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NewsZap reports that the Deleware Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit seeking to identify anonymous posters to a blog.
The case, filed by Smyrna Town, Delaware Councilman Patrick J. Cahill and his wife Julia, alleges that four anonymous posters to a community issues blog “defamed” the councilman and his wife in late 2004.
Anonymity: First Amendment Right or License to Defame?
Lawyers for the anonymous defendants claim that the case is an important test of the First Amendment right to speak anonymously without fear of retribution. One of the case’s John Does — identified as John Doe No. 1 or Proud Citizen — filed for a protective order to block his or her identity from being revealed. A judge denied the request and Doe appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.
While anonymity on the Internet is essential for a free exchange of ideas, Judge Slights said there is a difference between exchanging ideas and “using it as a cover to defame others.”
Valid Email Address Means Nothing
“The First Amendment doesn’t give someone the right to say something defamatory to someone else,” Cahill’s attorney, Robert Katzenstein said in a recent interview. “The anonymity of the Internet should not give people licenses to defame people without facing legal consequences of defamation.”
My policy is to refuse to publish the comments of anonymous posters. A valid email address is no way to confirm a poster’s identity either, since addresses like are freely available.
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