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School Board Member Cannot Violate Blogger’s Right to Anonymity, Public Citizen Tells Court

March 14, 2007 

School Board Member Cannot Violate Blogger’s Right to Anonymity, Public Citizen Tells Court

Petition to Reveal Anonymous Blogger’s Identity is Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A school board member cannot compel disclosure of the identity of an anonymous blogger whose site criticized the member, Public Citizen said in a motion filed today in the Supreme Court for New York County.

The plaintiff, Pamela Greenbaum of Lawrence, N.Y., sought a court order requiring Google, which hosts the blog www.orthomom.blogspot.com, to reveal Orthomom’s identity. The petition asserts that the blogger Orthomom, and others who posted comments on her blog, had accused Greenbaum of being a bigot and implied that she was anti-Semitic because of her position against using public school facilities and teachers for educational services that benefit children attending private religious schools.

Because federal law exempts bloggers from suit over statements that others have posted as comments on their sites, and because the statements in question are not defamatory and there is no evidence that Orthomom has made any false statements, Public Citizen asked the court to deny Greenbaum’s petition in favor of Orthomom’s right to anonymous free speech.

“On the eve of her campaign for re-election to the local school board, Greenbaum is seeking to unmask an online critic with her petition,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who filed the papers opposing discovery. “The attempt to discover Orthomom’s identity is nothing more than a violation of the blogger’s First Amendment rights.”

Donald Rosenthal of the New York law firm Scarola Ellis LLP serves as local counsel for Public Citizen.

To view Public Citizen’s brief, click here.

Public Citizen has a record of defending the First Amendment rights of Internet users. To learn more, click here.