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Court Rules in Favor of Anonymous Blogger 227

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the little-man-wins dept.
joel_archer writes "The Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court decision requiring an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of an anonymous blogger who targeted a local elected official. Judge Steele described the Internet as a 'unique democratizing medium unlike anything that has come before,' and said anonymous speech in blogs and chat rooms in some instances can become the modern equivalent of political pamphleteering. 'We are concerned that setting the standard too low will chill potential posters from exercising their First Amendment right to speak anonymously,' Steele wrote."
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Court Rules in Favor of Anonymous Blogger

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  • Huzzah!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dustinbarbour (721795) on Friday October 07, 2005 @02:39AM (#13737483) Homepage
    It pleases me to know that there are judges out there in tune with the Internet, who know what it is, what it represents, and recognize it for the "unique democratizing medium" that it is. These days seem rampant with politicians, judges, and CEOs all interpreting in favor of the bigger guys. The recent rulings against the RIAA and cases such as this one begin to restore my faith in the American judicial system. We've still got a way to go and the system will never be perfect, but at least there is a glimmer.
    • The phrase "unique democratizing medium" makes me tingly inside.
      • And here we see a buzz word being born. See how cute and harmless it is. makes you feel all tingly inside. Then it is going to be rammed into your head over and over and over again until you use parallel logistical flexibility to create optimize cross-platform content over a unique democratizing medium.
    • I'm surprised the judge asserted the blogger had the right to post anonymously.

      But that aside: if you've got something to say have the guts to put your name to it. If you're not then perhaps you shouldn't be saying it? How do we know this blogger isn't simply lying? Or is an estranged mistress with a grudge? Or is a political opponent?

      If the blogger is concerned about reprisals or being sued for defamation then I can't see how that's a defence. If they should be allowed to say whatever it is then the law sh

      • The courts aint going to protect you from getting "wacked" by a crooked public official.
      • by BVis (267028) on Friday October 07, 2005 @08:25AM (#13738419)
        If the blogger is concerned about reprisals or being sued for defamation then I can't see how that's a defence. If they should be allowed to say whatever it is then the law should protect them and defamation suits shouldn't be possible.
        And in theory communism works, too. The real world works differently. Those with the resources to hire dozens of high-priced lawyers to file lawsuits can crush those who do not have those resources into settling an obviously meritless case (the most relevant current example being Stupid RIAA Tricks).

        There's also the "no man is an island" factor. Say enough unpopular things and you'll soon find yourself unpopular; while in high school all that got you was a wedgie, in the real world it will keep you from earning a living. Speaking your mind may be your right, but take into account that companies don't like to hire/do business with people who are controversial, no matter what particular politics or topics are involved; it's bad for business. Plus most employers have the attitude that they own your opinions 24/7 because they pay you a salary; say disparaging things about the people who sign your checks (regardless of whether they're based in provable fact or are only opinion and represented as such) and you'll soon stop collecting them. IMHO not fair, or right, but that's how it is.
      • by amliebsch (724858) on Friday October 07, 2005 @09:53AM (#13738946) Journal
        But that aside: if you've got something to say have the guts to put your name to it.

        Right, because only [wikipedia.org] cowards [wikipedia.org] publish [wikipedia.org] anonymously [wikipedia.org].

      • All well and good unless you're a Jew in Nazi Germany. The ability to speak anonymously can be usefull.
      • But that aside: if you've got something to say have the guts to put your name to it.

        So your name is really CountBass? Did your parents have sense of humor?
      • by jxs2151 (554138) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:13PM (#13741787) Homepage
        if you've got something to say have the guts to put your name to it. If you're not then perhaps you shouldn't be saying it?

        A few influential people may disagree with your assertion.

        "The Federalist Papers were a series of articles written under the pen name of Publius by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. "

        http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/federalist/ [ou.edu]

  • by mrpostal (840460) on Friday October 07, 2005 @02:51AM (#13737518)
    In a series of obscenity-laced tirades, the bloggers, among other things, pointed to Cahill's "obvious mental deterioration," and made several sexual references about him and his wife, including using the name "Gahill" to suggest that Cahill, who has publicly feuded with Smyrna Mayor Mark Schaeffer, is homosexual.

    Article above In two messages from September of 2004, Proud Citizen discussed a member of the Smyrna Town Council, Patrick Cahill, referring to Cahill's "character flaws," "mental deterioration," and "failed leadership," and stated that "Gahill [sic] is...paranoid."

    EFF Article [eff.org]

    One article makes it sound like its teenagers calling each other fags, and the other points to actual political opinions.

    Either way, this is how NOT to react. Don't these people know how to take anything lightly?

    • If anyone is wondering why this is getting a (moderate) amount of national attention, it's because Delaware's cours (for whatever reason) are usually looked at as setting precedents for the rest of the country, at least until something moves beyond a state court; this is more true for corporate and business law than for the above case.

      The "blog" everyone is talking about is actually just a bulletin board [newszapforums.com] and you can see Cahill discussion is continuing on it.

      There's also local coverage of this event (which o [delawareonline.com]
  • Huzzah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jettoki (894493) on Friday October 07, 2005 @02:56AM (#13737538)
    And then, a million bloggers rose in triumphant jubilation, only to sit back down panting heavily.
  • by ferrellcat (691126) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:14AM (#13737584)
    Damn, just his name alone makes him someone I wouldn't want to fuck with. I wonder if he has his own TV show.

    NEXT, ON JUDGE STEELE...
  • what right? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by calyptos (752073) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:18AM (#13737593) Homepage
    I can't find anything in the first amendment which addresses a right to speak anonymously.

    Although I do agree with the court ruling.
    • Re:what right? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Davorama (11731) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:49AM (#13737677) Journal
      Yeah, I didn't know about that either. An explaination is here. [cornell.edu] It appears to have to do with not supressing free speach in the form of leaflets.
    • Re:what right? (Score:5, Informative)

      by np_bernstein (453840) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:52AM (#13737685) Homepage
      Amendment IX
      The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      There is not enumerated right to privacy either, but many, if not most, constitutional scholors agree that the right to privacy is indeed a right.

      • Re:what right? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by argStyopa (232550) on Friday October 07, 2005 @09:57AM (#13738992) Journal
        The US Constitution doesn't list the RIGHTS people have.
        The US Constitution limits the powers of government to circumscribe the rights inherent to its citizens.

        We've been so deeply brainwashed by the "Hollywood" (i.e. shallow) presentation of the Constitution that every time a question like this comes up, we LOOK for the "Right" to be listed in the document, and if it's not there, we must not have it.

        We have it UNLESS:
        a) our state constitution specifically allow the government to have a say in it, and
        b) that state provision doesn't exceed the powers allowed to the states according to the US Constitution.
      • Re:what right? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PMuse (320639)
        One can argue for a right to anonymous speech as an unenumerated right guaranteed by Amendment IX, but this is a weak basis.

        Instead, one should base an argument for a right to anonymous speech based on Amendment I. The first amendment doesn't say that free speech is only guaranteed where the speaker is known. It says that free speech is guaranteed. For a bunch of historical, logical, and policy reasons that other courts have described at great length, it turns out that that means both anonymous speech an
    • Re:what right? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rgoldste (213339) on Friday October 07, 2005 @08:02AM (#13738318)
      You have to stop construing the First Amendment as granting you rights. That kind of thinking almost led to the rejection of the Bill of Rights in the first place. James Madison once said [findlaw.com]: ''It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against."

      That guard is the Ninth Amendment. The correct interpretation of the Constitution, then, is that you have boatloads of natural rights, and the Constitution protects them all; certain rights explicitly protected just have greater weight when rights conflict. When a court recognizes a right, they're not being "judicial activists" at all, they're keeping well within the intent of the Framers.
    • the bill of rights doesn't bestow rights upon the people, it states what particular rights the government is diswallowed/limited from infringing. the bill of rights doesn't mention the right to yell 'goal!' at a football match either.
    • You won't either. The ninth amendment has been interepretted to mean privacy sort of, but no where does it explicitly state that citizens have a right to privacy. I don't think that's what the issue is, though.

      Think about it, why should it be coming down to personal rights? Why can it be small business (ISP) rights? They obviously didn't want to turn the name over, so why should they have to?

      Personally, I think it'd be great if there were no constitutional right to anonymity and instead we just started enfo
    • The Constitution puts forth certain explicit rights for US Citizens, but the "establishment clause" (I think), which says in essence, when anything in the Constitution is not explicitly set as a restriction on Citizens then there is no restriction.

      So, if the constitution doesn't say being anonymous is or isn't a right, then it IS a right. The tie goes to the citizen -- yeah!

      That this concept has been forgotten and largely ignored is a travesty -- boooo!

      In some regard, the constitution puts forth those excep
    • The Federalist Papers were published under a pseudonym.

      When US law looks for examples of political speech to reason about, those are some of the strongest examples available.

      In practical terms, without the option of speaking anonymously, some people in hostile communities wouldn't be able to speak freely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2005 @06:28AM (#13738053)
    For all of you Slashdotters who have have historically ( I assume no links are needed between gentlemen here on this subject? ) assaulted the AC's posts merely because they were posted as AC let this article be a reminder that AC posting is a constitutional right that has been upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court. This is of course not to admonish you for justifiable assault on poor comments and err *cough* flamebait.
  • FTFA: "We are concerned that setting the standard too low will chill potential posters from exercising their First Amendment right to speak anonymously," FT First Amedment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I'm failing to see where the 1st Amedment garuntees anyone the
    • Last April, in MacIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission the US Supreme Court reaffirmed that the First Amendment protects the right to anonymous speech. Anonymity, the court reasoned, helps speech stay free. Focusing on political speech - the sort of speech that lies at the core of the First Amendment - the MacIntyre ruling stipulated that restrictions on anonymous political speech must be narrowly tailored and serve an over-riding state interest.

      Earlier cases had already guaranteed that the right to anony
    • What this finding says is that you must now prove the defendants guilt before you can even find out who it is.

      Damn straight. What's the problem?

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