Anonymous Internet Defamation

California Anonymous Internet Defamation Attorneys

The Internet has unleashed an opportunity for anyone to share opinions with a worldwide audience. Bloggers, podcasters and users of social media sites feel protected by their First Amendment right to speak anonymously. As a consequence, Internet users often adopt anonymous e-mail addresses or screen names to post defamatory material.

Los Angeles Internet Business Defamation Attorneys

In a competitive business environment, reputation is everything. Defamatory remarks can jeopardize a company’s business reputation as well as its ability to secure financing, credit and consummate transactions. At Raines Feldman LLP, we focus on protecting companies, executives and entrepreneurs from cyber defamation.

Determining the Identity of Anonymous Posters

If you are a victim of anonymous Internet defamation, our legal team will act quickly to help you pursue claims. We are at the forefront of Internet law. Our legal team represents companies and executives in dozens of Internet defamation cases each year. We have a clear understanding of the Communications Decency Act. According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, interactive computers services such as message boards and social networks are typically not held accountable for defamatory comments posted on their website.

In fact, liability falls with the poster. Many bloggers or social media users feel protected when anonymously posting defamatory remarks. Our legal team understands the legal process for unmasking defendants. First, we act quickly to file a John Doe lawsuit so that the discovery process may begin.

Then, we seek an ex parte order from the court allowing our firm to send business records subpoenas to the relevant websites and internet service providers. Because of our experience, we understand the precise information to request in a subpoena. This is important because certain statutes such as the Stored Communication Act prevent internet service providers from disclosing the content of communications such as emails. However, interactive service providers must provide certain identifying information pursuant to the Stored Communication Act. We subpoena only relevant forensic computer data such as server logs and internet protocol addresses. We have a strong record of obtaining timely and responsive forensic data from ISP’s which leads to the unmasking of anonymous internet defamation defendants.

Part of our focus also includes conducting a detailed investigation to uncover the identity of the anonymous poster. We use forensic computer data, time and date stamps, and IP addresses to trace the poster's identity. In some circumstances, posters might not use their own computer to make defamatory remarks. We use an investigative approach to determine their identity after piecing together a series of facts, including where the defamatory posts were made. Once the anonymous poster is identified, we take aggressive action to pursue damages and injunctive relief against the poster.

Once an ISP receives a subpoena, they typically provide a notice to the holder of the account. The account owner then has the option of filing a motion to quash the subpoena. If successful, the plaintiff will never learn the identity of the anonymous defendant.

There is a series of cases across the country that forth the legal standards for unmasking a Doe defendant. We are familiar with all of the various standards. That is because we have represented both plaintiffs and anonymous defendants in motion to quash proceedings. In California, Krinski v. Doe 6 sets the legal test for granting a motion to quash. Krinski requires that the plaintiff make a prima facie showing of the claims. This means that a plaintiff must produce evidence supporting the defamation claim. If a plaintiff cannot do so, the defendant’s identity will not be revealed. Thus, it is critical for plaintiffs in defamation cases to hire experienced counsel that can assemble supporting evidence and package claims in a way so as to meet the Krinski standard. A competing approach is set forth in Cahill v. Doe which applies a summary judgment standard to a plaintiff’s claims and requires a plaintiff to post notice on the website where the defamatory material appears.

Recent Anonymous Defamation Cases

Mansfield v. John Doe, Los Angeles Superior Court: We represented a technology company CEO in defamation claims related to numerous Youtube videos and comments. We unmasked the Doe defendants and, after doing so, quickly negotiated a confidential settlement agreement for our client.

IMCA Capital v. John Doe, Los Angeles Superior Court: We represented a consumer finance company and its CEO in litigation regarding defamatory postings on the Better Business Bureau’s website. We unmasked the defendant who was a former employee, convinced the BBB to remove the defamatory content and entered into a confidential settlement.

Direct Transfers v. Timeshare Relief, Los Angeles Superior Court: We represented a large real estate company against a competitor that was posting anonymous, defamatory blog content. The lawsuit forced a confidential settlement including a confidential monetary payment and injunctive relief.