How Much Does an Anonymous Internet Post Cost?

01 September 2012 Publication
Authors: Peter Vogel

State Bar of Texas Litigation Section Report, The Advocate

ANONYMOUS POSTINGS ABOUND ON THE INTERNET and with the advent of Social Media these types of postings have increased dramatically. What happens when your client brings you evidence of libelous postings which may the basis of a lawsuit? How do you determine who the anonymous poster is? How do you get evidence of libelous postings admitted?

First Amendment Protection for Speech on the Internet?

Many people believe that they can say what they want on the Internet as long as they use a pseudonym. After all, it is easy to set up an account using an anonymous alter ego name. In addition to believing they can post whatever they want, they may also think they are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution –that somehow freedom of speech has no limits, and when that speech, even vicious lies, is anonymously posted, the anonymity will shield the poster from liability.

These anonymous posters may not realize that when they sign up for an anonymous Internet user ID,
they are agreeing to specific Terms of Service (ToS) and/or a Privacy Policy that create indemnities for the Internet host (Internet Service Provider or ISP) as well as limits of liability. As well, in those ToS or Privacy Policies, the user may acknowledge that the ISP may disclose the user’s identity, including under a court order or if they violate the ToS.

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