Court Orders Online News Publications to Reveal Sources in Internet Defamation Lawsuit

This month, an Indianapolis court ruled in favor of an Internet defamation claimant when it ordered a news outlet to reveal identifying information about anonymous posters. This Marion County edict could set legal precedence that makes the Web a little less user friendly for the average American.

Internet defamation is becoming a prevalent problem. Nowadays, nearly every website allows for anonymous commenting. As our obsession with online pontificating grows, inevitably, the number of internet defamation cases will also increase.

In recent years, lawmakers have been wrestling with online defamation laws. On the one hand, statutes must protect basic privacy rights and the First Amendment freedoms of the Web; however, many feel that online libel regulations must be established to guard against unfair business practices and unethical personal attacks.

Former CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, Jeffery Miller, is spitting mad. After working for the organization for over 15 years, Miller’s name became entangled in a misuse of funds scandal. As it often happens, several private individuals convinced of Miller’s guilt took to the Internet and posted anonymous comments accusing Jeffery of misappropriating funds.

Having not been convicted of the crime, Mr. Miller decided to sue for defamation of character, claiming the comments caused him both psychological and emotional harm. But in order to file the suit, he’d first have to find out the names of the offending parties.

Like most news outlets, however, the websites on which the allegedly libellous statements were published refused to hand over the information. Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star, pointed out that as a press entity, his publication goes to great lengths to “protect the identity of all sources at all levels”.

It will be interesting to see if this Indianapolis Internet defamation ruling will have an effect on other states’ laws. Privacy and Freedom of speech advocates are concerned about the legal precedence this case sets. It’s hypothesized that the decision could have a chilling effect on the free press. The argument goes, like communist Russia, people will be less likely to speak out if they fear exposure.

If you are currently fighting an Internet defamation claim, we can help. The Kelly Firm specializes in Internet law and enjoy much success when it comes to clearing up online libel lawsuits. If you’re in need of help, contact us today for a free consultation. Just fill out the form to your right and one of our team members will be in touch!