Feeds

EFF pushes court to block unmasking of anonymous MySpace user

Constitutional challenge mounted

The essential guide to IT transformation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is waging a constitutional challenge against an Illinois politician seeking to unmask an anonymous MySpace user accused of creating impostor profiles and posting defamatory material on them.

Cicero, Illinois, Town President Larry Dominick filed a discovery petition (PDF) last month after finding two profiles on the social networking site that claimed to belong to him. Dominick's legal document, which was filed on taxpayers' dime, claimed the profiles constituted defamation and an invasion of privacy, but stopped short of providing any evidence to support the allegations. It went on to demand that MySpace turn over the IP addresses of the people who created the accounts.

According to a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) the EFF filed Wednesday, First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech permit internet users to anonymously voice their opinions. Court orders forcing parties to reveal the identity of such people can only be issued after a plaintiff has demonstrated a viable legal claim.

"The Town President of the Town of Cicero has asked this Court to approve of an illegal and unconstitutional discovery request expressly aimed at exposing anonymous speakers who posted information to MySpace," the brief argues. "This court should decline to do so. While Petitioner may ultimately be able to meet the requirements imposed by the First Amendment and the Stored Communications Act, he has not done so with the Petition currently before the Court."

The Stored Communications Act, the EFF said, prohibits government entities from obtaining customer information through normal civil lawsuits.

Dan Proft, a spokesman for the town of Cicero, disagreed that Dominick's petition is unconstitutional or violates the Stored Communications Act. And he said he had no doubt the MySpace posts were actionable, even by a public official who faces a high bar in pursuing such claims.

"We're aware of what the burden is to prove defamation against a public official and some of the information that was posted meets the burden," he said. "We are attempting to elicit information from MySpace that would lead us to the offending party so we can zero in on the offending party."

But he refused to discuss in even general terms how the posts invaded Dominick's privacy or defamed him. "Trust us," he seemed to be saying.

The EFF's action comes three weeks after federal prosecutors in Los Angeles indicted a 49-year-old Missouri woman for using a fake MySpace account to befriend, and then reject, a 13-year-old girl. After the girl committed suicide, prosecutors charged Lori Drew with conspiracy and hacking for violating MySpace terms of service that, among other things, forbid the creation of fictitious accounts. Legal experts, including some from the EFF, have roundly criticized the action. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.