by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 15th 2009 5:25pm
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.
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