Two Court Rulings Confirm Internet Users’ First Amendment Rights Online

July 24, 2017

NOTE TO REPORTERS

Two Court Rulings Confirm Internet Users’ First Amendment Rights Online

Courts Side With Anonymous Users Posting Critical Comments on Glassdoor

Two decisions issued last week uphold the rights of internet users to post criticisms anonymously on the internet.

Public Citizen filed briefs opposing the misuse of subpoenas to identify online critics in two cases in California and Washington, D.C. In both cases, the courts sided with anonymous users against plaintiffs who were attempting to unmask them.

In ZL Technologies v. Doe, a state appeals court in California ruled that, to enforce a subpoena for the identities of former employees who had commented anonymously on the workplace review site Glassdoor.com, plaintiff ZL Technologies must prove the falsity of the comments.

And in Vogel v. GoDaddy, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. held that state-law claims cannot be filed in federal court just because the plaintiff thinks the defendants have diverse citizenship and hopes to prove that through discovery. The plaintiff, Jason Vogel, who is based in California, originally sued GoDaddy, an Arizona company, but his real claims were against other people from California. The court held that he could not use federal court subpoenas to find out who they were.

Public Citizen filed an amicus brief on behalf of itself and Twitter in ZL Technologies v. Doe supporting Glassdoor’s opposition to the subpoenas. In Vogel v. GoDaddy, Public Citizen filed on behalf of a California law firm that had received one of the subpoenas.

Both decisions support the right to speak anonymously, explained Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who authored the briefs.

Read more here.

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