n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Online defamation : the problem of unmasking anonymous online critics




The internet is a unique medium where communicators can choose how much information about themselves they want to reveal - in other words they may choose whether to remain anonymous or whether to shelter behind a pseudonym. Where the communications are defamatory, plaintiffs have to consider how to go about identifying defendants known only by a pseudonym or computer address. A balancing of interests is required : the right of freedom of expression and privacy on the one hand, and the protection of the reputation of a person or a company, on the other. This article discusses comparatively by referring to the position in the US and UK, the legal issues surrounding attempts by plaintiffs to identify such anonymous posters of defamatory messages. It will also focus on the extent to which internet service providers can be compelled to disclose the identities of their users.


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