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Online anonymity challenged by courts in Ontario and Illinois

Michael Geist posts about an Ontario court decision to require FreeDominion.ca to reveal the identity of anonymous poster:

Protection for anonymous postings is certainly not an absolute, but a high threshold that requires prima facie evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claim is critical to ensuring that a proper balance is struck between the rights of a plaintiff (whether in a defamation or copyright case) and the privacy and free speech rights of the poster. … I fear that the high threshold seems to have been abandoned here….

Meanwhile, as I noted yesterday, Berkman‘s Citizen Media Law Project has filed an amicus (= friend of the court) brief in a case in Illinois. From the press release:

“Courts around the country have recognized that, although the right of free speech is not absolute, a plaintiff must show that its claims are legally and factually tenable before a court orders that the identity of an anonymous speaker be disclosed,” noted CMLP Assistant Director Sam Bayard. “Anonymous speech on blogs, online fora, and other websites leads to a vibrant exchange of information, and putting a plaintiff to its proofs before unmasking an online commenter helps to ensure constitutionally-protected speech is not chilled.”

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