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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Freedom of Speech

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and the City of Memphis recently filed suit to find out who anonymously produces a blog, MPD Enforcer 2.0, that is critical of Godwin and the police department. The suit asks AOL to divulge the name or names associated with an email address linked to the blog. Obviously, the action has generated a swell of controversy.

The bloggers are calling it a landmark case of privacy and the First Amendment, and it’s been reported that they have obtained legal counsel to defend their anonymity.

Godwin has stated that he’s concerned about officers in his department leaking sensitive information to the blog. Then he needs to investigate inside his department to find those committing these inappropriate acts. He was quoted yesterday saying that when the bloggers’ names are made public, we’ll see why he initiated the action. I don’t think that’s good enough.

This appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
"You can complain about the government, and you should be able to do that without fear of retaliation or threatening actions on the part of the people in these positions," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based watchdog group. "I guess they've kind of annoyed them at some level, but you really don't want to see law enforcement or government resources spent in this way."

We write a general interest blog here with our last name right up there in the title, so this issue does not affect us directly. On the other hand, there are many bloggers who write about political, corporate, social and religious issues who feel much safer in expressing their opinions anonymously. It’s their right. It’s called freedom of speech.

Here’s what I also believe is true. Not all bloggers, radio talk show hosts, politicians, tv commentators and others have the market cornered on truth. Some of them know and convey pieces of the truth. Some don’t. Some do have the whole picture. Some whistleblowers really are disgruntled employees who are simply out for revenge. And some have good and valuable facts and insights to share.

In this information age, we have an array of opportunities for receiving information. Those purveyors of information have the right to do so and to do so anonymously if they choose. As recipients of information, we have the responsibility to get our information from more than one source and to sift it to determine its truth and value. Responsibility balances the scales of freedom.

I strongly disagree with Director Godwin’s attempt to circumvent free speech, and I even more strongly disagree with the use of taxpayer dollars to achieve his goal.


Zehr_Family said...


Anonymous said...

sounds as if they are scared of what's being leaked....I wouldn't be surprised to see the FBI put Herenton and and bunch of his stooges in jail --one of these days

Scarlett said...

I'm glad to see some comment on this. It's a critical issue for the internet.

Willow Goldentree said...