Home » Legal Stuff » What to Do if You Need To Sue Someone But Don’t Know Who They Are

What to Do if You Need To Sue Someone But Don’t Know Who They Are

11 September 2019

From Pirated Thoughts:

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.

. . . .

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.

Link to the rest at Pirated Thoughts

Legal Stuff

4 Comments to “What to Do if You Need To Sue Someone But Don’t Know Who They Are”

  1. Richard Hershberger

    “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.”

    Um… No. Really, really, no. There are limited circumstances where a competent lawyer might advise, this, but these circumstances are only a tiny subset of the possibilities, given that fact set. And even then, you will be paying the lawyer’s hourly rate rather than working on a contingency fee basis. And honestly, what in the anecdote that follows suggests that this is generally worthwhile?

    • And, of course, there are so many times when the fight to punish the original speaker/writer generates far more exposure for the original story than the offending tweet ever did.

      • Richard Hershberger

        Any competent personal injury attorney asks three questions of any potential case. Liability is the one that civilians focus on. The other two are what are the damages, and how likely is it to be able to collect on a judgment? Litigating to chase down some random dude on the internet is merely a hobby, and an expensive one at that. I have no problem with an attorney agreeing to take someone’s hobby money, but it would be grossly irresponsible for him not to explain the situation before taking the case.

  2. “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. “

    Which is why discerning people don’t believe random anonymous crap posted on the internet.

Leave a Reply