An anonymous commenter's assent to a newspaper's online privacy policy did not constitute a waiver of the commenter's right to anonymous speech, a district court ruled. The court found that a contractual waiver of a constitutional right must be clear, but that the language relied upon by the plaintiff seeking the identity of the commenter consisted of only “two sentences in a two-page document in which the overarching theme is that information provided by a user of the site may be used for various commercial purposes.” The court concluded that given the presumption against waiver of a constitutional right, and the “boiler-plate nature” of the language upon which the plaintiff relied, it could not be concluded that the commenter made a knowing waiver of the right to anonymous speech.

Sedersten v. Taylor, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114525 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 9, 2009) Download PDF

Editor’s Note: The opinion does not identify the specific language upon which the plaintiff relied in arguing that the anonymous poster waived his or her privacy rights, but the plaintiff's brief points to the following provision: “WE ALSO RESERVE THE RIGHT TO USE, AND TO DISCLOSE TO THIRD PARTIES, ALL OF THE INFORMATION COLLECTED FROM AND ABOUT YOU WHILE YOU ARE USING THE SITE IN ANY WAY AND FOR ANY PURPOSE.”