Monday, November 19, 2007

Calling All Bloggers

Calling All Bloggers .... Calling All Bloggers...

Ever wonder how far you can go? What you can really 'get away' with saying behind the 'anonymity' of your blog?

Courtesy of Sui Generis - A New York Law Blog, apparently a fair bit, at least if you take pains to ensure that your identity remains annonymous. A New York state school board member unsuccessfully went to court seeking to force Google (Blooger) to provide her with the identity of an annonymous blogger who allegedly defamed her. She needed to know who the blogger actually was so that she could sue him or her, you see.
The Court held that the statement made by the anonymous blogger was an opinion and thus protected speech, and even if it had not been protected speech, anonymous bloggers are entitled to certain procedural safeguards prior to disclosure of their identities.
The court followed law requiring anonymous bloggers to be given notice of any application for discovery of their identities and an opportunity to be heard in opposition. In addition, the school board member was required to specify the particular statements that she alleged to be defamatory. Apparently, under New York law at least, disclosure of the speaker's identity will only be ordered if the plaintiff shows evidence of the merits of her proposed defamation cause of action. And, in this case, the court quite easily found that the statements on which she sought to base her defamation claim were "plainly inactionable as a matter of law".

The blogger in question had allegedly indicated that the school board member had "no interest in helping the private school community". Also complained of was the statement of an anonymous commenter that she was a "bigot and really should not be on the board" . Both statements were found to constitued "protected opinion".

So maybe there is something to for that paper-thin veil of blognomity, after all.... Who knew?

The full decision can be read here, for any so inclined.

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