Who's Exposing John Doe? Distinguishing Between Public and Private Figure Plaintiffs in Subpoenas to ISPs in Anonymous Online Defamation Suits

32 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2009  

Jason C. Miller

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 9, 2008

Abstract

The Communications Decency Act prevents victims of online defamation from suing intermediaries like Internet Service Providers and online message board operators. As a result, plaintiffs have resorted to filing John Doe lawsuits and subpoenaing Internet companies to reveal the identity of anonymous online posters as a way to silence defamatory speech. The purpose of these John Doe lawsuits is not to win a monetary judgment but instead to silence the critic through exposure. Currently, First Amendment considerations lead to distinguishing between public and private figure plaintiffs in what must be proven to win a defamation suit on the merits. This article argues that those same considerations should also lead to distinguishing between what public and private figure plaintiffs must prove to issue a subpoena to expose an anonymous online critic.

Keywords: Defamation, Anonymous, John Doe lawsuits, Communications Decency Act

Suggested Citation

Miller, Jason C., Who's Exposing John Doe? Distinguishing Between Public and Private Figure Plaintiffs in Subpoenas to ISPs in Anonymous Online Defamation Suits (December 9, 2008). Journal of Technology Law & Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1365326

Jason C. Miller (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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