Delaware Supreme Court: Anonymous Blogger Stays Anonymous

The ability to blog anonymously has changed the complexion of open public complaint. Negative broadcast can now reach a large audience and from out of nowhere. Anonymity makes the matter all the harder to deal with. On the other hand, open expression is only possible with the protection offered by anonymity, or so the anonymity proponents argue.

This tension was recently examined by the Delaware Supreme Court in John Doe no. 1 v. Cahill et al.,. In that case an anonymous blogger had posted negative comments about a municipal council member. The council member sued for defamation and requested the name of the blogger in the discovery process. The Superior Court granted an order giving access to the blogger’s identity on a standard that would commonly be applied to reveal the identity of an individual in the discovery process. The Delaware Supreme Court reversed that ruling on the basis that the First Amendment Right to anonymous speech required the demanding party to meet a higher standard before revealing the blogger’s identity. The Court applied a prima facie summary judgement standard. The Court essentially said that it wasn’t enough to sue on the basis of mere allegations and that you had to have a real substantive case of defamation before the Court would consider granting an order to reveal the identity of the anonymous blogger.

Although Cahill is decided in a muncipal context the same reasoning ought to apply in other situations, for instance in corporate or employment law matters.

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