Internet Defamation of Character Law Discussion:
Welcome to Defamation Law Radio. Internet defamation of character is as easy to perpetuate as a blog post, Facebook update, rating submission, or a forum comment. Your online reputation is measured by the websites return as Google search results. Do you know what people are saying and writing about you?
This is Brian Hall, an internet lawyer with Traverse Legal, PLC, a law firm that specializes in the representation of plaintiffs and defendants alike in defamation matters online. Today, I will be answering the question: How do I identify an anonymous poster online?
This is a critical question that comes up almost daily in my law practice. And the reason being is because the internet has allowed people to post comments on websites, on social media networks and elsewhere without having to reveal their identity. As a result, people have been very aggressive in the things that they say and, more often than not, may amount to defamation of character. And in an internet defamation context, it’s critical to know who made the statement before that particular defamation can be addressed either via a retraction letter that’s sent demanding that that person cease and desist from any further comments online that are false or the filing of a lawsuit against a named defendant.
So, in the event that a website, a social media network or some other online forum allows anonymous posts, it will be critical to identify as much information as you can before jumping into a lawsuit. And this could include capturing what the actual statement was, when it was made, and from what IP address is came. You can then identify who the operator of the website is by identifying the domain name and seeing who the registrant is. You can identify who hosts the particular website, either through the IP address or through the domain name, again. And you can identify who may be using it such as affiliate networks or others. All of this information and all of these potential parties are those that can provide the key information to identification of that anonymous poster.
So, all of these parties are those that you can work with to get critical information at the outset. If, ultimately, you are unable to identify who the person is or get the information taken down, filing a lawsuit is the next step. And that requires identifying where to file the lawsuit, what particular jurisdiction and court, identifying how many John Does you may want to name as defendants, and then being prepared to file a motion that will allow you to have expedited discovery so as to get the subpoena power necessary to get information from those particular web hosts or other service providers. Usually, those service providers will not provide indentifying information without a valid court order.
So, ultimately, it is a time-intensive and sometimes resource-intensive process to identify the poster of something online that you believe is defamatory. However, if it’s harming your character, your business, whatever if might be, it’s something that’s worth spending the time, effort and money on doing. While a particular service provider might simply be willing to take down the internet defamation post or whatever it might be, it is always better to get the identity of that person so as to prevent it from happening again and recognizing that, if it does happen again, you may have additional rights, if you had already gone to a lawsuit with that person named as a defendant.
So, I encourage you to contact an internet defamation attorney if you have the question come up of how to identify an anonymous poster online.
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