posting to their websites, the newspaper is the one outing them.
As described by editor Kurt Greenbaum of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, someone posted a vulgar word in the paper's online commenting system, and re-posted it after a newspaper staffer deleted it.
"I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school," Greenbaum reported. "So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included."
The school managed to track down the offending (literally) poster, who turned out to be a school employee, and when confronted, the person resigned.
Since then, however, the incident has resulted in a great deal of discussion about whether Greenbaum acted responsibly, especially for a newspaper.
The blog went on to say that Greenbaum denied having revealed individual user information, and made fun of him for apparently not realizing what an IP address was.
"Am I the only one who thinks that doing this goes way beyond the normal course of editorial behaviour?" wrote media blogger Matthew Ingram. "[T]here is no way that I would contact someone’s workplace about a comment unless they had done something extremely egregious — such as making death threats, or repeatedly making abusive comments."
The Greenbaum case stands in stark contrast to other examples. Earlier this year, another news site fought a court order demanding that it reveal the identity of anonymous people posting to its website. Instead, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the lower-court ruling, and issued guidelines for how such requests should be made in the future. Another news aggregator site is fighting a similar attempt in Texas.
Several people have suggested that, in the future, Greenbaum's paper should moderate comments instead.