Court Recognizes First Amendment Right to Anonymity Even After Speakers Lose Lawsuits
- Written by Aaron Mackey at EFF.org
- Category: Blogs
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Signature Management Team, LLC v. John Doe is a victory for online speakers because it recognized that the First Amendment’s protections for anonymous speech do not end once a party suing the anonymous speaker prevails. Instead, the court ruled that revealing anonymous speakers’ identities has far-reaching consequences that must be weighed against opposing parties’ and the general public’s rights to learn speakers’ names once they’ve been found to have violated the law. This is good news, because many vulnerable speakers will self-censor unless they have the ability to speak anonymously and thereby avoid retaliation for their whistleblowing or unpopular views.
The ruling, however, is not all good news for anonymous speech. The test announced by the court sets unmasking as the default rule post-judgment, placing the burden on the anonymous party to argue against unmasking. Additionally, the court expanded the competing First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and records—which EFF strongly supports—to a novel right to learn the identity of an anonymous litigant—which we do not support...
READ THE FUL ARTICLE at EFF.org