Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against No Longer Anonymous Commenter... After Commenter Was Revealed

from the oops dept

Last week, I had seen the news that a defamation lawsuit from an ex-Congressman in NY against an "anonymous" online critic had been dismissed as an anti-SLAPP violation. This is good news, and we really could use a national anti-SLAPP law that prevents the filing of bogus lawsuits designed to shut people up. However, Sam Bayard, over at the Citizen Media Law Project, digs into the details on this case, noting that an earlier judge had already revealed the anonymous commenter. The whole thing is pretty odd, but basically, it looks like the first judge relied on a lower bar in determining whether or not anonymity should be allowed -- claiming that no actual malice needed to be proved. However, when the revealed commenter filed an anti-SLAPP claim, the new judge had to take "actual malice" into account, and couldn't find any, thus tossing out the case. Still, it does seem like an odd, and vaguely troubling, result to find out that an anonymous commenter was unmasked... only to have the case thrown out on anti-SLAPP grounds at a later date. Just the fact that the guy was revealed may serve as disincentive for future critics to speak their minds.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2009 @ 5:35pm

    On the plus side, this provides ammunition if they ever try to attack anonymity technologies like TOR: Look at what happens without them. The courts fail to protect constitutionally protected anonymity and so people need the technology to ensure it.

    And likewise in arguments against data retention policies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    davebarnes (profile), 15 Sep 2009 @ 6:10pm

    Grammar Nazi Alert

    "I had seen the news"


    Michael, I am sure you can do better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 15 Sep 2009 @ 11:31pm

      Re: Grammar Nazi Alert


      Hmm. Not to get into a grammar debate, but what's the problem here? It's the past perfect, and I believe it's accurate. I had seen the news, indicating that I saw it, and then stopped seeing it. Just saying I saw the news had a different implication, which is less accurate. I was trying to note that I had originally seen the content last week, but had left it aside as not worth posting at the time. It's a distinct action that has been completed, and thus the past perfect made sense to me.

      But I'm open to an explanation of better grammatical choices, though, I will say that grammar debates seem a bit silly to me. If you can get the point across reasonably, what is the problem?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Charlie Potatoes, 15 Sep 2009 @ 6:32pm


    He wanted me to watch the program, but I had seen the news already. so wassa problem?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chargone (profile), 16 Sep 2009 @ 12:09am

    ahh, grammar.

    it's significant, but there really is a line beyond which arguing about it is just silly. likewise spelling.

    [the difference is the point where people start objecting compared to how good i am at them,really :D]

    grammatically, i don't see a problem with 'i had seen'... i think.
    but 'i saw in the news last week that' reads more easily.

    he saw me
    i saw him
    he had seen me
    he knew i had seen him

    the news saw me [silly :D]
    i saw the news
    the news had seen me [also silly]
    i had seen the news...

    ah! i think i have found the problem, such as it is. it's the 'last week' bit. somehow, that little timing statement goes with 'i saw' but not 'i had seen' get rid of it and the problem goes away, or at least massively reduces.

    i still couldn't explain in any detail why though. I'm not good at remember the names of the different things involved.

    right, that great big ramble aside, i should say something about the article itself, shouldn't i? :D

    this kind of screw up happens all the time. the only way to really fix it is to have strict guidelines with no flex in them at all about what can and can't be filed in the first place... and i don't see anyone going along with that, somehow.

    of course, the next question is this: is it possible for him to sue ... err... someone that actually makes sense... over the fact that his name was revealed? if he did so, and won, that'd discourage such events arising again, I'd think?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    davebarnes (profile), 16 Sep 2009 @ 7:21am

    I aplogize

    You are correct about the usage of: I had seen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Raybone (profile), 16 Sep 2009 @ 7:22am

    Grammar Nazis

    Screw up the flow of conversation over silly minutiae. Please stop or go teach at Our Lady of the Panty-Wad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Raybone (profile), 16 Sep 2009 @ 7:34am

    Back to the point

    Shouldn't judges be held accountable for even honest mistakes? Oh, I forgot, it's a "post 911" world. This means that even if you fail horribly at your duty, even resulting in the death of innocents, you get promoted instead of discipline.

    The unfortunate detail about TOR is that it bounces your signal around, in and out of the country, giving the CIA the legal grounds to spy on you (Patriot, Military Commissions Act). That is not to say I don't believe that if they wish they will do whatever they want regardless of the legalities. What is the solution to maintaining privacy?
    Stay off the net? What about freedom and dissent?

    Whooo! It sure is chilly in here. Brrrrr!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), 19 Sep 2009 @ 7:06am

    Need for National Anti-SLAPP With Sanctions

    "This is good news, and we really could use a national anti-SLAPP law that prevents the filing of bogus lawsuits designed to shut people up."

    We do need a strong national anti-SLAPP law and we also need to address section 230 end runs using trademark claims. The law needs to contain provisions which attach significant sanctions and fines for lawyers and their clients who are found to have abused the process of law.

    I suggest that the first lawsuit an attorney brings which is found to be a SLAPP should result in a $10,000 fine for both the client and the attorney. The second should result in a three month suspension of the attorneys privileges and a $100,000 fine for the client. The third and subsequent infractions should result in a one year suspension and a $1,000,000 fine for both the client and the attorney.

    Attorneys should be required by law to disclose to clients past rulings and the potential downside to bringing SLAPP cases :)

    Good for you Mike for backing a righteous issue. I keep telling people that you don't have your head stuck where the daylight doesn't shine all the time. It is unfortunate that your positions on patents, which are in all likelihood driven by your kissing up to clients or potential clients are so outrageous. Perhaps you will wise up at some point and recognize that so called innovators would not have any inventions without the inventors who produce them and that inventors are entitled to compensation just as he expects to be compensated by his clients.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    President - - RJR act
    Executive Director - - RJR at
    Senior Fellow -
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.