A federal magistrate judge in Denver ordered Skybeam, a Berthoud, Colorado, internet service provider (ISP) to disclose names of users to Façonnable, an upscale clothing retailer late last month.
Façonnable claims that Skybeam's users defamed the company on Wikipedia and, given the anonymity of the internet, have not been subject to legal scrutiny. Judge Boyd Boland wrote in his decision, "Absent the ability to identify alleged malefactors, Façonnable is left with no ability to vindicate its rights, and legal process is rendered meaningless."
Boland also notes that commenters waved their right to privacy when initially requesting Internet service from Skybeam. Skybeam has a standard user agreement that explains user's identities might be revealed if requested.
Though no longer on the site, the comments on Wikipedia drew reference to Façonnable's owner, a Lebanese businessman and politician, and his relationship to Hezbollah.
Paul Levy, an attorney representing Skybeam as part of the Public Citizen Litigation Croup, told the Denver Post that Façonnable has failed to prove it suffered legitimate harm from the Wikipedia posts. Free speech on the Internet would no longer exist if companies were allowed to unmask anonymous commenters who post negative comments about the business.
While Skybeam has preserved information to identify the anonymous users in the event of a court mandate to do so, the Wikipedia pages in question have since been removed.