A significant case, at least for US bloggers.
“Because the trial judge applied a standard insufficiently protective of Doe’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously, we reverse that judgment,” Chief Justice Myron Steele wrote.
Steele described the Internet as a “unique democratizing medium unlike anything that has come before,” and said anonymous speech in blogs and chat rooms in some instances can become the modern equivalent of political pamphleteering. Accordingly, a plaintiff claiming defamation should be required to provide sufficient evidence to overcome a defendant’s motion for summary judgment before a court orders the disclosure of a blogger’s identity.
“We are concerned that setting the standard too low will chill potential posters from exercising their First Amendment right to speak anonymously,” Steele wrote. “The possibility of losing anonymity in a future lawsuit could intimidate anonymous posters into self-censoring their comments or simply not commenting at all.”
The standard adopted by the court, the first state Supreme Court in the country to consider the issue, is based on a 2000 New Jersey court ruling.