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he said. "People, especially teenagers and kids, just have to learn to be careful."

"The Web site operators could lose that immunity protection if it can be shown that they made material changes to the statement before it was posted," said Ardia. "That shows they take a more active role in moderating and editing."

The consensus from many media and law experts is that iBrattleboro will not be found responsible for the allegedly libelous statement, although some experts disagree.

One of the surviving provisions in that law extended the legal distinctions of "publisher" and "distributor" to Internet companies meaning a Web site could claim it was only the distributor of the information, and therefore not liable.

But not all lawyers agree. Robert Hemley, a Burlington anti trust and libel attorney, said the same standards that apply to newspapers also apply to Web sites. He said the plaintiff has a case if it's possible to prove the information was false.

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"The government is still playing catch up with the Internet in a lot of areas, especially around speech," said Traci Griffith, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at St. Michael's College in Colchester. "It's too bad we didn't have the foresight to address some of these issues earlier, but we are going to see new attempts to regulate the Internet in the next few years."

"From a criminal standpoint, we can't do anything, and Roshe Run Grey And Pink

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The citizen journalism movement has increased the number and diversity of voices in modern media, but it will soon confront the ethical issues that traditional journalists do, according to Griffith, the journalism professor at St. Michael's.

The trouble started in September when the executive director of the local ambulance service, who was then under fire for his management style, posted a comment on iBrattleboro that accused a subordinate of having an extramarital affair. The woman is suing the ambulance director, along with Grotke and LePage.

"From our perspective, there are a variety of statutes that cover conduct on the Internet," said John Treadwell, an assistant attorney general in Vermont. "But I'm not aware of any cases yet Nike Roshe Toddler Boy where we have prosecuted over content on a blog or another sort of posting on the Internet."

Ardia and others who believe the suit against Grotke and LePage will be dismissed cite as evidence the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a law that attempted to regulate indecency on the Internet, but later had many of its provisions struck down as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, attempts at the state level, including a 2003 Vermont law struck down by the courts a year later that attempted to prohibit the distribution of "harmful" materials to minors via the Internet, usually face major constitutional hurdles, he added.

"We would like to say more about this, but circumstances force us to be circumspect for the time being," LePage wrote on iBrattleboro last week. "What we can say is that we believe the suit to be without merit and (we) will be taking appropriate legal action."

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"When you publish this information, you are as liable as if you had made the actual statement," Hemley said. "Because this was done over the Internet doesn't change anything. The medium is not the issue, the message is."

Policing online comments is a big gray area, Johnson said. Clearly, if there is a threat involved, police can act, he said. But unless the person is a minor, police can't stop others from posting embarrassing stories, rumors or pictures of them on the Internet.

Law enforcement efforts on the Internet have mostly focused on child pornography and solicitation, but issues such as cyber bullying and threats, especially between youth Roshe Run Black And White Fade

peers, are a growing concern, said Brattleboro Detective Erik Johnson.

Whether the Web site is legally responsible for publishing an allegedly libelous statement from a public official will be decided in the courts. The question is: With a worldwide platform that gives everyone a soapbox, where is the line between personal expression and ad hominem attacks?

"By and large the courts have been sensitive to allowing legitimate, robust discussions of politics and other issues to continue untouched," Goodenough said. "On the other hand, they have also been sensitive to allegations made against private people."

´╗┐iBrattleboro blog weaves tangled web

One sticking point may be the degree of control that Grotke and LePage have over iBrattleboro. Stories posted on the Web site are screened before they appear, but comments are not.

"I think this lawsuit against the Web site will be dismissed," said David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet Society, a research program at Harvard Law School. "There have been several cases that show that Web sites are not responsible for these kinds of comments."

"Essentially, a threat is a threat whether it has been delivered on a telephone, street corner or on line," Johnson said.

"You are being sued," read the five page summons delivered to Christopher Grotke and Lise LePage last month.

Representatives of the Vermont Attorney General's Office and local state's attorneys interviewed for this story said online harassment cases are rare compared with other forms of harassment.

Vermont has an online harassment criminal statute. Its "disturbing the peace by telephone" misdemeanor charges have been extended to "electronic communications." A person convicted of this crime faces a penalty of up to $250 and three months in prison.

But as a generation accustomed to communicating via MySpace or LiveJournal grows up, police and prosecutors said they expect to tackle more criminal cases surrounding Internet statements.

"It essentially says that bookstores, newsstands and libraries are not responsible for the content because they are distributors," Ardia explained. courts have taken a "hands off approach" to regulation of Internet speech, according to Oliver Goodenough, a professor of law at Vermont Law School in Royalton.

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"It's actually something that we are just starting to become more aware of, thanks to our school resource officer," said Johnson, a member of the state's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

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civil law is not my area of expertise," Roshe Run Marble

That provision rose out of lawsuits against the early Internet companies who were operating online bulletin boards for their members. The two distinctions date back to early legal decisions regarding newspaper libel, which protected distributors, such as newsstands, from libel suits.

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