Internet Law

Questioning jurisdiction, state supreme court finds Google does not have to reveal blogger's ID

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Google does not have to identify a blogger who criticized an Ohio-based software company, the Texas Supreme Court found Friday because it was not established that the writer has ties to the state, and the court may not have jurisdiction over the matter.

The petition was brought by Reynolds & Reynolds, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The company argued that a disgruntled employee, writing under the pseudonym “Trooper,” posted confidential and defamatory statements about it on a blog site hosted by Google. “Trooper” submitted a sworn affidavit to the court that stated he did not live in Texas.

The decision overturns a trial court order that held Google must disclose the author’s identity. Reynolds & Reynolds is seeking the information so it can sue the author for defamation and business disparagement, according to the article.

“We recognize that this burden may be heavier in a case like this, in which the potential defendant’s identity is unknown and may even be impossible to ascertain. But even so, (Texas) does not guarantee access to information for every petitioner who claims to need it,” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote for the majority (PDF).

Justice Debra Lehrmann wrote the dissent (PDF), arguing that the decision makes it difficult to bring online defamation suits.

“With the simple touch of a button, an anonymous speaker can disseminate defamatory statements to millions of readers, ruining reputations and sabotaging careers,” Lehrmann wrote. “To make matters worse … anonymous online statements—and the people who issue them—are impossible to track without the help of the Internet service provider.”

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