Q: I own a large apartment complex. I'm worried about the effect of an online message board on my business. Hosted by a large Internet service provider, the message board solicits input from tenants about housing issues, and there's currently a string of messages concerning my complex, complaining about the rent, security-deposit return practices, and general management. Two posters have written rambling, flaming rants about our employees and business practices. This is very damaging stuff if it's read by prospective tenants. Is there any way I can get the service provider to give me the identities of these message writers? --Jerry Y. A: Regular folks with access to the Internet can become the equivalent of a town crier or a pamphleteer, and they can do so anonymously. The First Amendment's protection of free speech extends to them as it did to their paper-bound forebears, and that includes an author's decision to remain anonymous. However, that protection isn't without lim...
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