Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » When should we release a user's IP address?


The Advocate's ethics board had a special meeting after being alerted by a state investigator that we would receive a subpoena for the computer records of someone who posted what could be considered a threat against Victoria District Attorney Stephen Tyler.

As Friday's story notes, we agreed to release this specific record. Our concern rests mainly in protecting the privacy of all of our law-abiding online users. We don't want to release records based on fishing expeditions, but we didn't consider that to be happening here.

As I previously posted, our ethics board decided in November that we probably would release the computer record -- an IP address, as we outline in a graphic with Friday's story -- in a criminal investigation or a libel suit. The discussion arose then because someone kept posting the name of the accuser in the Michael Ratcliff investigation.

The digital world creates an entirely new set of challenges for newspapers. I outlined some of these issues in a summary of the online ethics training the newsroom received in March.

You also may want to review the guidelines we try to follow when moderating online comments. They're covered in an October post soon after we redesigned our site and formed our ethics board.

What are your thoughts on how to handle these issues? How do such investigations affect your use of any Web site?