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Anonymous postings

"Be Careful of Stones That You Throw" was a song by Dion some decades ago that told about a woman thriving on gossip.

Today the Internet has taken gossiping and insults to a new level.On many sites you'll see ridiculous postings from people who hide behind fake names and anonymous email addresses.For example, on one site that posts articles from area newspapers, there's a remark about a drug raid. Someone literally names another person, claiming he's involved in drugs.People who hide behind a pseudonym should be careful.An article in Monday's TIMES NEWS says a judge has ordered the owner of philly.com (the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News) to reveal the name of a person who is being sued over a comment posted online.The ruling came in a defamation suit over an anonymous posting on the Internet site.Despite the defendant's lawyer protesting that he is protected under First Amendment rights, the judge ruled:"I think it does bring accountability back to people who post things online and I hope it disposes of the notion that just because you're anonymous, you can say defamatory things about other people and not be held accountable for it."Suits over anonymous Internet postings are becoming more common.In a Brooklyn Federal Court suit filed last month, Paul Arena and Nathaniel Bradley sought to unmask some 30 'John Doe' defendants who made 'vulgar' comments about them after they resigned from their executive positions.In 2012, a Texas couple who filed a defamation lawsuit against anonymous posters on the Internet forum Topix.com won a $13.8 million judgment from a jury.Mark and Rhonda Lesher of Clarksville, Texas, filed a suit against anonymous commenters who accused them of being sexual deviants, molesters and drug dealers on Topix.After the Leshers filed their lawsuit, a Texas judge ordered Topix to turn over identifying information about the anonymous posters. Information disclosed by Topix, including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, or the unique number assigned to each computer, led the couple to a business owned by the husband of a woman who accused the couple of sexual assault in 2008.It's not only individuals who are suing anonymous posters.One report says the soaring popularity of such sites has also given rise to more cases in which a business sues someone for online comments.Brian Burke, former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, launched a civil suit against "poonerman," "sir psycho sexy," "KaBoomin8" and 15 other anonymous bloggers and online commentators who allegedly "spread lies over the Internet" after he was fired.Burke's mission to unmask anonymous commentators who he says defamed him underscores a point many are learning the hard way as cyber-libel cases become increasingly common: What is written online, even anonymously, can come back to bite the authors.So next time you think you can post anything you want and remain anonymous, you might want to think again.And be careful of stones that you throw.By RON GOWERrgower@tnonline.com