Commentators and scholars alike have been calling for an end to Internet anonymity for years now. The Internet is a powerful tool for communicating with others and for formulating ideas. It encourages the flow of information in a manner of epic proportions, to be sure. But when loose and careless tongues have access to such a powerful means of publishing and disseminating information, it can serve as a recipe for disaster. Consider the case of our client, Michael Bolla. The NY Post featured Mr. Bolla’s case recently in their Sunday edition. The full article can be found here:
This case follows the lead set by the somewhat famous “Skanks of New York” case in which a young lady took action after one anonymous blogger defamed her character. Under the common law, per se categories of defamation included allegations of being unchaste or engaging in sexual improprieties (a somewhat dated and sexist category that applies almost entirely to women). They also included remarks aimed at a person’s profession and professional reputation, as in the case of Mr. Bolla. The Petitioner in that case, like Mr. Bolla, was successful in persuading the court to pull the mask off the anonymous pen.
While I certainly would never advocate against the protection of free speech, I do not think bloggers should have the luxury of hiding behind their URLs. Surfing anonymously is one thing. Maliciously destroying another person’s reputation from your armchair with zero accountability is another.
If you’ve found yourself on the business end of one of these “anonymous blogs”, don’t take for granted that it’s a lost cause.
I encourage you to stay tuned to this exciting and dynamic area of the law, as we all contribute to a mounting body of precedent that may lead to a US Supreme Court case.
For reference, I attach the actual Order in the Michael Bolla case below.
New York, NY
August 3, 2010