Senator Kelsey Wants to Protect Online Commenters



From the mailbox: State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has filed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly protecting the privacy rights of readers who choose to comment anonymously on online news articles.

Senate Bill 106 shields news organizations or other individuals who post news online from having to reveal any identifying information about readers who post comments. Anonymous comments on stories in The Commercial Appeal on the school system merger were requested by attorneys for the Shelby County Commission.

“This legislation will safeguard the free and open exchange of ideas," said Senator Kelsey. “Political discourse should be encouraged— not discouraged through fishing expeditions by over-zealous lawyers.”

The Shelby County Commission filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters in the stories about suburban plans to create their own school districts. Judge Samuel. H. Mays denied that request. The commission has a pending lawsuit that argues that suburban systems would advance segregation and violate the Constitution.

"This issue will come up again and needs to be clarified in Tennessee law," said Kelsey. "News organizations themselves should determine how much identifying information of online commenters to make public."

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