Ever a Good Idea to Go After Anonymous Bloggers?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 26, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As an in-house attorney, you've probably learned what pushes an executive's buttons. You also know that if an exec runs across an online posting that slams your company's reputation you'll probably be receiving an angry call. But is it ever a wise idea to go after an anonymous blogger?

It might make the exec initially happy. After all, they don't want to see their business get tarnished.

But legally speaking, it seems that going after someone whose identity is under wraps might be a long process. Whether or not it's worth it will be up to you and your company's board.

If you have the blogger's IP address, you may be in luck. It might be easier to track down the offending person.

But if all you have is the person's anonymous username, be prepared. Most likely, the ISP won't willingly give up their customer's private information during discovery.

Typically, you'll have to get a court order. And it's up to the judge to decide if your claim is valid enough to warrant revealing the person's identity.

We all know the importance of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech. Lawyers also know that most courts tend to vigorously defend these rights. Whether or not they'll issue an order revealing the identity of the anonymous blogger might very well rest on the strength of your case.

In some jurisdictions, a prima facie showing is all that is required. But some jurisdictions mandate that the claim must be able to survive a motion for summary judgment. Depending on where you file your case, it can be met with a more rigorous standard.

The type of speech can also affect your case. Courts seem more likely to grant cases that involve trade secrets. They seem more likely to deny cases that involve political speech.

Whether or not you decide to advise your company to go after an anonymous blogger is wholly up to you. Just remember: it can become an arduous ordeal.

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