New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds Right to Criticize Anonymously on the Internet

From Citizen.org Press Room

This is a very important decision for all of us out in the blogosphere…

Public Citizen Argued that Lower Court Ignored the First Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A lower court ignored the First Amendment when it told the operator of an Internet forum to identify a person who posted anonymous criticism of a N.H. mortgage company, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire said today in a ruling that adopted arguments made by Public Citizen.

In a friend of the court brief filed last year, Public Citizen said that the lower court failed to recognize the free speech rights of the website operator, Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, which runs the forum that follows the “imploding” banking and housing markets.

Public Citizen argued that the lower court should not have granted Mortgage Specialists’ subpoena without first attempting to notify the anonymous critic. It also argued that the court should require Mortgage Specialists, which is based in Plaistow, N.H, to show a valid reason – such as evidence of falsity – before taking away someone’s right to speak anonymously.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire agreed with Public Citizen’s arguments, reversing the lower court ruling.

The court also held that the lower court’s order prohibiting the website operator, Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, from publishing the anonymous critic’s postings and Mortgage Specialist’s loan figures was a prohibited prior restraint on speech.

“The right of citizens to engage in anonymous speech is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who filed the brief, along with local counsel Jon Meyer of Manchester, N.H. “The Supreme Court of New Hampshire has rightly recognized that the right to remain anonymous should not be taken away without compelling reasons.”

The Mortgage Specialists, Inc., v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.

Description:

A mortgage company sued a blog for, among other things, allowing an anonymous speaker to accuse its president of fraud in a post on one it its message board. The blog removed the post but refused to promise to keep it off the board. The trial judge issued an injunction forbidding the reposting, and ordered the blog to provide information about the anonymous poster’s identity. In an amicus brief supporting the blog’s appeal, Public Citizen argues that a message board host is immune from suit for an injunction as much as a suit for damages, and that the order to identify the poster should be reversed because the plaintiff did not meet the Dendrite/Mobilisa/Cahill standard by giving the Doe notice of its subpoena and presenting evidence to support its claim of defamation. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with our arguments, embracing the Dendrite standard as the proper procedural and substantive approach to balancing the right to sue over abusive Internet speech and the right to speak anonymously. The court decided that the injunction against the message board host was an improper prior restraint, and so it did not have to reach the issue of host immunity.

4closureFraud

(05/06/2010)
NEW HAMPSHIRE SUPREME COURT DECISION

The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.

(06/22/2009)
AMICUS CURIAE
The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.

Comments
2 Responses to “New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds Right to Criticize Anonymously on the Internet”
  1. 2 Pirates over 40 says:

    ……….My name is John Q.Public ll and I approve John Q.Public’s message !!

  2. … my name is John Q. Public and I approve this message!

Leave a Reply