Our own Annalee Newitz recently posted about Gawker Media’s policy of not storing IP addresses, in response to the subpoena issued to Reason last week. Since I spend a lot of time with Gawker’s data and a little bit of time with Gawker’s lawyers, I obviously have thoughts about all this (as always, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t speak for Gawker).
- These types of subpoenas (based on threatening messages) are going to continue for a long time, thanks to the weak decision the Supreme Court just handed down in Elonis vs United States. Both the subpoena and Elonis center on Title 18 Section 875. Here’s the key paragraph:
(c) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
The court basically said that internet comments can meet this standard. I don’t think it’s an accident that this ruling was issued June 1, and the subpoena was served June 2.
- Reason hasn’t said whether they have the data or not, or how they’re going to respond. I don’t know anything but I bet they have the info.
The main reason you’d keep IP address data on commenters is for anti-spam purposes: if someone wants to advertise in your comments, you might flag or disable their account. But that person will probably just create another account and start posting again.
Restricting IP addresses once they are known to produce spam makes it harder (not impossible, but harder) to do this. Now the spammer has to change their IP address in order to keep posting ads.
Reason’s comment section is notably spam-free. Their comments also use ‘nofollow’ tags for any user links, another way to dis-incentivize spam, so they clearly have pursued solutions. Plus, this is the company that once personalized issues by printing pictures of each subscribers’ homes on the cover of the magazine, so they’re data savvy. I’d be surprised if they don’t have the data.
- We do everything we can to protect the identity of our commenters and our sources. So if you have something to say and want to post it here or let us know, just make sure you follow these steps.
- That said, please don’t threaten to kidnap or injure people in the comments. Or otherwise!