Internet Providers Forced to Give Up Identities of Anonymous Hackers

By April 11, 2013Injury Law

In 2008 Warren Hospital?s intranet was hacked by one or more individuals who then circulated defamatory messages to the hospital?s employees.? The hospital and several employees who were defamed then filed suit against the anonymous hackers and subpoenaed several internet service providers including Verizon in order to discover their identity. On April 5, 2013, a New Jersey Appeals court in Warren Hospital v. John Does, ordered that Verizon should be compelled to disclose their identities.

The alleged defamatory messages contained a video comparing one of the plaintiffs to Adolf Hitler and accusing several other plaintiffs of sexual misconduct. The Appellate Court found that the four-part test, established in the 2001 case Dendrite Int’l, Inc. v. Doe No. 3 was met. The Dendrite test requires a plaintiff to, (1) identify the fictitious defendant with sufficient specificity; (2) demonstrate a good-faith effort to comply with the requirements of service of process; (3) present sufficient facts from which it may be concluded that the suit can withstand a motion to dismiss; and (4) provide a request for discovery narrowly tailored to identify the defendants and make service of process possible.

Key to the WarrenHospital case was the fact that the defamatory statements were not posted on a public message board, but rather, emailed directly to the hospital?s employees. The Court went as far as to compare this behavior to the messages being spray painted right onto the hospital walls. The Court?s decision has made it significantly more difficult for individuals to hide behind the safety of a computer screen while simultaneously balancing the constitutional right to free speech.

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