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Web site's owner: Why ban just me?

Hudson County Politics Message Board

Jersey Journal
March 16, 2006

By JARRETT RENSHAW
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

City Hall puts one Web site off limits

City Hall's ban of an Internet message board critical of the administration has raised the eyebrows of the site's owner, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

City officials said they banned the Web site getnj.com roughly three months ago because of its below-the-belt comments, which one official described as "anonymous garbage."

The Web site, which features a Hudson County political forum, allows anonymous authors with nicknames - many bizarre - to take shots at local officials, including Mayor Jerramiah Healy and members of his administration.

The City Hall ban is limited to the Web site getnj.com and does not extend to other message boards on the net, which caught the attention of the ACLU of New Jersey.

"Government agencies have a legitimate interest in blocking access to some Web sites under certain circumstances," said Annu Mangat, spokeswoman for the ACLU of New Jersey.

"However, the key question here is what types or categories of Web sites are being blocked. If a particular Web site is being singled out because of the viewpoint it expresses on an issue, that raises some serious free speech concerns," she added.

City officials did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story yesterday.

The site is registered to Jersey City resident Anthony Olszewski, a one-time worker at City Hall under former Mayor Bret Schundler. Olszewski said he has helped build Web sites for other local politicians.

"It's not like the ban stopped the messages from coming, people can call or fax items as well," said Olszewski, who was aware of the ban when it was put into place a few months ago.

He said besides the Internet punditry, his Web site offers a lot of useful information, such as the city's history and zoning and neighborhood facts.

Olszewski also said he was surprised to see his Web site targeted, and not other recreational sites such as eBay.com.

"It doesn't make sense, people are still talking, you can't stop rumors," said Olszewski.

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