All Buffalo Grove Village Trustee Lisa Stone knows about the person she claims tormented her 15-year-old son (Tribune) during last spring's heated election, which she won, is his online handle "Hipcheck16." And that's all she will know for at least another month as Stone jousts with Hipcheck16's lawyer, Michael Furlong (who referred to his client as a "he").
It's a case that could test the limits of free speech and has attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Stone pressed Comcast to release the name of the alleged tormenter, which it finally did under pressure from a subpoena by Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Lawrence. But the name remains sealed by the Judge. Comcast contacted Hipcheck16 (known as "John Doe" in court documents) as a courtesy, who then hired Furlong in an effort to protect his privacy on 1st Amendment grounds.
The courts so far have sided with anonymous Internet posters in similar cases across the country, upholding the broad protections of the 1st Amendment. But it's an emerging area of law made more complex by bad behavior such as cyber bullying and stalking.
It's too bad that Stone's teenage son had to be dragged into the mud of Chicago politics (albeit, suburban Chicago). Politics in general often bring out the worst in people, so perhaps Stone should have known what she was getting into.
I haven't seen the entire transcript of the exchange, but one piece of the dialogue has been floating around the web. After Stone's son responded to disparaging words about his mom posted by Hipcheck16, he invited the nameless poster to an in-person debate -- something very few political bloggers would have the stomach for. So Hipcheck16 replied with the following:
"Seems like you're very willing to invite a man you only know from the Internet over to your house -- have you done it before, or do they usually invite you to their house?"
It will be interesting to see how this one turns out.