US court tackles online anonymity

Ruling could open up anonymous Internet posters to slander charges.

Be careful the next time you engage in an Internet flame war: it could land you in court.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is taking up a case this week that could have major implications for Internet users' ability to anonymously post their opinions on the Web. The case revolves around Zebulon Brodie, a Maryland businessman who is alleging that he has been defamed by anonymous Internet users who posted messages on a Web site owned by Independent Newspapers, a community newspaper company that owns local papers in Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Maryland.

Specifically, Brodie wants Independent Newspapers to disclose the names of three anonymous users whom he alleges defamed him by calling him a polluter.

According to a report in the Maryland Daily Record, an attorney representing Independent Newspapers argued in court Monday that the First Amendment grants citizens the right to make anonymous controversial comments and that compelling hosts to disclose the identities of anonymous posters would have "a chilling effect" on free speech.

Brodie's attorney countered that a person cannot defame another person and expect First Amendment protection, as the First Amendment "can't be so far reaching... as to prevent redress by a plaintiff who has been defamed." Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Murphy expressed similar sentiments, the Daily Record reported, by saying that if posters wished to remain anonymous then they shouldn't defame anyone.

The court gave no indication of when it expected to have the case resolved, the Daily Record said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags free speech

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Reed

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?