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Court wants Comcast to expose commenter sued for defamation

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Here's a reminder that online anonymity can't always protect you: the Illinois Supreme Court has ordered Comcast to reveal the identity of a subscriber involved in a defamation lawsuit. The case was filed by Bill Hadley who ran for the Stephenson County board a few years ago. In 2011, the Freeport Journal Standard published an article about him, where the defendant (using the moniker "Fuboy") left a couple of comments, including this: "Hadley is a Sandusky waiting to be exposed. Check out the view he has of Empire from his front door." Empire an elementary school right across Hadley's residence.

Hadley filed a lawsuit shortly after that, which started a lengthy and complicated legal dance with the newspaper's parent company, Gatehouse Media, and Comcast. He had been in possession of "Fuboy's" IP since 2012, but Comcast required a court order to unveil the commenter's name and address from the start. The defendant maintains that what he said doesn't warrant a defamation suit, since it's "not a crime to have the last name Sandusky," and readers wouldn't associate Hadley's name with something bad without prior knowledge of "extrinsic facts."

Illinois' high court, however, has decided to uphold the lower court's decision, pointing out that:

...at the time Fuboy's comment was posted, "the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal had dominated the national news for weeks..." In short, at the time of Fuboy's comment, numerous men were testifying to the abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of Sandusky when they were young boys. The general public was mindful of the fact Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing young boys. Stating that Hadley was "a Sandusky" while the scandal dominated the national news, coupled with the reference to Empire Elementary School, conveyed the idea that Hadley was a pedophile or had engaged in sexual acts with children and, thus, had committed criminal conduct

Fuboy and his lawyer have 90 days to escalate the case to the US Supreme Court, before Comcast hands his details to Hadley. The politician, who won the elections by the way, told The Chicago Tribune that finally getting a hold of Fuboy's identity would be a huge victory -- after all, it "practically broke [him] financially." We suggest you read the court documents (PDF) on the case to fully understand how persistent Hadley has been throughout this whole deal.

[Image credit: Shutterstock / Tyler Olson]

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