Judge Orders Unmasking Of Wikipedia Users; Fails To Follow Standard Anonymity Protections

from the dendrite-me dept

Over the years, we’ve covered tons of lawsuits about attempts by people to uncover the identity of anonymous critics. Frequently, the aggrieved parties figure out some way to file a defamation lawsuit and use that to uncover the name of the person in question, without much interest in actually going through the rest of the legal proceedings. Judges tend to be a mixed bag on this issue, with many judges recognizing a strong First Amendment free speech value in allowing anonymous speech. In fact, many are (finally) coalescing around the “Dendrite” rules, which outline the conditions under which anonymous online users can or should be identified. The Dendrite hurdle is pretty high, and for a good reason: because anonymity is important.

However, it appears that a magistrate judge in Colorado who admitted he was unaware of the Dendrite case or the associated “rule,” decided to just ignore it once being informed of it, and went forward with an order to unmask some anonymous Wikipedia users who the company Faconnable claimed defamed Faconnable. This is worrisome, and thankfully, Public Citizen is pushing back on this, highlighting the importance of protecting anonymity online. Thankfully, another court has put a stay on identifying the guy in question while this issue is hashed out, but it’s still unfortunate how many judges are uninformed on issues they’re ruling about.

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Comments on “Judge Orders Unmasking Of Wikipedia Users; Fails To Follow Standard Anonymity Protections”

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52 Comments
John Doe says:

The real shame here

but it’s still unfortunate how many judges are uninformed on issues they’re ruling about.

I don’t hold it against a judge for not knowing this. I do hold it against him for not researching and finding precedents and even worse, ignoring it once he is informed of it. There is little that can be done to judges and they know it.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Grammar Nazi Alert

Your never going to get you’re way on this. Don’t get upset about it. Their are just two many people out they’re using there words wrong too get to upset about it. Many common examples exist of incorrect usage. But you’d have to be a fool to begin or end a sentence with the word “but”. And only an idiot would begin or end a sentence with “and”.

Anonymous Coward says:

After reading the Public Citizen blog post this whole lawsuit is over a few words tacked on to the end of a sentence suggesting that buying from this company who is (in a long chain) owned by a guy who heads an allience that funds terrorists might go to terrorists if you buy thier products. You have got to be kidding me, really need to pick thier battles.

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, because really all they’ve done is just brought more attention to this fact. So in the end, what will getting a defamation suit won really do? Identify/punish an anonymous critic AND the fact you are trying to hide becomes well known to many more people.

Unless of course it is false, but they will have to prove this is not the case, perhaps?

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, because really all they’ve done is just brought more attention to this fact. So in the end, what will getting a defamation suit won really do? Identify/punish an anonymous critic AND the fact you are trying to hide becomes well known to many more people.

Unless of course it is false, but they will have to prove this is not the case, perhaps?

Anonymous Coward says:

The fact is, Dendrite isn’t “the rule” and the plaintiff wasn’t “hiding the law” by not bringing it to the magistrate’s attention. I read through Levy’s brief and didn’t see any mention of courts who eplicitly didn’t follow Dendrite or who used a different standard. So who’s really “hiding the law” here?

Anonymous Coward says:

I rarely click on links in TechDirt posts (let’s just say that’s because the commentary is already so excellent…), but I did click on the “Dendrite” link, just to find it’s a paywalled site with just an abstract, and big links to pay for more access. There’s a wikipedia article that I’m sure isn’t as good as the $29.95 document, but it’s free…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrite_International,_Inc._v._Doe_No._3

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, there’s some distinct irony here, when you’re slamming a judge for ignoring proper process, and yet you were all applauding the “insightfulness” of commentators telling the police to do just that this Sunday.

Now, let’s be clear here. I’m not on an Anti-TechDirt rant here. This is a rant against everyone who thinks the law should bend to whatever morality they believe in.

Do you want the law to make decisions based on the beliefs of the enforcers? If so, this is what you get – some judges and other law enforcement officials feeling that anonymity should not (and cannot) be hidden behind.

Do you want the law to follow the process, and be blind justice? Then yes, you have to deal with people being arrested for bad laws – and hopefully getting those laws overturned through due process.

What I can’t stand, however, is people who want whatever suits their own beliefs best. The legal system is not tailored to appease individuals, nor should it ever.

(Just to be clear, I’m the green AC that posted a lot on that article, and yes, I’m on a tilt)

Joseph K (profile) says:

Trademark violation too

The linked article also says: “Fa?onnable also claimed that the use of its business name violated its trademark rights protected by the Lanham Act.” So, they’re claiming that I can’t even talk about a company without their permission, else it’s a trademark violation? Why? I guess because someone might confuse my criticism of a company as originating from that company. I don’t even think that meets the “brain-dead zombie in a hurry” standard of trademark confusion.

Gregory Kohs (profile) says:

So, let me get this straight

Do I have this correct… A company that makes good clothes and wishes to keep their brand reputation in a good light should be berated by Techdirt readers because the company wants to know the name of the coward who used Wikipedia as a defamation platform to libel the company?

Talk about abuse of Section 230.

Gregory Kohs (profile) says:

Re: Re: So, let me get this straight

So, even though you didn’t see the actual Wikipedia edits (they’ve been expunged), and even though the court document suggests that they said M1 Group “supports” or “is a supporter of” Hezbollah, you are willing to say that these statements on Wikipedia were “true”? No wonder you’re an Anonymous Coward.

Gregory Kohs (profile) says:

Re: Re: So, let me get this straight

I’m a happy customer of Faconnable. I bought one of their shirts in 1993, and it still looks great. High-quality material. I wonder if the Hezbollah alliance, though, now ruins that craftsmanship, since the seamstresses are clearly working half of their shifts sewing explosives into vests?

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