Followups: The future of free speech, the panic button, and social media regulation

Anthony Bardaro
May 23 · 2 min read

[re: “The borderless, supranational nature of the web would also present a challenge. A principally geographic arbitration solution is hard to enact amidst issues of political jurisdiction and VPN loopholes. Let’s call this the ‘geopolitical problem’.”]

by Gizmodo 2019.05.23

[The defendant] is an active participant in a former Jehovah’s Witness subreddit as he “believes that it is the only place he has been able to discuss and debate matters related to the Jehovah’s Witnesses freely and openly” and that he chose Reddit because he could post anonymously as “keeping his name and identity private is necessary for him to feel comfortable participating in open discussions…”

Where it gets interesting is [this defendant] is not a U.S. resident — so [the plaintiff] argued free speech protections, and thereby [his] right to anonymity did not apply. However, the court ultimately disagreed with that logic, reasoning the subpoena was issued by a U.S. court, on behalf of a U.S. company (Watchtower), and delivered to another U.S. company (Reddit). The court also stated that the First Amendment “protects the audience as well as the speaker,” and since a good portion of Redditors reside in the U.S., then free speech protections do apply.

That’s huge. The internet is borderless and plenty of U.S.-based sites like Reddit, Yelp, Google, and Facebook have users scattered across the globe… That said, this case wasn’t a total victory for free speech and anonymity advocates. The court’s final decision still ordered Reddit to deliver [the defendant’s] identifying information to [the plaintiff’s] lawyers so they could try to shore up its copyright claim [although the] attorneys were forbidden from revealing his identity to their client[.]


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Anthony Bardaro

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