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There is no better way to get a blogger talking than by telling him what he cannot publish — although you might forgive a government prosecutor for thinking otherwise.
A grand jury subpoena sent by prosecutors in the Bronx earlier this year sought information to help identify people blogging anonymously on a Web site about New York politics called Room 8
The demand for secrecy raised the unnerving prospect that prosecutors could quietly investigate anyone who posts comments online, while the person making those comments is unaware of and unable to respond to the risk. The tactic also robs bloggers of one of their most powerful weapons: the chance to spread the word and turn the legal attack into an online cause célèbre.
Lawsuits over information posted online are usually civil, not criminal — that is, they are filed by private citizens or companies trying to keep something off the Web. Courts have developed ways to evaluate the claims, often using tests to balance the First Amendment’s protections of speech against the harm caused by whatever someone wrote or said.