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SLAPPing e-Publius: Protecting anonymous expression and reputation in a digital age
Unformatted Document Text:  Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius     33   versus those in Pennsylvania means that plaintiffs in California would incur defendant costs only where they are shown to have brought lawsuits that are unlikely to succeed, but that defendants in Pennsylvania will always bear the substantial costs of defending, even successfully. 117 If adopted, a federal anti-SLAPP law would create full, uniform, nationwide protection, enabling victims of SLAPP suits to make a motion to dismiss, stop discovery, and recover attorney’s fees in the event that the claim is deemed meritless. The need for anti-SLAPP relief will only increase. The now-defunct John Does Anonymous Foundation, a non-profit organization established to support anonymous speakers sued for online defamation, among other torts, estimated that between 1996 and 2001, more than 200 lawsuits were initiated by companies seeking disclosure of thousands of online John Does. None of the actions during this period resulted in a verdict or judgment against any of the John Does. 118 In 2000, America Online attempted to draw attention to the threat to expression that these lawsuits represent, stating in a brief that the “proliferation of these lawsuits and subpoenas threatens to have a chilling effect on protected speech and the growth of the online medium.” 119 Anti-SLAPP laws are needed to ensure that, in the words of the majority opinion in another oft-cited online defamation case, Columbia Insurance v. Seescandy.com (1999), “people who have committed no wrong [are] able to participate online without fear that someone who wishes to harass or embarrass them can file a frivolous lawsuit                                                                                                                 117 Trende, Defamation, Anti-SLAPP Legislation, and the Blogosphere: New Solutions for an Old Problem, 17. 118 In Victoria Smith Ekstrand, Unmasking Jane and John Doe: Online Anonymity and the First Amendment, 8 C OMM . L. & P OL ’ Y 417 (2003). The foundation’s URL now belongs to the New Republicans, a conservative branch of the Republican Party. 119 Brief of Amicus Curiae America Online, Inc., at 14, Melvin v. Doe, et al., Nos. 2115 WDA 2000 & 2116 WDA 2000 (Pa. Super. Ct., appeal from order Nov. 5, 2000).

Authors: Carroll, Brian.
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Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius  
 
33  
versus those in Pennsylvania means that plaintiffs in California would incur defendant 
costs only where they are shown to have brought lawsuits that are unlikely to succeed, 
but that defendants in Pennsylvania will always bear the substantial costs of defending, 
even successfully.
117
 If adopted, a federal anti-SLAPP law would create full, uniform, 
nationwide protection, enabling victims of SLAPP suits to make a motion to dismiss, stop 
discovery, and recover attorney’s fees in the event that the claim is deemed meritless. 
The need for anti-SLAPP relief will only increase. The now-defunct John Does 
Anonymous Foundation, a non-profit organization established to support anonymous 
speakers sued for online defamation, among other torts, estimated that between 1996 and 
2001, more than 200 lawsuits were initiated by companies seeking disclosure of 
thousands of online John Does. None of the actions during this period resulted in a 
verdict or judgment against any of the John Does.
118
 In 2000, America Online attempted 
to draw attention to the threat to expression that these lawsuits represent, stating in a brief 
that the “proliferation of these lawsuits and subpoenas threatens to have a chilling effect 
on protected speech and the growth of the online medium.”
119
 
Anti-SLAPP laws are needed to ensure that, in the words of the majority opinion 
in another oft-cited online defamation case, Columbia Insurance v. Seescandy.com 
(1999), “people who have committed no wrong [are] able to participate online without 
fear that someone who wishes to harass or embarrass them can file a frivolous lawsuit 
                                                                                                               
 
117
 Trende, Defamation, Anti-SLAPP Legislation, and the Blogosphere: New Solutions for an Old Problem, 
17. 
 
118
 In Victoria Smith Ekstrand, Unmasking Jane and John Doe: Online Anonymity and the First 
Amendment, 8 C
OMM
.
 
L.
 
&
 
P
OL
Y
 417 (2003). The foundation’s URL now belongs to the New 
Republicans, a conservative branch of the Republican Party. 
 
119
 Brief of Amicus Curiae America Online, Inc., at 14, Melvin v. Doe, et al., Nos. 2115 WDA 2000 & 
2116 WDA 2000 (Pa. Super. Ct., appeal from order Nov. 5, 2000). 


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