Just last week, we were talking about the importance of protecting online anonymity, and how so many people feel that anonymous speech criticizing themselves must be illegal. The good news, though, is that the courts seem to be in favor of protecting online anonymity if there's no real evidence of anything illegal. The latest case involved a website about a real estate developer. The site was set up anonymously by someone who was critical of the developer, and the developer sued. However, during the course of the case, the judge asked the developers lawyer if his client was willing to move forward with the case even if the identity of the anonymous critic remained hidden -- and the lawyer replied that he did not know, as the main focus of his client was to uncover the identity. The judge then ruled that the online critic could remain anonymous. That's actually an interesting test to pose to those bringing such cases. Most of the time, it does seem like they're bringing the case not to right some wrong, but simply to find out who their anonymous critic is -- and there's no legal reason to force the critic to be unmasked. It seems perfectly reasonable that a court should see whether or not the plaintiff is willing to continue to have the case move forward on the merits without knowing who it is they're suing, before any anonymity is lifted.
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