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Online Message Board Fights for Anonymity in Oklahoma

PRESS RELEASE
June 30, 2006

EFF Defends Web Host and 'John Doe' Critic of School Superintendent

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) yesterday filed to block an Oklahoma school superintendent's attempt to unmask the identities of a local website's operator and all registered users.

The superintendent has sued Internet users who criticized him on the website's message board. In its motion to quash, EFF argues that the plaintiff's overbroad subpoena seeking to identify the site's operator and users violates First Amendment protections for anonymous speech and association.

"Anonymity is critical to public discourse and fundamental to a free society, allowing speakers to offer diverse views without fear of undue reprisal," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "There is now clear judicial consensus that subpoenas to identify anonymous speakers must be carefully scrutinized."

In recent months, EFF lawyers have represented or provided amicus support in anonymity cases in California, Colorado, and Delaware. In the latter case, Doe v. Cahill, EFF helped successfully defend a Delaware blogger who had criticized a member of the town council. The case resulted in the first state supreme court decision confirming the First Amendment right to remain anonymous until a litigant can demonstrate a legitimate claim.

"Litigants must not be permitted to abuse the judicial process to identity anonymous individuals who have simply created a forum for critical comments or made statements a plaintiff dislikes," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Speech critical of public officials -- made anonymously or not -- enjoys an extremely high level of legal protection."

Oral argument on EFF's motion to quash is scheduled for July 20th.

For EFF's motion to quash:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Burd_v_Cole/Mtn-to-Quash.pdf

Contacts:

Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

Derek Slater
Acting Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
derek@eff.org

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