How do I Sue an Anonymous Defamer?

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What do you do if you or your business receives an unfavourable Google review from an anonymous defamer? A number of recent decisions have highlighted some things that can be done in order to obtain the name and contact details of the proposed Defendant so that you can bring an action against them in Court for defamation.

The Kabbabe Case

In Kabbabe-v-Google LLC1, a dentist in Victoria received a very bad Google review from an anonymous person who made various allegations about the dental treatment he or she had supposedly received from Dr Kabbabe. Dr Kabbabe wrote to Google, asked them to remove the review from the internet, and asked them for identifying information about the Google reviewer. Google refused to remove the review from the internet and refused to provide Dr Kabbabe with identifying information about the reviewer. He commenced proceedings against Google in the Federal Court of Australia so that he could obtain the information by way of Court order for preliminary discovery.

In order to sue a foreign person in the Federal Court of Australia, leave is required from the Court in order to serve the foreign Defendant. The Court rules require the Plaintiff to show various things including that he or she may have entitlement for the relief claimed. In this case, Dr Kabbabe was seeking preliminary discovery to assist him in determining the proper Defendant to a defamation claim. The Court was satisfied that Dr Kabbabe had a prima facie case for defamation and as such gave him leave to serve Google LLC in the United States of America. As to whether Dr Kabbabe received sufficient information from Google LLC to identify the anonymous defamer has not been revealed by any published cases.

The Colagrande Case

A similar situation arose in the case of Colagrande-v-Telstra Corporation Ltd2. That case involved a Gold Coast plastic surgeon, Dr Colagrande, who had been accused of assaulting a female patient. At first instance, he was convicted of the assault. He appealed the conviction to the Court of Appeal of Queensland and the conviction was overturned and quashed. However, an anonymous reviewer left an unfavourable review on a website devoted to reviews of doctors, with a hyperlink to a news article about the previous conviction of assault which was overturned on appeal. The review was left after the date upon which his conviction for assault was overturned.

The review website was hosted in California and the Applicant, Dr Colagrande, commenced proceedings in California against the host in order to obtain the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the anonymous reviewer. By entering the IP address into a search facility on the website “”, Dr Colagrande determined that the IP address was hosted by Telstra. He wrote to Telstra asking them to identify the owner of the IP address, however, Telstra did not respond. Thus, he commenced these proceedings against Telstra for preliminary discovery in order to obtain the name of the owner of the IP address. Telstra did not contest the plastic surgeon’s Application.

Justice Derrington held that Dr Colagrande need not show a prima facie case against the prospective respondent, that is, the anonymous reviewer. He said that what needed to be shown was that he may have a right to obtain relief and that that threshold was “very low” and “not onerous”. Dr Colagrande informed the Court that he proposed to sue the anonymous reviewer for defamation. Justice Derrington ordered that Telstra provide Dr Colagrande with information relating to the ownership of the IP address for the purposes of identifying the anonymous reviewer.

The Kukulka Case

Another case involving an anonymous reviewer of a business is Kukulka-v-Google LLC3. Again, the Applicant was seeking leave of the Federal Court to commence proceedings against Google LLC in the United States of America in order to obtain identifying information about the anonymous reviewer. As in Kabbabe4, the Applicant was successful in obtaining leave of the Court to commence proceedings against Google LLC.

The Prasad Case

In another case, Prasad-v-Google LLC5, the Applicants commenced proceedings against Google LLC in order to obtain identifying information about the sender of certain emails which the Applicants submitted were defamatory and a breach of the Australian Consumer Law. The sender of the emails was anonymous. In that particular case, the Court was simply asked to transfer the matter from the Federal Court of Australia to the Supreme Court of Victoria which would decide the Applicant’s application for preliminary discovery from Google LLC. The Applicant was successful in having the proceedings transferred. Therefore, if you receive an unfavourable review from an anonymous reviewer and wish to commence defamation proceedings against them there are steps that you can take in order to identify the publisher of the defamatory material and sue them. You may also wish to read some of our other articles, for example, “How to Make an Online Review and Not Get Sued for Defamation” and “Defamation and Injurious Falsehood on the Internet”.

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