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    Austin American-Statesman: Police ready to ‘take on’ commenters, chief says

    The Austin American-Statesman reports that Texas police are seeking to fight back at people who criticize them in postings online.

    Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says he and some of his officers have been harassed, lied about and had their identities falsely used in online blogs and in reader comment sections on local media Internet sites. […]

    They have since researched their legal options and decided that from now on, they might launch formal investigations into such posts, Acevedo said. He said investigators might seek search warrants or subpoenas from judges to learn the identities of the authors — he thinks some could be department employees — and possibly sue them for libel or file charges if investigators think a crime was committed. […]

    University of Texas law professor David Anderson said the hosts of sites where potentially libelous comments are posted are granted immunity by federal laws. Those who post comments can still be sued, however.

    State lawmakers this year passed a law that took effect Sept. 1 making it a third-degree felony to use another person’s name to post messages on a social networking site without their permission and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten. […]

    Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr recently updated department policies prohibiting people from posting obscene or defamatory comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Department spokeswoman Michelle DeCrane said Thursday that officials have not yet discussed how they will enforce the updated policy.

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