Nova Scotia

Halifax paper told to ID online commenters

A court has ordered a Halifax weekly newspaper to release information that could identify seven anonymous online commenters.

A court has ordered a Halifax weekly newspaper to release information that could identify seven anonymous online commenters.

The order was sought by two senior fire officials who claim they were defamed.

Last April, the Coast published an article about allegations of racism within the Halifax regional fire service. Dozens of comments have been posted on the newspaper's website over the past year.

Fire Chief Bill Mosher and deputy chief of operations Stephen Thurber wanted to unmask seven anonymous commenters, who they say made allegations of racism, cronyism and incompetence.

Mosher and Thurber argued that they need to identify those commenters in order to defend themselves.

P.O.V.:

 Online anonymity: Should commenters be unmasked?

Wednesday's court decision means that the Coast will have to hand over all the information it has that identifies the commenters, such as login information and computer IP addresses.

Coast editor Kyle Shaw said he will comply with the order as soon as he can.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice acknowledged that the IP addresses won't identify the commenters directly, so Mosher and Thurber will likely need another court order against service providers Aliant or EastLink to determine who logged on to the computers.

That information will not become public unless it's introduced as evidence in a defamation trial.

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