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John Doe Subpoenas: Toward a Consistent Legal Standard

51 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2009  

Nathaniel Jurist Gleicher

Yale Information Society Project; Yale University

Date Written: October 18, 2008


This Note considers the rising trend of anonymous online harassment and the use of John Doe subpoenas to unmask anonymous speakers. Although anonymity often serves as an important shield for valuable speech, it also protects online harassment that can chill or completely silence the speech of its targets. This Note argues that the public figure doctrine should be adapted to John Doe subpoenas to distinguish between online harassment and more valued anonymous speech. It then divides John Doe subpoena standards into six constituent factors, evaluates each one, and proposes a final standard that consistently balances the needs of plaintiffs and defendants and helps judges to distinguish online harassment from other forms of anonymous speech.

Keywords: John Doe Subpoena, Anonymous Speech, Online Harassment, Free Speech, Internet Speech, Public Figure Doctrine

Suggested Citation

Gleicher, Nathaniel Jurist, John Doe Subpoenas: Toward a Consistent Legal Standard (October 18, 2008). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 118, No. 320, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Nathaniel Jurist Gleicher (Contact Author)

Yale Information Society Project ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Yale University

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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