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Anonymous Online Critics Should Not Be Silenced by Lawsuit

August 17, 2005

Anonymous Online Critics Should Not Be Silenced by Lawsuit

EFF Opposes Subpoenas Seeking to Reveal the Identities of Web Writers, Bloggers

Utah - A case brought in a US district court by a Utah man threatens to undermine the First Amendment right to speak anonymously on issues of public concern. In Merkey v. Yahoo SCOX et al., the plaintiff requested an expedited process for serving subpoenas that would unmask anonymous "John Doe" critics who participated in a discussion of another court case, in which Utah-based technology company The SCO Group, Inc., is suing IBM.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Utah, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that a court must review the merits of a litigant's claims before legal process can expose the true names of online Does.

"Frivolous litigation shouldn't be used to circumvent the First Amendment," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Before an online speaker is exposed, litigants must show that the anonymous poster's identity is central to their claims, that those claims are viable, and that the litigant can acquire the information in no other manner."

The case arose out of several anonymous postings that appeared in a Yahoo group, as well as the weblogs Groklaw and IP-Wars.net.

Contact:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

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