Anonymity Preserved for Creator of MySpace 'Spoof' Profiles
Cook County, IL - The president of a Chicago suburb has dropped his attempt to obtain the identity of an anonymous MySpace user after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief detailing how the petition violated both the First Amendment and a federal statute that protects the privacy of online users.
In May, Cicero, IL, Town President Larry Dominick asked a Cook County Circuit Court judge to order the disclosure of the identity of the author of two MySpace profiles that allegedly included defamatory comments and unnamed privacy violations. EFF stepped in and asked the judge to reject Dominick's request, arguing that any attempt to unmask the anonymous speaker would violate the author's First Amendment right to remain anonymous unless Dominick could demonstrate a viable legal claim. In addition, the federal Stored Communications Act prohibits government entities such as Dominick -- who brought the petition in his official government capacity -- from obtaining identifying customer information through the ordinary civil discovery process.
"We are grateful that Mr. Dominick has chosen to abandon his misguided attempt to unmask a critic through the use of the legal system," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "While litigants may pursue claims against speakers who have truly engaged in defamatory speech, it is not enough -- especially for an elected official -- to walk into court and demand the identity of an anonymous speaker supported with nothing but a vague allegation of wrongdoing."
EFF was assisted in this matter by Charles Mudd, Jr., and Sophie Dye of Mudd Law Offices in Chicago.
For the order dismissing the petition:
For more on anonymity:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation