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Can you libel an anonymous person or pen name?

 
 
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Kay
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 8:07 am    Post subject: Can you libel an anonymous person or pen name? Reply with quote

I'm just curious because this issue has cropped up on one of my sites. I don't think there's any danger of litigation but, for the sake of debate...

Joe Soap shows up and takes exception to something I've said on a blog. I did not name anyone, but simply referred to an anonymous group of people. Joe identifies himself as being part of this group. I have no idea who Joe Soap is, although I do know that's not his real name.

Joe says I'll libelled him.

I say I haven't because I don't even know who he is. As far as I'm concerned he's anonymous - hiding behind a pen name.

Joe says that I can still be sued for libel for making allegations against the user of the pen name.

(If this is correct, then they subsequently also libelled me by making false accusations against my pen name.)

This is all too trivial ever to go to court, but I was curious about the legal principles involved.
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Bill Ryan
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kay

Not really my area but

as you have to write something damaging to reputation
and the person is anonymous it can't happen (I would say)

but a pen name may be capable of identyfying the person in which case not anonymous

so it depends?
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Kay
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Bill. Yeah, I was pretty much thinking along the same lines. We don't have any means of identifying who Joe Soap is so they're anonymous.

And just about everyone knows that Not Deila is my pen name so therefore I'm not anonymous and could have my reputation damaged by false accusations.
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Mark Johnson
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kay, I'm not sure if you'll find your answer here but it seems relevant to the discussion:

http://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=92445
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Kay
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's interesting. Thanks, Mark.

As it happens, the person scuttled off after receiving the sharp edge of my tongue. Twisted Evil

Anyway, the thing is that they were completely anonymous - just using any old name to start causing trouble by blog commenting. On the other hand, I was using my pen name, by which I am fairly well known. It's even my avatar here.

It was all very silly, but when you run any kind of website that encourages interaction with the general public then you have to expect to deal with some rather unusual people sometimes.
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