Cyberslapp Suits

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A new form of lawsuit called a “cyberslapp” suit is threatening to overturn the promise of anonymous online speech and chill the freedom of expression that is central to the online world. Cyberslapp cases typically involve a person who has posted anonymous criticisms of a corporation or public figure on the Internet. The target of the criticism then files a frivolous lawsuit just so they can issue a subpoena to the web site or Internet service provider (ISP) involved, discover the identity of their anonymous critic, and intimidate or silence them. On behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, students drafted model legislation. The legislation was introduced in the California Assembly on January 2003 by Assembly member Joseph Simitian. The Clinic testified on behalf of its client, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in support of the bill (AB 1143) before the Assembly Committee on ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, SPORTS, TOURISM, AND INTERNET MEDIA on April 29th and the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 6th. The bill passed the Assembly on May 20th and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate on July 8, 2003.