40/20 reports today the arrest of a man for harassing communications for comments he made on a topix.com message board about Greenwood Alderman and firefighter Lance Terry.
One lesson here is that anonymous commenters to message boards can be tracked down by IP addresses, as sometime newspaper writer Dennis McCaslin was in this case.
But I’m also interested in cops going after an Internet commenter. This article says the comments were “threatening,” but offers no specifics. You can find plenty of critical remarks on topix.com about Terry, including this thread on the question of whether he should resign from office. Nothing remotely threatening there. Pleasant? No. Here’s McCaslin’s topix profile.
Criminalizing speech is a bad idea and sometimes unconstitutional. I’m not saying that happened here, but when a police agency acts in an employer’s behalf to seek out and arrest someone who’s made critical comments on the Internet, it’s worth a further look. I’ve called Greenwood Police Chief Will Dawson. He’s said to be the sole source of information on the case and will be in meetings all day, but I’ll keep trying.
UPDATE: I’ve talked to McCaslin, who has an attorney and doesn’t want to say much. But he does say the complaint by the alderman arose from three or four messages he posted on topix in August after receiving the latest in a series of anonymous telephone threats over his reporting for the Greenwood paper about a controversy concerning Alderman Terry.