Anonymous speech

Virginia Supreme Court won't force Yelp to reveal identities of anonymous commenters

Kimberly Chow | Libel | News | April 16, 2015
April 16, 2015

In a victory for Yelp and its anonymous commenters, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled today that the circuit court could not force the California-based online review site to reveal the identities of users who had posted negative reviews of a Virginia carpet-cleaning company.

Yelp v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning

July 30, 2014

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning sued seven Yelp reviewers for libel, saying it suspects they were not customers but competitors intentionally lying about the companey. Hadeed subpoenaed Yelp for the reviewers' identities, and Yelp argued that the reviewers' speech was protected by the First Amendment and their identities should not be revealed. The Reporters Committee and 16 others filed an amicus brief in the Virginia Supreme Court, arguing that anonymous speech on matters of public concern, especially anonymous commentary on news websites, is vital to public participation and must be protected. The brief further argues that the Virginia unmasking statute must be interpreted robustly, so that a plaintiff is required to provide sufficient evidence to support its claim before it may unmask an anonymous speaker.

D.C. high court allows immediate appeal of denial of anti-SLAPP motion

Kevin Delaney | Libel | News | May 30, 2014
May 30, 2014

The District of Columbia's high court ruled Thursday that denials of anti-SLAPP motions to quash are immediately appealable, reversing a lower court order that would have forced Wikipedia to disclose data revealing the identity of an anonymous poster to the company’s site.

The case started after Susan L. Burke, a prominent human-rights attorney, filed a lawsuit claiming several anonymous defendants conspired to defame her by making changes to a Wikipedia page devoted to her legal work. Burke requested Wikipedia’s user data in an attempt to uncover the posters’ true identities.

New York appellate court allows blogger to remain anonymous, dismisses defamation claim

Cindy Gierhart | Libel | News | January 8, 2014
January 8, 2014

A New York appellate court ruled that a blogger may remain anonymous, thereby preventing a political candidate from bringing a defamation suit against him or her.

The blogger, known as “Q-Tip,” wrote an article titled “Would You Buy A Used Car From These Men?,” which said the candidates “think you aren’t smart enough to see past the lies and downright criminal actions taken by their backers, the Croton Republican Committee.”

The court held on Dec. 26 that a reasonable reader, given the context of the blog and the contentious election, would conclude these statements reflected the blogger’s opinion, not fact.

Virginia court rules that Yelp must name seven anonymous reviewers

Cindy Gierhart | Libel | News | January 7, 2014
January 7, 2014

The Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled today that Yelp must reveal the identity of seven pseudonymous reviewers so that a company may sue them for defamation.

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning received numerous negative reviews on Yelp, and it singled out seven reviewers that it suspects were never actually customers. The company brought a defamation claim against them, subpoenaing Yelp for their identities. Yelp refused to disclose their identities.

Attorneys for Yelp argued that the Virginia court should adopt what is known as the Dendrite standard, followed in several other states, which requires those claiming defamation to provide sufficient evidence to support that claim before the court will force anonymous speakers to reveal their identities.

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning v. Does, Yelp Inc.

May 8, 2013

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning filed a defamation suit in Virginia against several anonymous reviewers for comments they posted on Yelp. Hadeed alleges that the reviewers were not actually customers and that their allegations were defamatory, and sought a subpoena to identify them. The trial court issued the subpoena and Yelp appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Lower court should have protected blogger's identity, Mich. appeals court rules

Lilly Chapa | Privacy | News | April 11, 2013
April 11, 2013

The identity of an anonymous blogger sued for defamation does not have to be disclosed, according to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The appeals court ruled last week that a lower court erred when it refused to protect the anonymous identity of the blogger known only as “Rockstar05.” The trial judge incorrectly applied law from outside the state when it should have used Michigan law addressing anonymous online commenters, the appeals court stated.

Controversial website not protected under press exemption to Maine campaign finance law

Lilly Chapa | News | October 3, 2012
October 3, 2012

A federal court Sunday upheld a fine against a campaign consultant who anonymously produced a controversial political website that violated Maine’s campaign finance laws.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torreson ruled that James Bailey’s website, “The Cutler Files,” was not excluded from Maine campaign finance laws under the statute's press exemption because it was not a “periodical publication.”

D.C. court rules in favor of anonymous speech

Haley Behre | Libel | Feature | January 18, 2012
January 18, 2012

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals set a precedent for balancing a speaker's right to anonymous speech with a plaintiff's right to pursue a defamation claim on January 12, when it ruled that a trade association didn’t have to disclose the name of an anonymous tipster.

Federal judge preserves blogger's anonymity

Chris Healy | Privacy | Feature | November 17, 2011
November 17, 2011

A federal court in California has ruled that an unnamed internet critic of an international spiritual organization can maintain his anonymity -- at least for now.