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to disclose the information in a deposition that was set for
Rattanni will not have to disclose the identities of the persons
posting on the Web site until after the arguments before the judge.
This latest legal action is in response to a lawsuit filed in
November by Forward Township Supervisor Tom DeRosa claiming that he
suffered embarrassment and humiliation from defamatory statements
posted by anonymous users on the discussion board.
DeRosa’s suit is seeking at least $25,000 in damages.
Some of the anonymous postings against DeRosa accuse him of hiring
family members to perform work on a recently completed bridge repair
project, and other postings call him a liar.
DeRosa was not at the hearing.
His attorney Joseph G. Heminger said after the hearing that DeRosa
has been hurt by the postings.
“People are committing acts that are tortuous to my client,” he
said. “Now it’s just a matter of finding out who they are.” The
postings accusing DeRosa of corrupt business practices that began
Oct. 19 and continued through Nov. 27.
DeRosa’s suit names the unidentified defendants as Howard and
Rattanni is not a defendant in the
Rattanni said he’ll provide the information to DeRosa’s legal team
if the court orders it.
“I’ll comply with a court order,” Rattani said. “It’s not for me
to decide.” Rattanni has left the thread containing the questionable
comments about DeRosa on the discussion board but he has locked it
so that no additional comments can be posted.
Rattanni has in the past removed threads that he’s deemed
He posted an image of his subpoena on the DeRosa thread and has
urged individuals who posted there to contact the ACLU.
Rose said there is not a lot of case law addressing the issue of
anonymous free speech rights.
In her motion presented to the court, Rose argues that hosts of
Internet discussion boards devoted to local politics “have an
independent First Amendment interest in protecting the speech of
people who contribute information to the site.
“If posters’ speech is chilled by the fear of exposure of the
speaker’s identity, the public value of the site is lessened and the
site’s contribution to public discourse is negatively affected.”
Following the hearing, Rose said the fact that Rattanni locked the
thread “is proof he feels his speech is chilled” by the threat of
Rose argues in her motion that the court, in deciding whether the
posters should be unmasked to the plaintiff, must determine whether
the plaintiff meets a summary judgment standard requiring evidence
that the alleged defamatory statements were false, defamatory and
caused harm to the plaintiff supporting a monetary award.
Judge Wettick remarked during the hearing that, for those seeking
to prove defamation, “Basically, they’ve got a heavy burden.”