Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The Communications Decency Act prevents victims of online defamation from suing intermediaries like Internet Service Providers and online message board operators. As a result, plaintiffs have resorted to filing John Doe lawsuits and subpoenaing Internet companies to reveal the identity of anonymous online posters as a way to silence defamatory speech. The purpose of these John Doe lawsuits is not to win a monetary judgment but instead to silence the critic through exposure. Currently, First Amendment considerations lead to distinguishing between public and private figure plaintiffs in what must be proven to win a defamation suit on the merits. This article argues that those same considerations should also lead to distinguishing between what public and private figure plaintiffs must prove to issue a subpoena to expose an anonymous online critic.
Download the article from SSRN here.