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Prosecuting Online Trolls Part 1: What To Do When Faced With Anonymous Online Postings

September 1 2017

By Darrell White

Prosecuting Online Trolls Part 1: What To Do When Faced With Anonymous Online Postings

It happens all too often. You work tirelessly to promote your business by doing good work, delivering good products and services. Then you find an online posting with demonstrably false information about your business. The posting is anonymous, or even better, posted with a common name such as “John Smith.” If you are lucky enough to locate an e-mail address, the so-called online “troll” is unlikely to respond to any direct correspondence. The host of the website is unlikely to take down the post for any number of reasons. So what can you do?

One strategy is to evaluate whether you have a claim for defamation. The elements of a defamation claim need to be reviewed carefully, and, to no surprise to anyone reading this article, it’s best to consult an attorney. Assuming you have a valid claim, filing a defamation lawsuit is one way to bring the discovery powers of the court process to bare. Once a lawsuit is on file with the Court, a litigant acting within the parameters authorized by the California Code of Civil Procedure may issue subpoenas to Internet Service Providers to “un mask” the identity of anonymous posters online. This simple step can uncover the true identity of the poster. But what happens if the ISP opposes the subpoena (not uncommon)? How can you resolve the matter once you’ve unmasked someone? Stay tuned to the next blog post.

 

Darrell is an associate at Weintraub Tobin, specializing in complex business litigation disputes. He also provides outside general counsel services to clients across the manufacturing, construction, and real estate industries. For more information about Darrell and his practice, he can be reached at dwhite@weintraub.com or 949.999.6642.