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Rail Line Can’t Force Web Site to Reveal Critics, Public Citizen Argues

March 28, 2008 

Rail Line Can’t Force Web Site to Reveal Critics, Public Citizen Argues

TexasCourt Urged to Dismiss Suit Filed Against Internet Message Board Host

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Texas railway company that is suing to identify people who posted critical parodies on an Internet message board has no right to demand that the Web hosting company identify the posters just because the rail line finds the material offensive, Public Citizen told the court in a motion filed Friday.

The District Court in Tarrant County, Texas should dismiss the suit against Network54 Corp., the hosting company, said Public Citizen, which is representing Network54 Corp, along with local counsel David Broiles of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. BNSF Railway Company’s suit does not provide any legitimate reasons for Network54 to provide information that would identify the authors.

BNSF,   a Fort Worth company, filed the suit after two parody news articles appeared on an Internet forum hosted by Network54 Corp. Both of the anonymous posts make fun of controversial railroad union issues. The suit names Network54 and two John Does.

However, the Texas court has no jurisdiction in the matter because Network54 is a California company and has no offices, employees or any other physical presence in Texas, Public Citizen told the court. Additionally, Network54’s terms of use for its forums clearly states that the host is not responsible for the accuracy or legitimacy of items posted on its site.

“Apparently the people who run this railroad need a refresher course in American civics, particularly the part where they discuss the First Amendment and freedom of speech,” said Paul Alan Levy, a Public Citizen attorney. “This is just another example of a company trying to use the courts to censor and intimidate its critics.”

READ the motion.