An interesting recently-filed lawsuit raises the issue of whether a company can file a lawsuit just to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger in order to fire him.
The case involves an employee of Allegheny Energy Service who posted an anonymous comment to a Yahoo! message board devoted to his company. He made the posting from his home computer. In the post, he attacked the company’s management as well as the company’s diversity program, using a racial slur in the process.
Anonymous bloggers received a great victory this week in a case decided by the Delaware Supreme Court — Doe v. Cahill (Oct. 5, 2005). The case involved John Doe, who anonymously posted on a blog statements about Patrick Cahill, a City Councilman of Smyrna, Delaware. Doe, in criticizing Cahill’s job performance, noted that Cahill had “obvious mental deterioration” and was “paranoid.” Cahill sued Doe for defamation.
Back in the summer of 2004, a clerk on Capitol Hill blogged about her sexual exploits on a blog called Washingtonienne. A very interesting article in the Washington Post Magazine describes what happened:
The instant message blinked on the computer at Jessica Cutler’s desk in the Russell Senate Office Building. “Oh my God, you’re famous.” Before she could form the thought — “famous, cool” — or puzzle how she, a lowly mail clerk, had escaped obscurity, a second instant message popped up on her screen. Startled, Jessica recalls, she began to curse.
“Your blog is on Wonkette,” the message said.
Jessica’s blog (short for “Web log”) was the online diary she had been posting anonymously to amuse herself and her closest girlfriends. In it, she detailed the peccadilloes of the men she said were her six current sexual partners, including a married Bush administration official who met her in hotel rooms and gave her envelopes of cash; a senator’s staff member who helped hire her, then later bedded her; and another man who liked to spank and be spanked.
Wonkette is a popular online gossip column that was read by lots of Jessica’s friends and Capitol Hill co-workers, including some of the men in her blog.
The messages warning Jessica that her private little joke had just gone very public came from a girlfriend over on the House side. . . .
Typing and clicking her mouse at a desperate pace, Jessica logged on to blogger.com, the electronic bulletin board where she’d posted her sexploits under the pseudonym Washingtonienne, and deleted her blog, hoping she’d blown her diary into oblivion.