(excerpts.... link to full article at the bottom of this post)
A group of anonymous bloggers that had published information on their Web sites about a disgraced Rockland County rabbi's alleged sexual misconduct won a victory when the rabbi withdrew one of two petitions to subpoena their identities.
Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, the former leader of Kehillat New Hempstead in New Hempstead, N.Y., who has been accused of sexual harassment by former congregants, filed petitions both in Ohio and California district courts in an effort to force Google, the Internet giant that hosts the bloggers' websites, to disclose their identities.
The bloggers' attorney, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest organization, said Rabbi Tendler’s decision to withdraw the petition represented a victory for the First Amendment right to free speech. He also said that the decision reflected Rabbi Tendler's inability to prove that the bloggers had defamed him.
"If he had had evidence of falsity and malice he could have gone forward against these folks," said Levy, noting that as soon as the bloggers filed their motion claiming that Rabbi Tendler's petition would violate their right to free speech, he withdrew his demand.Levy said the bloggers were moving ahead with a motion under state law that protects against so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation and would seek to have Rabbi Tendler required to cover the bloggers' legal fees.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to set a federal standard regarding what a defamation plaintiff would have to show before an anonymous blogger could be unmasked, lower court decisions have so far set a high bar, demanding that plaintiffs clearly establish that the claims made against them are false before the online accuser can be outed.
"It's a pretty high standard," said David Hudson, research attorney for the First Amendment Center, an educational organization based in Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va.
While undermining their own credibility, anonymous bloggers may in fact be protecting themselves legally. Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, an organization of bloggers, said that one of the standards used in defamation cases is whether a reasonable person would believe a particular statement was true. However, given that blogs are held in lower esteem than many newspapers and magazines, such a standard may not be met in a defamation case against a blogger, particularly an anonymous one.
Cox said that although this issue has yet to be settled in court, bloggers might prove immune to claims of defamation "because nobody believes us."
Widely believed or not, some anonymous bloggers say they are in fact having a great deal of impact and that they plan to continue blogging anonymously.
UOJ says that before he posts any claims against anyone he conducts his own investigation, verifying the allegations with five sources. Once he's satisfied that he has met his own standard, he posts the claims.
(EOPC also investigates to our own standard and anyone who sends us information on their cyberpath must sign a release taking FULL responsibility for the 100% truthfulness of what is told to us & posted.
It is not illegal, nor is it harassment to post the TRUTH about a predatory individual who takes advantage of others via the internet or other means... no matter what these Cyberpaths wish, want or threaten to do.)
"'Free speech' permits me to say 'anything' I feel is accurate," UOJ wrote in an e-mail.
For now, no one is challenging him.
EXCERPTS FROM THIS ARTICLE (CLICK HERE)
GOOD INFORMATION ON SAFE BLOGGING