An internet website that posts anonymous reviews of local businesses has standing to assert the First Amendment rights of its anonymous posters in opposition to a subpoena requiring it to divulge the poster’s identity. However, if the plaintiff presents prima facie evidence that the posted review was false and defamatory, the poster has no First Amendment right to remain anonymous. Here, the plaintiff made the required showing by pointing out that the review falsely accused him of increasing his tax preparation fee without justification and falsely stated that he had to get another tax preparer to compile a proper return when those plaintiff prepared were proper. Before revealing the poster’s identity, the website owner must be ordered to provide notice to the poster so that the poster can directly raise any objection he may have to the disclosure of his identity.
California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three (O’Leary, J.); 2017 WL 5247734; November 13, 2017.