New case on the right of anonymous free speech

Paul Levy plevy at
Tue Feb 13 09:37:27 PST 2007

I want to call your attention to a case just filed by my colleague
Jennifer Soble on behalf of an anonymous Internet speaker whose
identity was revealed by his ISP,, without giving the speaker
any notice or opportunity to oppose disclosure.  Even though New
Jersey is the state the pioneered the protection of anonymous
Internet speakers by the adoption of the "Dendrite" standard
requiring notice and proof of wrongdoing before a subpoena can be
enforced (established in 2001 by Dendrite International v Doe), and
even though is run by a consortium of New Jersey newspapers
that ought to appreciate the need to protect anonymous sources, released its customer's identity without making any effort to
determine whether there might be a basis for opposing the subpoena
and without any notice to the anonymous speaker so that he could move
to quash the subpoena in the manner for which Dendrite provides.  The
result was that the speaker (who criticized local firefighters on a
community blog run by was identified publicly on the blog,
ridiculed, and run out of town.  The lawsuit claims that's
release of identifying information without any notice was a violation
of the ISP's privacy policy as well as being a tort under New Jersey

Paul Alan Levy
Public Citizen Litigation Group
1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 588-1000
>>>Robert Yule 02/13/07 2:55 PM >>>

For Immediate Release:           Contact: Jennifer Soble (248)
568-7660 Feb. 13, 2007
Robert Yule (202) 588-7703

Public Citizen Represents Former New Jersey Town Council Member in
Suit Against Internet News Site Breached Contract by Revealing Identity of Anonymous Poster,
Suit Says

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An online news site unlawfully revealed the
identity of a former New Jersey town official who had posted
anonymous comments on its message board, according to a lawsuit filed
today by Public Citizen on behalf of the official. When his identity
was made known, he was publicly humiliated and forced to resign.

Michael Gallucci, a former town councilman for Teaneck, N.J., posted
messages anonymously on a Teaneck area message board on, a
news site and Internet service provider (ISP) owned by New Jersey On-
Line, LLC.  The ISP provides a forum dedicated to many towns within
the state where visitors to the Web site can anonymously post
comments related to the locality.

>From Dec. 16, 2005, to Dec. 21, 2005, Galluci posted on the site
criticisms of William J. Brennan, a firefighter who had been employed
with the Teaneck Fire Department. Brennan was a regular poster on's Teaneck message board, where he lodged frequent complaints
against the Teaneck Council under the name "WJBrennan." Prior to Dec.
16, Brennan had also been a party to approximately 10 lawsuits
involving the township of Teaneck, as well as the Teaneck Council

The ISP unlawfully released Galluci's identity publicly on the
message board after it received a subpoena from Brennan's lawyer. New
Jersey law requires that anonymous Internet users first be given
notice before subpoenas seeking their identity can be enforced, so
that the speaker can challenge the validity of the subpoena and
protect his identity.

The release of his name on the message board led to overwhelming
criticism of Galluci, his forced resignation from the Township
Council, and public humiliation as the story was picked up by local
and major media outlets. Galluci, who grew up in Teaneck and whose
social network, including his family and friends, was located in the
township, felt forced leave Teaneck. He quickly sold his home and
relocated to another city.

"When a newspaper is asked or even subpoenaed to identify a source of
one of its news stories, any paper worth its salt would fight the
subpoena before revealing that information," said Jennifer Soble, a
lawyer for Public Citizen who is litigating the case. "When a
newspaper invites citizens to comment on its Web site, it owes those
citizens the same protections against unreasonable intrusions into
their privacy."

To view the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, visit

Public Citizen has a record of defending the First Amendment rights
of Internet users. To learn more, visit


Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please

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