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Ky. Supreme Court Allows Internet Posters To Remain Anonymous

Josh James

The Kentucky Supreme Court reaffirmed the First Amendment rights of anonymous online commenters Thursday.

Largely overshadowed by the decision to strike down a gubernatorial executive order, the state’s highest court also weighed in on a defamation suit brought by Bill Hickman. The former Pike County Airport Board chairman was seeking to unmask a pair of anonymous posters who have repeatedly mocked him on the entertainment and news site Topix.com.

Hickman claims the allegations of incompetence and corruption spread by the commenters are false, and the posters – named as John Doe No.1 and 2 – should be identified.

The majority was not swayed, however, ruling 4-2 that the First Amendment did provide some protections for anonymous commenters to speak freely. The high court said Hickman needed to provide more evidence to prove the posters’ claims were false and made with malice.

The case now heads back to Pike Circuit Court.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.