Civil Liberties

Complaining of Intimidation, City Attorney Seeks to Punish Online Critic


The Boston Globe reports that the town of Southborough, Massachusetts, is considering unspecified "legal action" against an anonymous online critic who complained about its process for selecting a new police chief. According to Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano, a commenter at who goes by "Marty" was trying to "harass and intimidate" members of Southborough's Police Chief Search Committee when he suggested that the committee had violated the state's open meeting law and had inappropriately favored the acting police chief. When Cipriano asked proprietor Susan Fitzgerald to reveal Marty's identity, she refused, citing the First Amendment right to speak anonymously. Cipriano warned her to preserve records of the search committee discussion on her site and to keep an eye on visitors' posts in the future, lest they again dare to annoy town officials with their criticism. "We strongly suggest that you more closely monitor remarks made on the communication site," he wrote in a letter to Fitzgerald last fall, "ensuring that when individuals speak to issues that they do so accurately and without false allegations of violating state law." According to the Globe, Cipriano turned down Fitzgerald's offer to post the city's response to Marty's criticism, saying "there was no need to defend the actions of the search committee since it had acted properly" and that "a simple response on the website was not sufficient given the seriousness of the situation."

[via Michael Graham