Joshua Rich


The right to speak anonymously predates the Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized it as protected under the First Amendment. So it was in line with a long tradition that, in 2007, several anonymous speakers posted comments on Internet message boards criticizing a business called Quixtar, which was embroiled in several lawsuits at the time. Before long, however, the posters’ comments became the subject of a legal conundrum: did Quixtar’s request to unmask the unknown authors during discovery outweigh the authors’ First Amendment right to remain cloaked? In ultimately answering that question, the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to reveal some, but not all, of the authors’ identities. And while the case, In re Anonymous Online Speakers, was one of first impression for the Ninth Circuit—in that it involved anonymous nonparty online postings where the speech was commercial in nature—the court failed to clarify the law in this area. This Comment examines the court’s ruling and argues that while the Ninth Circuit took a good step forward in the discussion of anonymous speech on the Internet, a great leap forward would have been better.

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