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By:  Nadeen Hayden, Of Counsel

Unfortunately many cyberbullies hide behind fake usernames or pseudonyms to remain anonymous. This can make it difficult to determine exactly who and where online defamation or privacy attacks are coming from. Most internet platforms pride themselves on privacy, making it even easier for users to hide their true identities.

There are, however, some tools that we as nationally recognized internet defamation attorneys use to help our clients identify their online attackers.

If you are facing an anonymous online attacker, unmasking his or her identity is important to properly resolve the situation. Once you positively identify the attacker, you have several options for proceeding.

You may be able to:

  • Hold the attacker accountable
  • Permanently remove any content he or she posted
  • Prevent future posts and attacks
  • Obtain a settlement or monetary reward for damages through a lawsuit

To be able to effectively resolve online defamation and attacks, you almost always need to identify the attacker. In this article, we will discuss the techniques used at Minc Law to respond to anonymous online defamation. Specifically, we will discuss:

  • How to unmask an anonymous online attacker;
  • The process of filing a lawsuit against an anonymous online attacker;
  • What can happen when you unmask a previously anonymous attacker.

How to Identify an Anonymous Online Attacker

Most people who find negative content about them or their business online are dealing with an anonymous attacker. When clients come to us after an online attack, many have the main goal of removing the content, but do not necessarily focus on unmasking the attacker.

While removal of the content is usually the primary goal, it is important to identify the attacker as well. Knowing who the attacker is gives you the ability to confront the attacker and come to a long-term resolution.

Even if you may be able to remove the content without unmasking the attacker, you run the risk of having the content reappear online. Moreover, there are not always options to have content removed without at least attempting to identify the attacker. Uncovering the attacker’s identity is the most effective and long-term solution and may present an opportunity to obtain monetary compensation for your damages.

Identifying Anonymous Poster Fact: Besides a court issuance of a subpoena, two other methods for identifying anonymous online speakers include: utilization of social media forensics to trace a poster’s digital and electronic footprints and inspection of blog visitor logs for a user’s IP address.

Filing a Lawsuit Against Anonymous Attackers

In many cases, filing a lawsuit against the anonymous attacker is the only way to obtain identifying information. Websites and internet companies will not turn over private user information without a subpoena or court order. Thus, a lawsuit against a “John Doe” defendant is required. “John Doe” lawsuits enable us to utilize the legal process even before we have identified the attacker (defendant).

Filing a lawsuit gives us the subpoena power and the ability to conduct discovery, which can be used to unmask the defendant. Some of our clients will have already spent money on a private investigator before they hire us, only to find out they will still need a court order to continue the identification process.

While it may be possible to find some identifying data on your own (or with the assistance of a professional) people often reach a point where they can no longer continue their investigation without court intervention. This is usually because internet service providers and websites will not release private information without a court order. Non-legal methods may aid the identification process, but you will likely require court intervention to fully unmask someone and obtain relief.

Court Order TipsCourt orders should be sought when a victim of online defamation or other illegally posted content is (1) unable to remove the content themselves, (2) unable to identify the malicious poster, (3) when the website in question refuses to remove content, and (4) when the website or ISP won’t remove content without a court order.

Identifying an anonymous online attacker can be a lengthy process depending on how sophisticated the attacker is, and how many layers need to be peeled back to unmask him or her.

Utilizing the legal process is the most effective and long-term method of identifying anonymous attackers and removing the defamatory or otherwise damaging content they may have published.

What Happens After an Identification of the Attacker is Made

Once an identification is made, you may have the opportunity to resolve things more quickly.  You can have a meaningful confrontation with your attacker to discuss potential resolutions or continue to utilize the legal process to seek relief.

To resolve your matter you may be able to:

  • Have the offending content removed
  • Obtain a court order, preventing future negative content
  • Secure monetary compensation either through a judgment or a settlement for your damages and costs

Monetary Relief Fact: You can seek reimbursement for financial losses you incurred as a result of libel. This includes reimbursement for: attorneys’ fees, lost income, or lost business. If you can prove the libel caused emotional distress, you may be able to get reimbursed for medical bills as well.

We Can Help You Respond to Anonymous Online Attackers

If you are the victim of an anonymous online attack, we can help. Our online defamation experts have helped more than 1,300 clients respond to online threats. Learn more about your options by checking out our blog or legal resource center. If you are ready to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, you can fill out our contact form online or call us at (216) 373-7706.

Are you being defamed online? We will get it removed. Contact Minc Law today!

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