Ryan Mrazik writes:
Last week, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania vacated a trial court’s order directing the disclosure of the identities of six John Does who allegedly posted defamatory remarks on the internet and adopted a four-prong modified test for unmasking anonymous online speakers in the future. In Pilchesky v. Gatelli, 2001 Pa. Super. 3, Nos. 38 MDA 2009 and 39 MDA 2009 (Jan. 5. 2001), the appeals court reviewed the standards courts use to evaluate whether the identity of an anonymous online speaker should be disclosed, and concluded that “[t]here are four requirements which must be addressed [and which] are necessary to ensure the proper balance between a speaker’s right to remain anonymous and a defamation plaintiff’s right to seek redress.” These requirements, discussed further below, are (1) notification of the John Doe defendants, (2) sufficiency of evidence to establish a prima facie case for all elements of a defamation claim, (3) an affidavit from the plaintiff asserting that the information is sought in good faith and is necessary to secure relief, and (4) that the court has expressly balanced the defendant’s First Amendment rights against the strength of the plaintiff’s prima facie case.
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