The host of the popular true-crime podcast Sword and Scale, Mike Boudet, and his company launched legal action back in January to unmask an anonymous Reddit user accused of defamation, tortious interference, online harassment, and invasion of privacy.
The purpose of the lawsuit is to flush out the Reddit user, who in May 2019 made what’s described as “a long, very serious allegation against Boudet.”
The Reddit user is anonymous, and the current stage of this legal action is to find out their real-world identity to sue them for what Boudet considers to has been serious damage done to his reputation.
Boudet’s company, Incongruity, filed the complaint for pure bill of discovery in Florida against the anonymous user, who goes by the name of “u/boudettaway.”
The controversial Reddit post contains some grave accusations against Boudet: things like pedophilia and sexual and suggestive content involving a minor – allegations which the filing states are knowingly false and defamatory.
On the internet, though – at least on the surface of it – anonymity is still a thing, and the way social networks function within relevant US law means they are not responsible for third party content. So to unmask the identity of a social network’s user is not only a controversial but also an involved process.
The first step is to sue the person as “John Doe” and hope the judge approves further action, that would lead to a pre-trial discovery order issued to, in this case, Reddit – who would be complying with a court order instead of being seen as giving up real-world identities of its users at the drop of a hat.
The legal setup, as noted, is complex and meant to work for both sides – but the plaintiff can’t respond to defend themselves – unless they decide to reveal their identity.
And as the filing states – Reddit is the only entity that can reveal that identity, by providing the user’s name, email, and IP address.
It remains to be seen if the court will order Reddit to disclose this information, and how the platform will react.
See the filing here.