How To File a Claim for Anonymous Online Defamation

Mullen Law Firm can help you learn how to file a claim for anonymous online defamation. Book an appointment with us today for further discussions.

How Do You File a Claim for Anonymous Online Defamation?

The Internet and the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tik Tok have made communication easier. On the flip side, it has also made it easy for individual users to spread stories about others, whether true or not. 

When you’re on the receiving end of such incidents, and someone has made false statements about you online, you could file a defamation lawsuit against them if they made the statements under their own name or social media profile.

But in many cases, people who leave such comments do so under the cover of anonymity, using fake names or fake accounts.

What can you do in such circumstances? You can still file a claim for defamation of character against the anonymous person even though you’re yet to uncover their identity. This type of lawsuit where the defendant is unknown is known as a John Doe lawsuit.

The process is more complex and could take longer than regular defamation claims. Still, with the help of an experienced internet defamation attorney, there’s a good chance that your claim will succeed.

Below we explain how John Doe lawsuits work and other details that could help you prepare for your case. Read on to learn more.

How Do John Doe Lawsuits Work in Anonymous Defamation Cases?

When dealing with anonymous defamation online, your first instinct might be to file a lawsuit against the social media company or owner of the internet platform where the defamatory statement was published.

Unfortunately, by section 230(c)(1) of the federal Communications Decency Act, these internet service providers cannot be held liable for what their users write on their platforms, which means a defamation claim against them would likely fail.

The platforms also cannot reveal their users’ private information to anyone without a court order. Doing otherwise would amount to a privacy breach which could land them in serious trouble.

Your best bet would be to identify the person who made those defamatory statements and bring them to justice.

Filing a lawsuit against a “John Doe” defendant is likely the most effective way to identify the culprit and get them to pay for the damage to your reputation. Once you file your lawsuit, the court can issue subpoenas to compel the hosting service providers to reveal the details of the anonymous user.

Once you have the identifying information, you can amend your court documents with the help of your lawyer and the permission of the court to specifically name the defendant, who, by this time, is no longer anonymous.

A “John Doe” lawsuit thus allows you to begin fighting your defamation immediately, even when the perpetrator remains unknown. You do not have to waste valuable time trying to uncover their identity on your own.


Why Time Is Important in Online Defamation Cases

When you’re dealing with an online defamation incident, you need to act quickly for several reasons, including the following:


To Preserve Your Right to File a Defamation Lawsuit

Your right to file a defamation claim is subject to the state or federal defamation statute of limitations applicable to your case. Statutes of limitations are laws that regulate a person’s right to file a court action and specify the time limit within which such actions may be taken.

The time limits vary across the states; for example, if you’re in New York or New Jersey, you have one year to file your defamation claim; otherwise, your claim will be statute barred.

If you decide to uncover the identity of those responsible first before filing a lawsuit, the statutory time limit may have elapsed before you find the information you seek, in which case the investigative exercise would have been for nothing.

You can avoid such issues by filing a John Doe suit immediately after the defamation occurs. You can then proceed to uncover the identity of the maker of the defamatory statements with the law on your side.


To Preserve the Evidence

The information posted online can easily be deleted by those who post them. When such information is deleted, the service provider may only keep them for a short while before permanently deleting the data.

If the author of the online defamatory statement against you deletes the statement, you must act quickly to collect the evidence from the internet service provider before it is destroyed. If you fail to obtain this evidence, proving your claim in court could become impossible.

Filing a John Doe lawsuit as soon as possible can help you access and secure evidence of the defamatory statement(s) before it is lost.

What Else Can You Do To Preserve the Evidence?

For your online defamation claim to succeed, you need to provide evidence to establish certain elements, including the following:

  • That the defendant made the statement of fact

  • That the statement was untrue

  • That the statement was published

  • The damage you suffered as a result.

While waiting for the official data from the internet service provider, you can do a few things on your own to preserve the evidence and improve your chances of success. They include the following:

  • Take screenshots of the defamatory post, comment, or caption as soon as you find it

  • Keep a list of URLs or profiles that shared the defamatory content

  • Document any (financial or non-financial) losses you incurred due to the published statement.

What Happens if Your Claim Is Successful?


If your claim succeeds, you get to hold the person who tried to ruin your reputation accountable for their actions.

The court may issue an injunction against them to prevent further defamation. You could also obtain a monetary settlement (damages) for the harm you suffered.

The fact that you won your defamation lawsuit could also help to repair your damaged reputation, which makes it a course worth pursuing.

Get Help With Your Anonymous Online Defamation Case From the Experienced Internet Defamation Attorneys at the Mullen Law Firm

Do you wish to file a defamation claim against an anonymous person online? Then the Mullen Law Firm can help. We understand the difficulties associated with anonymous defamation cases. So, you can trust us to represent your interests and do all we can to steer your case toward success.

Our experienced defamation lawyers can help you navigate the complex litigation process, from determining whether you have sufficient grounds for defamation to filing your John Doe lawsuit and representing you in court.

We serve clients in New York and New Jersey. If you’re in those locations, do not hesitate to contact us. Let us help you take positive steps to restore your reputation.

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