This thesis begins with a discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court's seminal defamation cases. A discussion of the historical protections for anonymous speech follows, providing a foundation for the discussion of anonymous speech online. This paper examines multiple cases to establish the judicial standards that courts have developed to determine whether to unmask the identity of anonymous commenters online. A case study of the recent Yelp decision follows, highlighting the incongruity with these various standards. Next, an in-depth examination of James Carey's models of communication and the theoretical justifications for protecting anonymous and harmful speech explains the need for a national unmasking standard. To conclude, the thesis proposes an unmasking law that comports with First Amendment protections of speech and societal interest in punishing harmful speakers for their misdeeds.
University of Minnesota M.A. thesis. June 2014. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Dr. Amy Kristin Sanders. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 78 pages.
Taking Cloaks to the Cleaners: A Case Study of Yelp v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Reveals the Need for Stronger Unmasking Standards.
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