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SLAPPing e-Publius: Protecting anonymous expression and reputation in a digital age
Unformatted Document Text:  Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius     4   jeopardy because of those policies. As one newspaper editor put it, newspapers online are attempting to balance free speech with the reality of “uncivil, rude, mean-spirited, compassionless adults behaving . . . like children with no home training.” 7 In one example of this devil’s bargain, the Portland Press Herald in Portland, Me., decided to temporarily shutter its reader comments sections in October 2010 in response to what the newspaper’s publisher called “vile, crude, insensitive, and vicious postings.” 8 The newspaper’s decision came after “months of careful consideration” in order to protect the public, according to its publisher. Just a week prior to the Press Herald’s decision, National Public Radio announced that due to wild growth in the number of its reader posts online, NPR would outsource comment moderator duties for NPR.org. 9 Other news organizations are simply disallowing anonymity at all, utilizing sophisticated moderation                                                                                                                 7 Calvin Stovall, Internet snipers can’t hide behind free speech to justify vile comments, P RESSCONNECTS . COM , Oct. 30, 2010, available http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20101030/VIEWPOINTS/10310325/Internet-snipers-can-t-hide-behind-free-speech-to-justify-vile-comments, visited Nov. 2, 2010. To make his point, Stovall re-printed one of the vile comments the site had removed, in response to a story titled, Four suspended Binghamton High students offered readmission to school: “Segregation is the answer. They can have a world away from the White man and live any way they want. They can have as much crime as they like. Illegitimacy can be 100%. Rap can be their national culture-no white man looking over their shoulder shaking their head in disgust. A 75 IQ would be considered a genius. 40% would be a passing grade, Oprah would be the standard of beauty. Free of Asian brain power and Western thought they can become completely Afro-centric. Elect 50 cent as their president. Their schools can teach the legends of great Negro dynasties where Christ, Moses, Mozart, Bach, Einstein, Freud, George Washington were Negroes. The negroes built the pyramids, Europe, China, landed on the moon all the while the white man was living in caves. Teach their kids the negro invented the White man in laboratories. While the white man splits the atom they can split the watermelon. Everything is equal of merit. Going to jail would give them more pride than going to medical school.” 8 Damon Kiesow, Portland Press Herald Drops Reader Comments in Response to ‘Vicious Postings, P OYNTER O NLINE , October 20, 2010, available: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=192998, visited Nov. 1, 2010. The newspaper restored the comments section the next day after changing its moderation system, but did not announce or otherwise make public what the changes were (see Damon Kiesow, Comments return to the Portland Press Herald, P OYNTER O NLINE , October 21, 2010, available: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=193106, visited Nov. 11, 2010). 9 Andy Carvin, Getting a Little Help With NPR Comments, N ATIONAL P UBLIC R ADIO , October 12, 2010. Available: http://www.npr.org/blogs/inside/2010/10/12/130513924/getting-a-little-help-with-npr-comments. The organization cited the overwhelming number of posts, “350,000 people registered to participate in the community, with as many as 3,000 comments posted on any given day.”

Authors: Carroll, Brian.
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background image
Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius  
 
4  
jeopardy because of those policies. As one newspaper editor put it, newspapers online are 
attempting to balance free speech with the reality of “uncivil, rude, mean-spirited, 
compassionless adults behaving . . . like children with no home training.”
7
 In one 
example of this devil’s bargain, the Portland Press Herald in Portland, Me., decided to 
temporarily shutter its reader comments sections in October 2010 in response to what the 
newspaper’s publisher called “vile, crude, insensitive, and vicious postings.”
8
 The 
newspaper’s decision came after “months of careful consideration” in order to protect the 
public, according to its publisher. Just a week prior to the Press Herald’s decision, 
National Public Radio announced that due to wild growth in the number of its reader 
posts online, NPR would outsource comment moderator duties for NPR.org.
9
 Other news 
organizations are simply disallowing anonymity at all, utilizing sophisticated moderation 
                                                                                                               
7
 Calvin Stovall, Internet snipers can’t hide behind free speech to justify vile comments
P
RESSCONNECTS
.
COM
, Oct. 30, 2010, available 
http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20101030/VIEWPOINTS/10310325/Internet-snipers-can-t-hide-
behind-free-speech-to-justify-vile-comments, visited Nov. 2, 2010. To make his point, Stovall re-printed 
one of the vile comments the site had removed, in response to a story titled, Four suspended Binghamton 
High students offered readmission to school
: “Segregation is the answer. They can have a world away from 
the White man and live any way they want. They can have as much crime as they like. Illegitimacy can be 
100%. Rap can be their national culture-no white man looking over their shoulder shaking their head in 
disgust. A 75 IQ would be considered a genius. 40% would be a passing grade, Oprah would be the 
standard of beauty. Free of Asian brain power and Western thought they can become completely Afro-
centric. Elect 50 cent as their president. Their schools can teach the legends of great Negro dynasties where 
Christ, Moses, Mozart, Bach, Einstein, Freud, George Washington were Negroes. The negroes built the 
pyramids, Europe, China, landed on the moon all the while the white man was living in caves. Teach their 
kids the negro invented the White man in laboratories. While the white man splits the atom they can split 
the watermelon. Everything is equal of merit. Going to jail would give them more pride than going to 
medical school.” 
 
8
 Damon Kiesow, Portland Press Herald Drops Reader Comments in Response to ‘Vicious Postings
P
OYNTER
O
NLINE
, October 20, 2010, available: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=192998, 
visited Nov. 1, 2010. The newspaper restored the comments section the next day after changing its 
moderation system, but did not announce or otherwise make public what the changes were (see Damon 
Kiesow, Comments return to the Portland Press Herald, P
OYNTER
O
NLINE
, October 21, 2010, available: 
http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=193106, visited Nov. 11, 2010). 
 
9
 Andy Carvin, Getting a Little Help With NPR Comments, N
ATIONAL 
P
UBLIC 
R
ADIO
, October 12, 2010. 
Available: http://www.npr.org/blogs/inside/2010/10/12/130513924/getting-a-little-help-with-npr-
comments. The organization cited the overwhelming number of posts, “350,000 people registered to 
participate in the community, with as many as 3,000 comments posted on any given day.” 
 


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