This Comment will first survey the law of cybersmear, illustrating the paradigmatic issues and legal theories employed. Then, it will discuss the free speech issues and theoretical bases argued in court and legal journals, paying special attention to the shortcomings in current protection of defendant anonymity. Next, it will examine the value of online anonymity and the protections that the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) theory offers. Finally, given the breakdown in the public and private space dichotomy, this Comment will argue for a new understanding of the SLAPP constitutional protections in cyberspace. This understanding will recognize the powerful dynamics of online speech regulation, in contrast with those of its real-world counterpart, and ensure that the would-be private arbiters of the technology and, therefore, liberty in cyberspace do not stifle the free discourse enabled by Internet technology.
Joshua R. Furman, Cybersmear or Cyber-SLAPP: Analyzing Defamation Suits Against Online John Does as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 213 (2001).