Legal Protections for Anonymous Speech in New Hampshire

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

We are eagerly awaiting the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision on appeal from The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc., No. 08-E-0572 (N.H. Super. Ct. Mar. 11, 2009), a case in which a New Hampshire trial court ordered the publishers of the mortgage industry watchdog site, The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter ("ML-Implode"), to turn over the identity of an anonymous source who provided ML-Implode with a copy of a financial document prepared by The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. for submission to the New Hampshire Banking Department. The court also ordered ML-Implode to reveal the identity of a pseudonymous commenter who allegedly posted defamatory statements about the company, and enjoined ML-Implode from re-posting the financial document or the allegedly defamatory comments. 

Although ML-Implode argued that both New Hampshire’s common law reporter’s privilege and the First Amendment right to speak anonymously protected the identities of the source and commenter, the Superior Court Judge ordered disclosure without dealing with either of these arguments directly. Instead, the court reasoned that the case was not a “press issue” because Mortgage Specialists was “willing to hold [ML-Implode] harmless with respect to the publication of [the objectionable] information,” and “[a]ll it wants from the respondent is the identity of the individual or entity which provided unauthorized information to [ML-Implode] and also the identity of the entity or individual that made allegedly defamatory statements about the petitioner to the respondent.” Slip op. at 4. With respect to the pseudonymous comments, the court made no findings of fact or conclusions of law regarding the elements of the underlying defamation claim.  

For details on the lower court's decision, see CMLP, New Hampshire Court Tramples on Constitution, Reporter's Privilege, Section 230,What Have You


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