Apr 172011
 
 April 17, 2011  Court, Online

Evan Brown writes:

The supreme court of Texas has issued an opinion that protects the anonymity of a couple of bloggers who were accused of defamation, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy by another blogger. The court ordered that a subpoena served on Google (who hosted the Blogger accounts in question) be quashed.

The case is In re Does, — S.W.3d —, 2011 WL 1447544 (Texas, April 15, 2011).

Read more on Internet Cases.

Reading Evan’s post and the court’s opinion, it seems that the plaintiffs and Google had agreed to turn over the requested information in response to a subpoena duces tecum and Google (merely?) gave the bloggers notice that it had received it. The bloggers challenged the subpoena on grounds that the plaintiffs had not made the necessary showings in court to justify the issuance of the subpoena.

Those who hope that Google might actually defend the anonymous speech of bloggers will be disappointed to read that Google did no such thing. It did notify the bloggers so that they’d have a chance to move to quash the subpoena, but that’s it.  Ultimately, the bloggers prevailed on the subpoena issue, but the case was not argued on First Amendment grounds.   It’s a good result in terms of pushing back against too-ready issuances of subpoenas, but it reminds me of what some big guns like Google may not do to protect speech rights.

I don’t realistically expect Google to spend a lot of corporate money defending speech rights of bloggers or users, but is this what they’ve come down to – a “just cover our a$$ and we’ll notify the defendants” approach?

I hope not.

If Google would like to explain under what conditions it might actually more actively defend or raise First Amendment right to anonymous speech in this country’s courts, I’d love to hear it.

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