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Anonymous Speech and the CDA

(407 Ratings)

Produced on: December 16, 2015

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 65 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Anonymous speech has been a bulwark of protected speech since the earliest days of the Republic. As with so many things, the Internet has changed everything in this area of law. We have gone from the anonymous speech of Thomas Paine and the authors of the Federalist Papers to and, which contain anonymous postings that can be devastating to one's reputation. The law has sought to address the longstanding protection for anonymous speech with some protection for those who are the subject of anonymous postings.  


As we examine the progression of these efforts we will seek to answer the question of whether reputation can be safe in the world of the Internet or what may be risked by posting anonymous criticisms of a business, product, or person. In this course, attorney James Stewart brings more than thirty years of experience to a discussion of anonymous speech and the Communications Decency Act.  


Learning Objectives:

I.    Understand Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) and the extent of its protection offered to Internet Service Providers who host anonymous speech 

II.   Identify what can be done if a client has been defamed by an anonymous speaker 

III.  Recognize courses of action when a client has been sued as a “John Doe” for the content of an anonymous posting


James E. Stewart

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP

Mr. Stewart possesses more than 30 years of experience in matters concerning media law, intellectual property and commercial litigation.

  • Represents numerous publishers and broadcasters 
  • Extensive experience with automotive supplier breach of confidentiality provisions and trade secret misappropriations


  • University of Michigan Law School, J.D.
  • United States Military Academy, B.S.

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan
  • New York

Court Admissions 

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Professional Affiliations 

Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)

  • National Defense Counsel Section, Executive Committee
  • Member, 2001-2006
  • President, 2005

American Bar Association

  • Governing Board of the ABA Forum on Communications Law, Past Member
  • Special Committee on Study of Trademark Counterfeiting Statute, Intellectual Property Section, Past Chair

International Trademark Association (INTA)

  • Forums Committee, Past Member
  • Information Services Committee, Past Member

State Bar of Michigan


Washtenaw County Bar Association

  • Board of Directors, Past Member

Washtenaw County Circuit Court, Approved Mediator


Steve S.

Very good, informative course.

john a redmon r.

pretty good program

Elizabeth B.

Very informative re Section 230 immunity with a great review of relevant case law.

Eric P.

Nice presentation. Interesting.

arthur f.

very well presented and interesting overview of Communications Decency Act, and internet service providers and anonymous speech. lots of notes taken.

Stuart H.

For anyone who went to law school before the internet and thinks they know libel.. this is mandatory.

Frank E.

I like these programs tailored to a narrow subject of interest to me, and this was a good one.

Michael Z.

exceptional job

tim r.

Very engaging speaker.

Francis M.

Very good

Richard F.

I really appreciated Mr. Stewart's up front hypothetical and methodical tracing of the development of defamation law from newspapers to post-internet. This focus on the current state but education on how we got here was very helpful to me.

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