CLOSE

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Media Defence files intervention at European Court seeking to protect anonymity of users online

Media Defence files intervention at European Court seeking to protect anonymity of users online

MLDI has filed a third-party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Standard Verlagsgesellschaft MbH v. Austria. In this case, the European Court will examine the circumstances under which an internet service provider can be compelled to disclose the identities of users who post anonymously.

“This is a significant case for the European Court with individuals and States increasingly looking to identify anonymous users as a means of seeking revenge or retribution against them, or in order to dissuade people from commenting anonymously online more generally,” says Jonathan McCully, MLDI’s Senior Legal Officer.

In Standard Verlagsgesellschaft MbH v. Austria, an online daily newspaper was ordered to disclose the names, postal addresses, and e-mail addresses of certain registered internet users who had posted comments in discussion forums and under news stories on their website (derstandard.at). The orders were made following the requests of two politicians who were seeking to pursue civil defamation proceedings against the anonymous users. In its judgment, the Supreme Court of Austria reasoned that internet service providers would be obliged to disclose user data where a non-lawyer, upon notice, could not “rule out” that a finding of defamation would be made against the user. This is a comparatively low threshold for the disclosure of identifying user data compared to other jurisdictions that require that such disclosure only be compelled where certain criteria are met, including a determination by a court that the interest in disclosure outweighs the user’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

In its brief, MLDI highlights that the internet plays an important role in facilitating and enhancing the public’s right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the willingness of internet users to engage in debates of general interest, particularly on politically controversial or taboo subjects, is encouraged by the possibility that they can do so with anonymity. In order to avoid disclosure being used as an abusive means of silencing online commenters, MLDI draws on international and comparative law to contend that certain minimum criteria need to be considered by the courts before an internet service provider can be compelled to disclose the identity of anonymous users.

MLDI’s intervention can be read here. MLDI would like to thank Shearman & Sterling LLPBlake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, and Astrid Sixma and Adriaan Stoop (Bergh, Stoop & Sanders) for providing their invaluable input. 

 

Attached files:
PDF icon Third-Party Intervention in Standard Verlagsgesellschaft MbH v. Austria

Recent News

IFEX-ALC, Media Defence and RSF Support FLIP and Journalist Diana Díaz Against State Harassment in Colombia

IFEX-ALC, Media Defence and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) oppose all acts of intimidation from the Colombia Prosecutor General’s against the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) and the journalist Diana Díaz. They also urge the Colombian authorities to ensure respect for the work of journalists and organizations defending and promoting freedom of expression. The harassment started […]

Read

IFEX-ALC, Media Defence Y Reporteros Sin Fronteras apoyan a la FLIP y a la periodista Diana Díaz contra el acoso del estado colombiano

IFEX-ALC, Media Defence y Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF) rechazan los actos de intimidación realizados por la Fiscalía General de Colombia en contra de la Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) y la periodista Diana Díaz y exigen a las autoridades colombianas velar por el respeto del trabajo de las organizaciones que defienden y promueven […]

Read

Media Defence Partners with Media Foundation for West Africa

As part of our work to help build a strong global legal defence network for independent media, Media Defence is excited to announce another new funded partner as part of the Digital Rights Advocates Project. Media Defence has partnered with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to deliver better local-level access to legal assistance for […]

Read