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Anonymity Preserved for Critics of Oklahoma School Official


Subpoena Withdrawn After EFF Intervenes

July 19, 2006, Tulsa, Oklahoma - An Oklahoma school superintendent has dropped his attempt to unmask the identities of a website operator and all registered users of an Internet message board devoted to discussion of local public schools after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) intervened in the case.

Jerry Burd, superintendent of the Sperry, Oklahoma, school district, had sued anonymous speakers who criticized him on an online message board. As part of the case, he filed a broad subpoena seeking to identify the site’s creator and everyone who had posted or even registered on the site, violating First Amendment protections for anonymous speech and association. Working with Tulsa attorneys Greg Bledsoe and Curtis Parks, EFF filed a motion to quash the subpoena on behalf of the site’s operator and a registered user. The superintendent responded by dismissing the case on Monday.

“We’re disappointed that Mr. Burd filed this frivolous case in the first place, but we’re pleased that he finally recognized that it’s wrong to use the discovery process to try to scare his critics into silence,” said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. “Free-ranging public debate and criticism is essential to promoting effective and responsive public schools.”

The Oklahoma case is the latest win for EFF in preserving anonymity in online speech. In recent months, EFF lawyers have represented or provided amicus support in anonymity cases in California, Colorado, and Delaware.

“The right to engage in anonymous communication is fundamental to a free society,” said Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “It’s critical that judges resist attempts by anyone -- public officials especially -- to turn courtrooms into vehicles to harass and intimidate people out of speaking their minds. Thankfully, court after court has recognized that a plaintiff doesn’t have an automatic right to pierce anonymity just because he doesn’t like what someone has said.”

For EFF’s full motion to quash the subpoena:

For more on online anonymity:


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