How to Find the Identity of an Anonymous Author Online
There’s two ways that you can find out the identity of an anonymous author online. First, is you can just ask. You can email the website, email the ISP and say “Hey, this person said mean things about me” or inform them of the reason you want to know and just ask. Most of the times, the website won’t actually give you that information so what you really have to do is file what’s called a “John Doe” lawsuit.
The John Doe lawsuit says that this person using this pseudonym posted false statements about me on the website and these statements are false and defamatory. Once that lawsuit is filed, you have a basis to issue a subpoena to the website. The subpoena to the website will ask for the anonymous author information.
In Arizona, in order to find out an anonymous author information from an author that posted on a website you not only have to issue the subpoena, but then after the subpoena has been issued you have to post on that same website and say “hey, we want to know who you are. We’re issuing a subpoena and you have until whatever date to respond. If you respond to me by that date then this will all go away.” You have to also post notice of the subpoena on the website. If the person doesn’t respond to the subpoena, in order to enforce the subpoena, you also have to meet a hypothetical summary of judgement standard which means that you have to actually prove to the court that the claims about you are actually false and actually defamatory. Arizona does have a relatively high standard to meet in order to obtain anonymous author information but that standard is out there and it’s a relatively simple process to go through.
About the author: Laura A. Rogal is a partner at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She assists clients with their intellectual property legal needs including internet law, social media, domain disputes and commercial litigation.