Identifying anonymous or pseudonymous cyberbullies in civil suits


Though we focus on youth, we have had an increasing number of adults who call and email us asking for help regarding their own cyberbullying victimization experiences.  Some of the stories we hear are extremely tragic and horribly malicious.  Many times, we are at a loss for words that might help based on the fact that Internet Service Providers and Content Service Providers historically have not turned over subscriber (perpetrator) records in response to complaints from targets.  This recent article, though, may portend an encouraging change.  Specifically, a New York attorney (Steven Wagner) last year specifically argued that a model who was anonymously defamed online deserved to know the identity behind those insults so that he or she could be sued for defamation.  A Manhattan judge agreed and ordered Google to turn over that information so that the plaintiff and victim could proceed with a civil claim.  Following this ruling, victims of online harassment and defamation of character seem to have new hope that the legal system will help them uncover those who bully under the cloak of anonymity or pseudonymity in cyberspace.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in other cases….


  1. I am a lawyer with a client who's being harassed directly and indirectly (cyber-harasment and defamation, also apparently gaining remote access to computer/passwords) and wonder how to press the ISPs/email hosts to reveal the identity of/owner of the source URL(s), etc. In California it sems there is no law directly on point, but harmful defamation, invasion of privacy and harassment is illegal regardless.

    Anyone with expereince and info on how to pursue such a thing (in Cal or elsewhere) please share your experience and any suggestions. Thank you!

  2. Well in the state where I live (Illinois) they just passed their Anti Stalking No Contact Order in Jan. of this year. My daughter is the first one in our county and maybe the state as far as I know, to have to use this order against a fellow student in regards to bullying, sexual harrassment at school and now the internet. The No Contact Order prevents the student from contacting my daughter directly, indirectly via in person, 3rd party or electronic communications. This includes e-mail, fax, texting, the internet web pages such as Facebook, Myspace, etc. We do go to court on March 5 to have it continued for a full 2 years. The school needless to say has done nothing about this situation and they will have to answer to that for sure. I have to protect my daughter in the fact that on the internet I have printed pages where threats are going out to my daughter and so now we have been forced to pull her from school until they handle the situation. Which I might add does not look good for the school. I hope this helps 🙂

  3. We were bullied for over a year by an ex-friend of my husband's. He stopped for 6 months but now is slowly getting started again.

    He pretends to be my husband. Saying he lives in our small town, on our street, in a house of our exact square footage, etc. etc. Never giving names but using my husband's log in names as his own and then insulting our neighbors, our underage children, and the organization that pays my salary. He has hacked into our Paypal account. (We know it is him because he used his cell phone number to change the password.) He didn't steal anything from the account just poked around and then posted about our purchases on a discussion forum. At the same time someone tried repeatedly to hack into my husband's various e-mail accounts and our brokerage account.

    The police have tried, but this guy won't give up and demands it is his first amendment rights to do so.

    He isn't a kid. He is in his mid 40s. He is an attorney, and his wife is a vice-president at a financial institution.

    My question is is it within MY first amendment rights to go online and say HisLoginName=his firstname, his lastname? He is only doing this because he can hide behind the internet.

  4. We were cyber bullied in California and hired one of these new Internet Law Center Attorneys that are popping up. It cost us over $20,000 to file charges in the Federal Court system in California. In the end the defendant who represented themselves received nothing more but a warning (and we recieved the same) it never made it to court.

    judges in California shy away from cases involving "speech" they are concerned that every local journalist will cover the story and be crawling up their back side.

    In the end we were more victimized by our attorney than the person that was "cyberbulling" us.

    He kept giving us false hope that we had certain rights and the case would be won.

    The best thing to do is try for mediation and talking with the person with a professional mediator.

    The other problem is, make sure you can prove a loss of business or harm was done to you. The other big issue is proving that what the person has said about you is false. In our case there was no lies published we did have an employee that was arrested. You also need to prove malicious intent.

    The other HUGE problem is getting the records turned over from the ISPs, if they have posted on multiple forums you have a problem. Then you need a PROFESSIONAL FORENSICS E person to interpret the findings which is very very expensive.

    This model that got Google to turn over the UTUBE of her, was a different story. But this model should have been careful when a video was on – she then tried to work in the non-profit segment.

    She is NOW more famous than before the incident as her photo is all over the Internet.

  5. I don't necessarily recommend this, and it would really depend on your situation, but we ultimately outed our guy by a reply to a post. I never would comment back when he posted. I didn't want it to appear to be a conversation or in anyway engage him. One day I had had enough and replied to his post to leave us alone or that I would out him. When the main boss where I work announced his retirement, our harasser made another annoying post and I replied that his firstname lastname should be considered for the job. He has an unusual spelling to his name and I am sure he doesn't want to be in any way connected to the log in names he has used. He went back and had as many posts as he could deleted and hasn't bothered us since.

    So far it has worked. We haven't heard a peep out of him since November. Hopefully he has learned his lesson and will stay away.

  6. Anonymous cyber bullying on sites like collegeacb could be the worst and most detrimental type of cyber bullying. On collegeacb anyone can go to a schools website and write about whomever they want and say anything they want about anyone with no personal repercussions. There is no telling what is true or false on a website like this, and the rumors that can be started on a site like this could make a person miserable for no reason. Anyone could go on to this site and write something about someone which is completely false and even if people don't believe it, the information will still be in the back of peoples heads when they meet the person who was written about. I think because of the false statements that can be written and could alter someone's life, anonymous cyber bullying is the worst type of cyber bullying. With anonymous cyber bullying apposed to normal cyber bullying, there is nothing that people did to bring upon what has been written about them.

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