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Jackson Lewis Sends Bloggers Nastygrams

The law firm Jackson Lewis delivered nastygrams this week to two health industry blogs, demanding that they take down anonymous comments and hand over information to help identify the person who posted the comments. Both blogs responded to the nastygram with posts saying that they will neither take down the comments nor turn over any information.

The blog Confessions of a Pediatric Practice Consultant, part of the pediatric health site PedSource, posted the letter it received this week from Ernst H. Ostrand, an associate in Jackson Lewis' Chicago office. It is written on behalf of the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society regarding a comment about HIMSS posted under the pseudonym Rocky Ostrand. The comment alleges a "cozy relationship" between HIMSS and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology. The letter from Jackson Lewis describes the comment as "offensive and potentially defamatory" and asks that it be taken down. It goes on to request: "Please provide us with 'Rocky Ostrand's' e-mail address, IP address, and any other information you may have that would help us identify his or her true identity."

Did HIMSS hunt around for a lawyer with the same last name as the pseudonymous poster? We don't know that, but we do know that the letter failed to have its desired effect. The blog's author, Chip Hart, a practice management consultant for pediatricians, had this to say:

Don't these [people] realize that asking us to remove the content is ridiculous? Google has already cached it. It's already in the wild. HIMSS has two choices: ignore it or respond to it. Frankly. I'd suggest the latter. ... I'll even run a response verbatim, give HIMSS full exposure.

Jackson Lewis sent its other letter to the blog of Chilmark Research, a health industry research firm in Cambridge, Mass. In its case, the anonymous comments were left under the name "Calvin Jablonski," but similarly criticized HIMSS. Chilmark concedes that the easy way to make the lawyers go away would be to comply with the request. But that, it says, would set "a broader and far uglier" precedent.

An important foundation of this country’s founding is free speech, to a point. Yes, there are libel laws and the like but last we looked, the party taking offense must demonstrate clear damage. Are HIMSS and CCHIT, both receiving the wrath of Jablonski’s comments, truly damaged by what clearly appear to be the ravings of a disgruntled individual? The bottom-line though is that we do not want to censor comments that add to a discussion are pertinent to the topic at hand - PERIOD!

Like Hart at PedSource, Chilmark extends HIMSS an offer to set the record straight with a post on its blog. So far, Chilmark says, HIMSS has not taken it up on the offer.

[Hat tip to Universal Hub.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 27, 2009 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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