Going after anonymous commenters or posters who make defamatory statements is possible, as illustrated by a Federal Court ruling in Delaware recently. In Getaway.com LLC v. John Does 1-26 (Civ. No. 15-531-SLR, District of Delaware), a federal judge in Delaware allowed a website owner’s defamation lawsuit against 26 anonymous commenters to go forward and issued a subpoena ordering a third party website (which was not sued) where the defamatory statements were posted to turn over account information for the posters of those statements, including their IP addresses. The victim can then subpoena the subscriber information from Internet service providers, based on the IP addresses obtained from the website.
This case illustrates 3 crucial points about pursuing an online defamation claim:
- A victim can ask the court to help uncover the identities of anonymous commenters in order to sue them
- A victim can have access to federal courts even though defamation is a state law claim
- Substitute service of process for the subpoena to issue can be done by posting a notice where the anonymous defamatory statements were made