Complainers Want To Unmask Internet’s Anonymous Commenters, Courts Undecided

Bizpac Review › Joe Saunders

The question is at the heart of a petition signed by best-selling author Anne Rice, demanding that require identity verification before posting material on its website, particularly book reviews that can attack an author personally on one hand, or help push a work up the best-seller lists on the other.

(For a woman who used a pseudonym to publish “The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy,” probably the most famous work of erotic fiction in the world before “Fifty Shades of Gray” came along, Rice has a lot of nerve.)

And in Pennsylvania last month, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge ordered the owners of, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, to turn over the identification of an anonymous commenter who attacked a powerful union leader.

The union leader’s lawyer convinced the judge the commenter could be sued for defamation but was hiding behind the screen name “fbpdplt,” according to CBS News.

Even though the Internet is has been in widespread use for almost 20 years, the body of law covering anonymity online is still being developed in state appeals courts, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation told