In July 2009, Spartanburg attorney William B. Darwin Jr. filed a suit on behalf of Carlisle Oxner III claiming the operators, registrants and content providers for www.timefortruthinunionsc.com — a Web site hosted by GoDaddy.com, Inc. — and firstname.lastname@example.org — an electronic mail address hosted by Yahoo! Inc. — defamed and libeled Oxner by claiming he received “certain property for free from an attorney for the City of Union, implying illegality and unethical behavior and stating that the property transaction smelled ‘fowl.’”
The suit does not name the defendants, listing them as “John Doe(s).” The identities of the operators of the site and those who contribute to it are unknown and has lead to public speculation as to who they are.
That speculation may soon come to an end as earlier this month Sixteenth Circuit Court Judge Lee S. Alford granted a motion filed by Oxner’s attorney’s asking a subpoena be issued ordering DomainsByProxy.com, a division of GoDaddy.com, Inc. which hosts www.timefortruthinunion.sc.com to provide Oxner and his attorneys with the following information:
“All account information concerning the ownership of the domain name, www.timefortruthinunionsc.com, including but not limited to the name, address, telephone number, email, IP addresses, and any other identifying information of (1) individual or individuals who created the domain name, (2) the account administrator or administrators, and (3) any other person or persons with access to add, edit, post, comment or delete information and content on the web site from January 1, 2009 to the present.”
The order states that DomainByProxy.com, which is based in Maricopa County, Arizona, “enables individuals to maintain and host a web site anonymously” and that DomainByProxy.com will not release an account holder’s information without express permission by the client or in compliance with applicable law.”
Since the Sixteenth Circuit has no jurisdiction in Maricopa County, Arizona, Alford’s order “directs the Clerk of Court for Maricopa County, Arizona to assign a case number and caption to the above-titled action in accordance with Arizona law.” Once that is done, Alford’s order directs the “Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona” to issue a subpoena requiring DomainsByProxy.com to produced the information sought by Oxner and his attorneys.
When contacted about the decision, Oxner declined comment and Darwin could not be reached Thursday afternoon.
The suit claims the statements made on the site are false and had a “defamatory meaning” concerning Oxner and “were published with negligence or, in the alternative, with actual or implied malice.” The suit says the defendants published these remarks “for the purpose of bringing shame and humiliation to Mr. Oxner.”
It also states the defendants invaded Oxner’s privacy “by exposing details of a personal transaction that is of no legitimate public concern” and that their actions “have exposed the intimate details of Mr. Oxner’s life in a way that no decent member of society expects or should be forced to tolerate.”
As a result of the “defamatory and libelous electronic mail messages and web site postings,” the suit alleges Oxner has suffered “reputational harm, hurt feelings, mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of privacy.” They have also “interfered with Mr. Oxner’s ability to continue to be an active member of Union County society.
The suit asks that the court award Oxner actual and punitive damages, a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from publishing defamatory and libelous statements about him, legal costs and any other relief the court deems appropriate.
Since it began operating, www.timefortruthinunionsc.com has served as a forum for anonymous comments and opinions about local politicians and government policies.
Though the comments vary from posting to posting, they are generally negative, a number of them alleging corruption on the part of government officials.