Online Anonymous Defamation – Who Is Responsible And What Should You do


The new web technologies have enabled the web user to express themselves. They have a variety of platforms for the expression of their views or feelings like twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook, blogs etc.

The problem lies in the fact that many of these users use pseudonyms or write anonymously and while expressing their views, they sometimes slander the good name of someone. The reason for this could be anything, but the fact remains that while expressing their anger or hurt or just because they wanted to write, these writers actually hurt the reputation and character of an individual.

Online Defamation

The online slandering of an individual’s or an entity’s reputation or character is legally known as ‘ Online Defamation’. The written form of slandering is legally called as libel. The basic requirement for this slandering to qualify for defamation is that it should be false. No true or factual statements, however hurtful it may be, qualify as online defamation.

Anonymous online defamation

The advent of web technologies has made, the defamation of character by individual’s that are known to you or even by people that are unknown, ridiculously easy. When this slandering is done by someone using an alias or anonymously then it is known as Anonymous online defamation.

Legal requirements

For a statement to be qualified as defamation the following criteria needs to be observed

  • The statement should be false.
  • The statement needs to be targeted at you
  • The statement needs to publish and it needs to be read or heard by at least one individual other than you or author.
  • It must have caused you real and proven harm either in personal or professional life.
  • If the entire above criterion is fulfilled then you can file a suit for defamation.

Problems with Anonymous online defamation

The primary problem with Anonymous online defamation is fixing of responsibility since the writer is unknown. Legally there could be three probabilities in the above scenario

  • Exclusive direct liability – Only the speaker/writer is liable
  • Exclusive indirect liability – Only the content provider is liable
  • Concurrent liability – Both the writer/speaker and content provider are liable.

Under the US laws, the content providers are shielded from defamation, but they can be made to disclose the identity of the speaker/writer. Due to technical advent, it’s very difficult to identify the writer even with the content provider’s cooperation.

Now exclusive direct liability is cost-intensive because of identifying processes, exclusive indirect liability requires high monitoring costs, and concurrent liability has both the cost components. There is another alternative and it is Residual Indirect Liability.

The Residual Indirect Liability means that a speaker is exclusively liable but if he is unidentifiable then the content provider become liable. This prevents the undue costing of other three alternatives and provides a viable mode to pursue the Anonymous online defamation cases.

Need of an attorney

The legal framework of defamation cases is complex and without the help of an attorney, pursuing or handling it is impossible. In the case of defamation, approaching the local law enforcement is anticlimactic. The reason for this is they lack the manpower, resources and expertise to handle such cases. The defamation of character attorney is the person that will be the most help in the case of defamation. They are not only well versed in handling such cases but they also have the framework in place to handle such cases, efficiently.