Picture this, someone with the Twitter handle of "John Doe 55" sends out a tweet saying that you are the most vile, disgusting person ever and have been involved in criminal conduct....and it's not true. Any lawyer would tell you to sue that person for defamation. But, how do you sue someone hiding behind an anonymous avatar? A lawsuit about pot candy holds all the answers.
The Internet is filled with people hiding behind the privacy of their laptop. People go on social media and spew hate-filled lies, an eBayer sells counterfeit jeans, or a person bullies other people. It is easy to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet but there are always ways to try to figure out who the person is.
Speaking from experience, I once had to sue an anonymous person who created a fake Facebook account and pretended to be a corporate executive of a major fashion company. The biggest question, how do you find out who that person is and how do you serve them with the lawsuit. In my case, I had a Facebook profile name and that was it. I commenced the lawsuit naming "John Doe" as the defendant. (John Doe gets sued a lot that poor guy.) I then issued a subpoena to Facebook. A subpoena is a legal document requiring a party to produce documents or answer questions or face penalty. Back when I sued, privacy was not so much of a hot button issue and Facebook turned over all they had on the person who created the account....an email address...that's it. So just give up, right? Nay. I then had to subpoena Microsoft, it was a Hotmail account, so help us. After the response from Microsoft, I learned that the name of "John Doe" and what country he resided in. The fashion company chose not to pursue the action any further because the Facebook account was taken down after the issuance of the subpoena.
Recently, I told you a story about lawsuit by the makers of Sour Patch Kids who sued a company selling marijuana-based products called "Stoney Patch Kids". You can read more about this case here. The plaintiff in this case was in a similar predicament. The packaging has no source and they don't know who was behind it. This week, the candy maker went to the court with a request, it was demanding that Facebook and Google turn over all they have about identifying this "elusive infringer". These tech giants might fight the matter because of privacy concerns but will likely comply if the court issues an order requiring them to do so.
While these motions and subpoenas cost a lot more in attorneys' fees than suing someone easily identifiable, there are way to find out who "John Doe" culprits really are. If you are ever in a similar situation, don't give up hope.