Legal Protections for Anonymous Speech in Connecticut

Note: This page covers information specific to Connecticut. For general information concerning legal protections for anonymous speech see the Legal Protections for Anonymous Speech section of this guide.

In Connecticut, the law on what test or standard to apply when a plaintiff seeks to uncover the identity of an anonymous Internet speaker is not entirely clear. One court, in La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France v. Time Warner Cable, 2003 WL 22962857 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2003), applied an unusual standard that derives from Connecticut's case law on an obscure procedure known as a "bill of discovery." A federal case, Doe I v. Individuals, 561 F. Supp. 2d 249 (D. Conn. 2008), applied a test similar to that applied in Dendrite International v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. App. Div. 2001).

La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France v. Time Warner Cable, 2003 WL 22962857 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2003)

La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France sought a "bill of discovery" in Connecticut state court compelling Time Warner Cable to disclose the identity of an individual who allegedly sent an anonymous email to several of its regional directors accusing the company of deceptive and unethical business practices.  The request was based on an ex parte order of a French court requiring Time Warner to give up this information.  Time Warner notified its subscriber of the Connecticut action, and she intervened through counsel to oppose the bill.

The court granted the bill of discovery.  It applied an unusual standard with two requirements.  First, the plaintiff must show that what it seeks is necessary to mount a claim or defense in another action, and that it has no other way of obtaining the desired material.  Second, the plaintiff must "demonstrate by detailed facts that there is probable cause to bring a potential cause of action." It defined "probable cause" as "knowledge of facts sufficient to justify a reasonable man in the belief that he has reasonable grounds for presenting an action . . . Its existence or nonexistence is determined by the court on the facts found."

The court found that La Societe Metro had put forward enough evidence to establish probable cause that it had suffered damages as a result of the defamatory action of the anonymous emailer (potentially under French law), and that it was seeking information about her identity in good faith and not for any improper purpose.

Doe I v. Individuals, 561 F. Supp. 2d 249 (D. Conn. 2008)

In Doe I v. Individuals, the plaintiff, a former Yale law school student, sought the identity of a pseudonymous comment going by "AK47", who allegedly made defamatory, threatening, and harassing comments about her on the AutoAdmit website. 

The court applied a test similar to that applied in Dendrite International v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. App. Div. 2001).  The court looked at the following factors: (1) whether the plaintiff has undertaken efforts to notify the anonymous posters and withheld action to afford the fictitiously named defendants a reasonable opportunity to file and serve opposition;  (2) whether the plaintiff has identified and set forth the exact statements purportedly made by each anonymous poster that the plaintiff alleges are actionable speech; (3) the specificity of the discovery request and whether there is an alternative means of obtaining the information called for in the subpoena; (4) whether there is a central need for the subpoenaed information to advance the plaintiff's claims; (5) the subpoenaed party's expectation of privacy at the time the online material was posted; and (6) whether the plaintiff has made a concrete showing as to each element of a prima face case against the defendant.

The court concluded that the plaintiff satisfied all these requirements, including producing sufficient evidence supporting a prima face case for libel, and thus denied the defendant's motion to quash.


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