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Court considers freedom to post anonymously

Free speech advocates are urging an Illinois court to protect the anonymity of people who post comments on Web publications.

The case, which has now reached the Illinois appellate court, stemmed from comments left on a local newspaper Web site, reports Online Media Daily. Anonymous posters responded to an article that profiled a couple who was attempting to turn their house into a bed and breakfast, suggesting the couple was accepting bribes and acting fraudulently. The couple sought an order forcing the newspaper to reveal the commenters’ identities. The trial judge sided with the newspaper, finding the comments not to be libelous.

The coalition of advocacy groups and news organizations has signed a friend-of-the-court brief, urging the appellate court to safeguard Web users’ right to comment anonymously. So far, courts in eight other states have sided with the online commenters.

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