The comments section is often a haven for spewing of hate and discontent (except ours, we love you, commenters!), but a friendly reminder came from the New York-centric blog Gothamist to its many comment contributors after one was nabbed by the fuzz for threatening NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly with violence in a comment on the blog.
Yes, big brother is watching, and the things you say on the interwebs can be held against you in a court of law, should you incite violence or insinuate it toward a major public figure. The comment (which, Gothamist adds, cannot be deleted due to a subpoena) was made on a post about NYPD surveillance of muslim students at Yale, suggesting that a “well placed round of 7.62 ammo to his thick skull would work quite well to eliminate the threat that [Kelly] poses” three days ago, and in traditional commenter fashion, the suspect followed up with the closing line, “come get me Kelly if you have the balls and I don’t mean the ones you suck on.”
Gothamist was then subpoenaed to reveal identifying information about the man who allegedly made the comment, leading to an arrest. (And amusingly, the New York Post scooped the blog, as they note in a follow-up post.) Gothamist publisher Jake Dobkin explained why the blog decided to comply with the request for information on the comment:
“In general, I try to evaluate every subpoena on the merits. If it’s a subpoena in a civil case, we’ll generally notify the commenter that someone is trying to get their information. Although now that we’ve switched to Disqus and Facebook authentication, we often don’t have email addresses for the commenters, which makes them harder to contact. In criminal cases, the subpoena often prevents us from doing that- our only choice when we believe the subpoena was issued in error or bad faith is to have our lawyers fight it in court.”
“But in this case, where there was a clear death threat against a public official, I felt there was a strong reason to comply and give up the commenter’s IP address (we didn’t have his email.) That’s not the kind of comment or commenter that we want on our site.”
The suspect was identified as 49-year-old Brooklyn resident Richard Strauss, who has a previous charge for gun possession.