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SLAPPing e-Publius: Protecting anonymous expression and reputation in a digital age
Unformatted Document Text:  Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius     9   can be eligible for First Amendment protection, a determination that negated a key premise of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire decided twenty-two years prior, a Supreme Court ruling that held that because defamation was not deemed a valuable aspect of or contributor to public debate, it could not be seen as being included under the First Amendment. 26 The right to anonymous expression is not unlimited, however, and Stevens’s term, “an aspect of the freedom,” hints at this. In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court seems to say that if a government regulation is narrowly tailored to advance a substantial state interest, political speech, including anonymous political speech, can be regulated. 27 One such legitimate state interest is compensating an individual for harm done to him or her by defamatory and false statements. As an old saying goes, “My right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins.” 28 This limit on anonymous expression is the right to reputation, or that “one’s good name,” in Van Vechten Veeder’s words, should be regarded and, therefore, protected by the law as any physical possession because that good name “gives to material possessions their value as sources of happiness.” 29 John Adams articulated this idea when he said that a man without “attachment to reputation, or honor, is undone.” 30 Character is what a person is; reputation is “what he seems to be,”                                                                                                                 26 Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 572 (1942). 27 Buckley v Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 143 (1976). 28 Quoted in Debra Cassens Weiss, Satirical Law School Blog Leads to Harassment Probe Against Syracuse 2L, ABA J OURNAL , October 20, 2010. Available: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/satirical_law_school_blog_leads_to_harassment_probe_against_syracuse_2l. The article details an investigation at Syracuse University’s law school into defamatory blog posts published to the pseudonymous Sucolitis blog. 29 Van Vechten Veeder, The History and Theory of the Law of Defamation, 4 C OLUM . L. R EV . 33 (1904). 30 Quoted in Joanne B. Freeman, Slander, Poison, Whispers, and Fame: Jefferson’s ‘Annas’ and Political Gossip in the Early Republic, 15 J. OF THE E ARLY R EP . 25, 31 (1995).

Authors: Carroll, Brian.
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background image
Running  head:  SLAPPing  e-­‐Publius  
 
9  
can be eligible for First Amendment protection, a determination that negated a key 
premise of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire decided twenty-two years prior, a Supreme 
Court ruling that held that because defamation was not deemed a valuable aspect of or 
contributor to public debate, it could not be seen as being included under the First 
Amendment.
26
 
The right to anonymous expression is not unlimited, however, and Stevens’s term, 
“an aspect of the freedom,” hints at this. In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court seems 
to say that if a government regulation is narrowly tailored to advance a substantial state 
interest, political speech, including anonymous political speech, can be regulated.
27
 One 
such legitimate state interest is compensating an individual for harm done to him or her 
by defamatory and false statements. As an old saying goes, “My right to swing my arm 
ends where your nose begins.”
28
 This limit on anonymous expression is the right to 
reputation, or that “one’s good name,” in Van Vechten Veeder’s words, should be 
regarded and, therefore, protected by the law as any physical possession because that 
good name “gives to material possessions their value as sources of happiness.”
29
 John 
Adams articulated this idea when he said that a man without “attachment to reputation, or 
honor, is undone.”
30
 Character is what a person is; reputation is “what he seems to be,” 
                                                                                                               
26
 Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 572 (1942). 
 
27
 Buckley v Valeo424 U.S. 1, 143 (1976). 
 
28
 Quoted in Debra Cassens Weiss, Satirical Law School Blog Leads to Harassment Probe Against 
Syracuse 2L, ABA
 
J
OURNAL
, October 20, 2010. Available: 
http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/satirical_law_school_blog_leads_to_harassment_probe_against_s
yracuse_2l. The article details an investigation at Syracuse University’s law school into defamatory blog 
posts published to the pseudonymous Sucolitis blog.  
 
29
 Van Vechten Veeder, The History and Theory of the Law of Defamation, 4 C
OLUM
.
 
L.
 
R
EV
. 33 (1904). 
 
30
 Quoted in Joanne B. Freeman, Slander, Poison, Whispers, and Fame: Jefferson’s ‘Annas’ and Political 
Gossip in the Early Republic, 15
 
J.
 OF THE 
E
ARLY 
R
EP
. 25, 31 (1995). 


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