FREDERICKSBURG, VA — Anyone who comments anonymously on the Internet is protected under the First Amendment — unless those comments are defamatory or dishonest, or so the Virginia Court of Appeals seems to be saying in a case headed to the Virginia Supreme Court on appeal, according to The Free Lance-Star.
The issue of under what circumstances anonymous commenters can be unmasked is being watched closely by news organizations and other outlets that have an interest in continuing vigorous commenting on their websites, the article stated.
According to the article, the dispute involves Yelp, a popular business review website, and Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Inc., a Springfield-based business.
The appeals court opinion makes clear that anonymous commenters have First Amendment rights, the article noted.
"An Internet user does not shed his free speech rights at the log-in screen. The right to free speech is assiduously guarded in all mediums of expression, from the analog to the digital," said the opinion, written by Judge William Petty.
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