The internet makes it easy for any person to anonymously publish statements about your business or about you personally. While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects anonymous speech generally, that protection does not extend to defamation, which is unlawful. Thus, where somebody publishes a provably false statement of fact about you or your business, that statement may be actionable as defamation. The fact that the statement was published anonymously does not make the statement lawful, and it does not protect the author from liability.
However, when dealing with anonymous defamation, a whole new set of issues arises. In particular, how do you seek legal relief from somebody when you do not know who that person is? Kronenberger Rosenfeld is at the forefront of representing plaintiffs, defendants, and third-party interactive computer services in anonymous defamation cases. In representing plaintiffs, we employ a range of judicial and non-judicial techniques to identify the publisher of the unlawful statements. Often, anonymous defamation cases have required us to file lawsuits against anonymous “John Doe” defendants and request that the court authorize our firm to conduct sufficient discovery to lift the anonymity. Once we have identified the publisher of the defamatory statements, we can convert the “John Doe” lawsuit into a conventional lawsuit and pursue maximum legal relief for our client.
When our firm represents defendants and third-party interactive computer services, we rely on our extensive experience with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act along with our experience with the general First Amendment right to speak anonymously. Invoking this experience, our firm has been able to quash subpoenas or force plaintiffs to withdraw subpoenas issued to identify the publisher of an online statement.
Regardless of whether you are the subject of the defamation, the publisher of a statement on the internet, or an affected interactive computer service, it is important to engage qualified internet attorneys as soon as possible. This is particularly true in the case of anonymous defamation because these matters are very time sensitive. Once a publisher’s identity is revealed or protected by a court, the nature of the dispute will fundamentally change. The following are representative examples of Kronenberger Rosenfeld’s work in the area of anonymous defamation.
If you have an anonymous defamation matter, contact us today at (415) 955-1155, ext. 120, or submit your matter using our online case submission form.