Footnotes (9)



The Unmasking Option

James Grimmelmann

Cornell Law School; Cornell Tech

March 4, 2010

Denver University Law Review Online, Vol. 887, No. 23, 2010
NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/10 #28

In the recent "Skanks in NYC" case, the plaintiff dropped her defamation lawsuit once the court had unmasked the John Doe defendant. Although the plaintiff was criticized for her seemingly pretextual use of a lawsuit, the outcome was substantively just. The harasser got almost exactly what she deserved for trying to humiliate her victim: embarrassment of her own.

This brief essay discusses a counterintuitive proposal inspired by the Skanks in NYC case: that the law unmask anonymous online harassers as a substitute for litigation, rather than as an aid to it. Identifying harassers can be an effective way of holding them accountable, while causing less of a chilling effect on socially valuable speech than liability would. While the proposal itself is probably unworkable, decoupling anonymity from liability enables us to understand more clearly what’s at stake with each.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Keywords: privacy, anonymity, defamation, John Doe subpoena, Internet harassment

JEL Classification: K00

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: March 5, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James, The Unmasking Option (March 4, 2010). Denver University Law Review Online, Vol. 887, No. 23, 2010; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/10 #28. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1565132

Contact Information

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)
Cornell Law School ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
Cornell Tech ( email )
111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 640
Downloads: 62
Download Rank: 269,032
Footnotes:  9