The Internet has provided the public with an unprecedented ability to communicate and share ideas while keeping their identities private. Anonymity, or the ability to conceal one's identity, has opened the door to much freer communication than would otherwise be the case. Those who fear persecution, ostracism or embarrassment are able to communicate about topics and in ways they would not risk otherwise. However, online anonymity can also be used to mask illegal behaviour.

Governments, corporations and others may seek to reveal the identities of anonymous Internet users in order to prosecute criminal behaviour or to pursue legal actions for defamation, copyright infringement, or other civil wrongs. These "John Doe" actions may or may not be justified. In some cases, they may simply be a tactic to silence legitimate criticism. What are your rights as a "John Doe" defendant? The following FAQs are designed to provide some answers.

This page last updated: November 26, 2012 by Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer

Researched and compiled by Milana Homsi and Andy Kaplan-Myrth, June 2, 2007