Anonymity and defamation lawsuits for negative online reviewers – which should prevail?
Matthew Scott Martin of Martin Conti Law shares his thoughts on whether the unmasking of authors of negative review posts should be uncovered in cases of defamation.
In a recent interview with a reporter for Colorado Springs publications, The Gazette and Colorado Politics, I had an opportunity to provide a statement regarding a lawsuit that questions the balance between anonymity and defamation when it comes to negative reviews on websites.
The article brings to light the issue of whether uncovering a person’s identity who is believed to have committed libel and/or defamation is a violation under the protection of the First Amendment Right that protects opinions, and furthermore has no clear path to resolution.
In this particular case, (Schroeder et al. v. Doe), a doctor obtained a subpoena to uncover an anonymous person (or persons) identity in order to file suit against them for defamation and trade libel, only to have the subpoena blocked by the judge.
To read how this case played out, read the article, “Appeals court rules in favor of unmasking anonymous internet poster”.
My statement, highlighted in the article, was as follows:
“I certainly wouldn’t want people to be unmasked unnecessarily, but the law of defamation is out there for a particular reason: to stop people from being defamed and harmed.
This is an area of law that doesn’t have a clear path of resolution and it needs to be decided eventually by the U.S. Supreme Court. So somebody’s got to get that ball rolling.”
I’m curious to know what you think. Should anonymous posters of negative online reviews be able to be identified and be sued for libel/defamation?