Judge Orders Philly.com to Reveal Commenter’s Identity

Will the decision rein in the site's notoriously toxic commenters?

In a decision that might give the heebie jeebies to Philly’s worst online commenters—and glee in the hearts of all who despise them,which is pretty much everybody else—a judge has ordered Philly.com to reveal the identity of an anonymous commenter who insulted prominent local union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. CBSPhilly has the goods:

The anonymous defendant in the suit, disguised by the nonsense name “fbpdplt,” called Dougherty a “pedophile” in the comments section of an article on the website, one of the properties in the media group that also owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

Dougherty’s attorney, Joe Podraza, argued the comment was defamation, not protected by either the federal or state constitution.

Common Pleas Judge Jacqueline Allen ruled in Dougherty’s favor, in a decision that Podraza says “has been a long time coming.”

“I think the court is sending a strong message to those who abuse the internet by defaming others and think they can get away with it by acting anonymously,” he told KYWnewsradio.

Jonathan Valania wrote about Philly.com’s “unbelievably toxic” commenters for Philly Mag in July, noting: “On a good day, it’s bad. On a bad day, it’s vile. There are a lot of bad days on Philly.com.” The next month, the Inquirer reported the site would be shifting to a new comment system aimed at addressing trolls. The system has changed, but the level of vitriol seems little contained.