A ruling Friday by the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court decision and said NewsZap.com, an online forum run by Independent Newspapers Inc., does not have to disclose the identities of participants in a 2006 online exchange about the cleanliness of a Dunkin' Donuts shop in Centreville, Md.
Now that the courts have ruled in favor of Internet anonymity (at least partially and perhaps only for now), websites involved in defamation suits will not have to reveal the identity of readers who post comments on their sites. Instead, those that think they are being maligned actually will have to convince the anonymous poster to share their information, because the courts will not.
I'm not sure how far anonymous commenting might extend to other issues like safety or threats, but it's clear that disclosing the identities of people who choose to remain anonymous while actively commenting at your site would have a negative effect in building community. So this is good news for all Web professionals!