Standards for Identifying Anonymous Posters of Blogs are Currently Emerging in Many States

New Jersey Caselaw: Courts throughout the country are struggling to find a proper standard to evaluate cases where litigants seeking the identity of anonymous bloggers. The general approach being taken by most courts is to require some evidentiary showing before they permit a litigant to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger. Courts are generally seeking evidence that proves the need for information outweighs the First Amendment rights to anonymous speech.

The New Jersey Appellate Division has previously held that an Internet defamation litigant may find out the identity of an anonymous Internet poster in limited circumstances. The Court, in Dendrite International v. Doe, indicated that the determination should be made on a case by case basis, taking into account the following factors: (1) whether efforts were taken to notify the poster about the request, allowing that poster time to respond; (2) whether the claimant specified the exact contents of each allegedly defamatory statement at issue; (3) whether the claimant set forth a valid case and provided the court with enough evidence to support the claim; and (4) the court’s balance of the anonymous poster’s right to free speech against the strength of the case before it.

This is good for potential plaintiffs because it provides a way of obtaining the information. Many states have not articulated such standards. In general, Internet service providers and website hosts take the approach that they will provide the information in response to a court subpoena. Cases like Dendrite strengthen the subpoena and the enforceability of it.

Comments/Questions: ljm@gdnlaw.com

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