Appeals Court: 'Trolls' Protected by First Amendment

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 6th District Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that anonymous "trolls" on the Internet are allowed to remain anonymous and say whatever they like, under the First Amendment.


The ruling by Judge Franklin Elia reverses a previous decision allowing Lisa Krinsky, chief operating officer of Florida-based drug service company SFBC International Inc., to subpoena the real names of 10 unidentified Yahoo! message-board posters.


In 2005, Krinsky and two other SFBC officers reportedly were smeared on Yahoo! message boards by 10 anonymous posters.


The trolls reportedly made what the judge described in the ruling as "scathing verbal attacks" against the three company officers, referring to them as "a management consisting of boobs, losers and crooks."


"I will reciprocate felatoin (sic) with Lisa, even though she has fat thighs, a fake medical degree, ‘queefs' and has poor feminine hygiene," poster Doe 6 reportedly wrote.


Krinsky left SFBC in December 2005 and filed a lawsuit against Doe 6 in January 2006.


In court documents filed in April 2006, a Superior Court judge said Doe 6 was "trying to drive down the price of [plaintiff's] company to manipulate the stock price, sell it short and so forth."


The court also said "calling somebody a crook, suggesting that they have a fake medical degree, accusing someone of a criminal act [and] ... impinging their integrity to practice in their chosen profession historically have been libel, per se."

However, Elia ruled that Doe 6 had not posted declarations of "actual fact" and the comments could not be considered libel under Florida's defamation law, despite being "unquestionably offensive and demeaning."

With Doe 6's postings protected under the First Amendment, the court entitled him to full reimbursement of costs associated with the appeal.