The Right to Remain Anonymous
When is anonymity still a basic right? While leaving anonymous comments in forums on the internet is often considered cowardly, plenty of good reasons exist for people to wish to remain nameless as they speak truth to power.
This week the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a city council president must meet strict criteria before she is able to learn the identities of her anonymous online critics. The Court urges other courts follow their example.
According to a press release by Attorney Paul Alan Levey, “If someone wants to use a subpoena to identify his critics, he must first ensure that the critics have notice of the subpoena, then prove that the statements were false and harmful. And even then, the court should consider whether the anonymous critics’ interest in staying anonymous outweighs the plaintiff’s interest in pursuing the lawsuit, the court said.”
The First Amendment protecting the freedom of speech faces unique challenges in the days of the internet, and the Pennsylvania court came out strongly in support of freedom of speech, even for the unnamed.