David Rolph, ‘Anonymity and Defamation’

Ordinarily, a plaintiff in a defamation claim is not, and does not seek to be, anonymous. The nature of the interest protected by the tort of defamation – reputation – is indelibly public, being what other people think of the plaintiff. To vindicate the plaintiff’s reputation in a defamation action requires the plaintiff to be named. Increasingly, however, there are cases in which plaintiffs in defamation cases seek, and, in some cases, are granted, anonymity. This chapter explores the paradox of the anonymous defamation plaintiff. It focuses on recent Australian, English and Canadian cases, analysing the possible reasons for making defamation plaintiffs anonymous, noting particularly their use in cases involving social media and where both reputation and privacy are arguably implicated. It also considers the consequences of making defamation plaintiffs more anonymous routinely, particularly for the principle of open justice and for fundamental principles of defamation law.

Rolph, David, Anonymity and Defamation (January 5, 2016). Secrecy, Law and Society, G Martin, R Scott Bray, M Kumar, eds, Routledge, UK, 2015; Sydney Law School Research Paper No 16/04.

First posted 2016-01-08 06:00:53

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