An interesting AP article has appeared about a controversy in Wisconsin -- after several nasty comments appeared on the website of a Wausau newspaper about a local public official, the official asked the paper who was writing the nasty comments, and lo and behold, the paper just turned over one critic's identity. Not only without notice to the blog poster, apparently, but without even a subpoena or other court order.
There are, of course, ISP's who give up this information too easily, but you'd think that a newspaper, with its understanding of the importance of anonymous sources, would know better than that.
There is a silver lining -- the contretemps has embarrassed Gannett into announcing chain-wide guidelines under which identifying information will be released "only if ordered by a court or if a comment contains a threat of imminent harm." It is unclear whether that means that the paper will just roll over for subpoenas, or will insist on giving notice so that the Doe has an opportunity to protect his or her anonymity through the familiar Dendrite process. New Jersey Online (the web site for the Newark Star Ledger and other papers) had to go through a similar controversy -- it released the identity of an online critic in routine response to a subpoena without giving any notice, and after facing a suit for that release now follows grudging policy of giving a few days notice before complying with subpoenas.
The original article to which I linked is no longer online; I have changed the link to a version that IS still online. I discuss Gannett's aggressive defense of its users in this later post.