This is a blog. Blogs are growing in popularity. On this blog, you can find my name and contact information easily. But, a few blogs are anonymous for various reasons. One such blog, "Reynolds News & Information," was started by an anonymous blogger known as "Trooper." The blog attacked an Ohio based software developer, Reynolds & Reynolds. The blog described R&R’s products as "crap" and accused its new CEO of being a thief. R&R sued Google seeking the identity of the blogger. The software developer says it needs the identity so they can sue the blogger for defamation and business disparagement. R&R filed suit in Houston, Texas. Trooper hired a lawyer, Shelly Skeen, to defend his interests. Trooper stands on the First Amendment to block the attempt to secure his identity.
Google offered to provide the identity to the judge and let the judge decide if his identity should be revealed. The judge, instead, ordered that the identity be revealed completely. The First Circuit in Houston affirmed the lower court ruling. Trooper then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the blogger took down his blog.
R&R believes the blogger is an employee. The employer claims the U.S. Supreme Court has held there is no right of anonymity for an employee who is criticizing his employer. Trooper denies being an employee of R&R. Indeed, Trooper claims he is a citizen of Ohio and that rulings by a Texas court do not apply to him. Oral arguments before the Texas Supreme Court were held in November. The Supreme Court’s decision is now pending. See Austin American Statesman report.
If Trooper is using his blog to discuss problems at work with co-workers, then his comments would probably be protected under the National Labor Relations Act. But, even in that situation, I cannot imagine how he would have a right to anonymity. Google is trying to steer a middle ground, not willingly giving up the identity. But, I am sure that is based more on Google’s respect for the internet than on legal grounds.
But, if Trooper’s blog is a simple straight ahead attack on R&R, his comments would not receive any particular protection under Texas law. See my other post about a disaffected employee who who set up a wesbite to attack his former employee. A blog must follow the same laws regarding defamation as any other public forum.