A Politician Files a Lawsuit Against a Blog in Pursuit of Revealing Its Anonymous Commenter’s Identity

Anonymous Commenter, Blog, Politician, Sues, Unmask

In 2021, the founder of the political blog Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, found himself being sued by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for refusing to unmask the identity of a community member who had posted a critical story about Kennedy’s association with neo-Nazis. Kennedy wanted Daily Kos to reveal the identity of the user so that he could sue them directly. However, Moulitsas asserted that thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Daily Kos was protected from being sued for defamation. This section, known as the “safe harbor,” shields websites from legal responsibility for user-generated content.

Despite the legal protection, Kennedy pressed on with the lawsuit, leading to a lengthy legal battle between Daily Kos and Kennedy. Moulitsas updated the story on multiple occasions, shedding light on Kennedy’s involvement with neo-Nazis at a Berlin rally and emphasizing that he stood by the community member’s claims. Moulitsas even challenged Kennedy to drop the lawsuit against the community member and pursue legal action against him instead.

As the legal proceedings continued, Kennedy managed to secure a trial court judge in New York who agreed to subpoena Daily Kos for information related to the anonymous user. However, as Daily Kos was based in California, they were able to quash the subpoena with the help of a California court. The California court also indicated that if New York did not make the right decision on appeal, they would step in. Despite the favorable ruling in California, the legal battle was far from over.

One important aspect of the case was the absence of a strict “Dendrite standard” law in New York. The Dendrite standard is a legal framework that protects anonymous speech. Realizing the significance of the case, several media companies, including The New York Times, joined the appeals effort by submitting their own joint amicus brief.

Kennedy’s relentless pursuit to uncover the community member’s identity eventually paid off as he discovered it sometime in the past year. To further complicate matters, Kennedy filed a defamation suit against the community member in New Hampshire, a move that seemed like an attempt at forum shopping. However, the case was swiftly dismissed by a New Hampshire court due to jurisdictional issues.

In a surprising turn of events, last week, Kennedy’s appeal of the dismissal was thrown out by the judge due to his lawyer’s failure to file within the allotted time. Kennedy then tried to dismiss the original case in New York, arguing that it had become moot since he had obtained the community member’s identity. However, Daily Kos disagreed and argued that there were still important issues to be resolved.

Fortunately for Daily Kos, a four-judge New York Supreme Court appellate panel unanimously ordered the case to continue. This decision allowed the Dendrite issue to remain alive and gave Daily Kos the opportunity to seek damages under New York’s anti-SLAPP law. Anti-SLAPP laws aim to prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation.

In conclusion, Kennedy’s decision to sue Daily Kos for refusing to reveal the identity of a community member who had posted a critical story about him has turned into an enduring legal battle. Despite facing legal setbacks and spending substantial amounts on legal fees, Kennedy has been unsuccessful in his attempts to silence Daily Kos. The case has become a significant First Amendment battle with broader implications for online speech and protection of anonymous users. Moulitsas remains steadfast in his dedication to defending free speech and holding Kennedy accountable for his actions.

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