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Independent Newspapers, Inc. v. Zebulon J. Brodie

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Right To Speak Anonymously

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Zebulon Brodie, a real estate developer, filed a lawsuit alleging that three people on an online community forum and Independent Newspapers, Inc., the forum operator, had conspired to defame him. Brodie asked a court to order Independent Newspapers to identify the names of the forum’s users. Independent Newspapers opposed that discovery, arguing that the court should require proof that the users’ comments were false and defamatory, but the court ordered the discovery. Public Citizen represented the newspaper chain on appeal, arguing that plaintiffs should have to make a factual and legal showing that they have a realistic possibility of succeeding in litigation before courts should order that the names of anonymous critics be revealed. The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed, adopting the Dendrite standard.