The Justice Department is clashing with career site Glassdoor Inc over the company’s refusal to identify users who posted anonymous employee reviews of a veterans health-care company under federal investigation.
That’s been fought over in civil courts, but this is a first for a potentially criminal matter. The Federal government is the one making the demand this time because the Feds want witnesses for a grand jury investigation into Glassdoor.
Whatever the parameters of any possible criminal case involved here, there are some questions that need careful consideration. Leave aside 1st Amendment questions regarding a right, especially but not necessarily limited to political discourse, to discourse anonymously.
Forcing a potential witness to come forward and testify in open court seems counterproductive. How credible, indeed, how objectively accurate, would a witness be who’s forced to testify? Might such a witness say what his government forcer wants him to say? Might such a witness’ memory become faulty? Might such a witness’ testimony, however well he tries for accuracy, be slanted by…fear of consequences, frustration at being forced, other factors, factors that wouldn’t be present with voluntary testimony?
How would a court tell whether impacts from these factors are large or small in a particular case? How would a court even recognize the presence of these factors? Given presence, how would a court control for that presence?