Anonymous “talkback” responses to online articles may not be as anonymous as previously thought. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has ordered the Israeli news outlet Haaretz to release information on the sender of a talkback that criticized a government ministry.
Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Tzaban ordered the paper to give police information regarding the talkback, including the IP address of the computer from which it was sent.
The person who wrote the talkback gave their name as that of a senior worker in a government ministry. The talkback mocked the ministry and its workers as “ineffective,” “wasteful,” “giving terrible service” and “chasing the gratification of their egos.”
The senior worker whose name was put on the talkback says that he did not write it, and that someone impersonated him in order to make him look bad and to cause conflict within the ministry in which he works.
Police sought a court order to reveal the talkbacker’s true identity, while Haaretz’s publisher sought to maintain the user’s privacy.
An argument put forth on the publisher’s behalf accused police of investigating the case solely due to the identity of the complainant, and charged that if the senior worker had been named “Buzgalo” – a name indicating Middle Eastern Jewish roots, rather than European Jewish roots – the incident would not have been investigated.
Judge Tzaban harshly criticized the claim. “I can’t believe what I’m reading. I read it once, twice, three times – I just can’t believe it. I can only hope that this argument was made by the representative for Haaretz’s publishing house, not the publishers themselves,” she wrote.
“I cannot tell where this argument came from, and can only hope that it stems from ignorance and lack of understanding of how the police investigate complaints,” she added.
Tzaban rejected the publisher’s request, and determined that the Israel Police’s request for information stands. She ordered Haaretz to provide the information immediately.