we've seen US court defend the right to anonymity of people posting anonymous blogs or comments in forums. In fact, we were a bit disappointed to see a ruling in Texas recently go the other way
. However, there are still plenty of other courts willing to recognize that right to anonymity. A Maryland appeals court has agreed that online anonymity is worth protecting
-- and even set up some interesting guidelines that other courts might follow:
- Require that plaintiffs notify anonymous parties that their identities are sought.
- Give the posters time to reply with reasons why they should remain nameless.
- Require plaintiffs identify the defamatory statements and who made them.
- Determine whether the complaint has set forth a prima facie defamation, where the words are obviously libelous, or a per quod action, meaning it requires outside evidence.
- Weigh the poster's right to free speech against the strength of the case and the necessity of identity disclosure.
All in all, this seems like a reasonable setup, though I tend to think that people are too quick to call certain statements defamatory.