Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NJ Blogger's "Truth Squad" Rights Defended

Although we're hardly anonymous here, we can understand why some need the protection of a pseudonym to be effective as whistleblowers or gadflys. One such Jersey Blogger who calls himself daTruthSquad has spent months skewering Manalapan area officials on his Web site.

From The Star Ledger:
Township leaders suspect the venomous blogger, who appears to have inside information about local politics, is Stuart Moskovitz, the former mayor and township attorney. Moskovitz has motive: He is being sued by Manalapan over a land deal gone bad.

But Moskovitz insists he has never blogged and doesn't know the identity of daTruthSquad. So lawyers for the Monmouth County township subpoenaed Google earlier this fall, insisting that the Internet giant reveal the name and computer behind daTruthSquad's blogging account.

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based Internet rights group, are making the legal claim that daTruthSquad -- like all bloggers -- has the right to anonymity.

The foundation hopes to quash the Google subpoena and use the case to bring attention to the growing number of public officials using the courts to pry the names of their online critics from Internet providers.

"This is the government trying to silence or intimidate someone who says something they don't like," said Matt Zimmerman, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's important things like this don't get swept under the rug."

The blogger, writing as "daTruthSquad" on a site hosted on Google's Blogspot service, has criticized a controversial lawsuit filed by the township of Manalapan, as well as the officials who decided to pursue the case. The township subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity -- as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google has about the blogger -- claiming that the defendant in the case is actually writing the posts. The defendant, however, has already sworn under penalty of perjury that he is not "daTruthSquad."

"Bloggers, as well as everyone else, have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Litigants don't get a blank check to pry into the private lives of critics when they say things the litigants don't like. The fact that it is the government trying to abuse the discovery process makes this attempted invasion of privacy all the more repugnant."

daTruthSquad summed up his case in a recent post:
If this whole case is about a land deal, where are the many exhibits regarding da land deal? Why are page after page of these briefs discussing da internet blogger known as daTruthSquad?

Is this a legal case about a land deal gone bad? Or, is this a legal case where a governmental body has taken it upon themselves to use taxpayer dollars to divulge information about a blogger who lets da readers know what is really happening in one particular town?

While the fur is flying ON NJO's hyper-active Manalapan forum, some high profile local bloggers are weighing in.

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