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I'm receiving legal threats from a law firm that wants me to remove information from my website that one of their clients are unhappy with. Specifically they threaten me with a court order forcing me to remove the contents should I not comply.

But... they don't know who I am because:

1) I got WhoIs Guard protection on the affected domain

2) The real registration details are incomplete and do not point towards my identity

3) The website is hosted on a dedicated server (no shared resources on that IP)

4) Nothing on the website points to me. Not even an email (I use a contact form)

5) I'm not a company or legal entity. Just a dude with a website.

Now, my real identity is linked to:

1) The NameCheap user account (that's where I purchased the domain) and credit card transaction for the purchase

2) The Amazon AWS hosting account and my credit card details

Now, I'm not a terrorist and have not broken any laws - just dealing with a disgruntled company that's unhappy with a product review they claim is "defamatory" (it's a pretty harsh review) - but I'm stubborn and don't want these jokers to dictate what I post on my website.

With a court order - should they obtain one - what's the risk of either NameCheap or AWS disclosing my identity through user account details or credit card payments?

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  • 2
    It depends on the jurisdiction, surely.
    – biziclop
    Jun 15 '15 at 12:59
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    If you want a reasonable answer, you should consult a lawyer regarding the laws and common practices in your jurisdiction, the jurisdiction of NameCheap, the jurisdiction of AWS, the jurisdiction of the company who is sending you notices, and quite possibly the jurisdiction(s) of your credit card provider(s). Jun 15 '15 at 13:03
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    Consult a lawyer, talk to your hosting company and review your contract with them, and keep in mind that there are about 200 countries in the world, plus regional law so we can't discuss your obligations without knowing both your citizenship status, your country of operation and the company's country of operation (i.e. all the places where judiciary action could be undertaken). Jun 15 '15 at 13:24
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I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. (you might want to consult a real one who specializes in this type of thing)

It seems to me that if you are just reviewing a product and giving your honest opinion then that is freedom of speech.

HOWEVER, if they have the resources and the will to do so, they can easily make at least some part of your life difficult, possibly threatening your host to the point where they play it safe and you get the shaft.

That being said, a third options comes to mind where you comply with what they ask (take down the content) and then you replace it with a new review that includes parts of the original review in addition to the reason why the original is no longer hosted on your site. Also you can perhaps have the original review posted on some other, much larger, site that is not your own and has a fair history of standing up for itself and its users successfully.

Posting that the reason your review is no longer visible on your site is because of legal action is something that they cannot complain about (because they literally caused it) and it also can serve as an even worse review than the first one (although I haven't read the first review).

I have not even mentioned your anonymity, because you have already gotten the notice by some method or another, so that means that there is a trail of breadcrumbs back to you already. However long it is, it exists. I personally would not rely on anonymity at this point at all if I were you, mostly because they might not know who you are now, but legal action could perhaps get them that information in the future.

PS: Good job for having a site popular enough to get the attention of the company you gave a bad review to in the first place.

EDIT:


To more specifically address your online anonymity, because it appears that this is the prime purpose of your question. I personally always go by the general idea that unless you took specific measures to be anonymous from the beginning (and at every step of the way) you are not anonymous while online (at all). And even then, if you have gone to great lengths, there is still little or no way to know if you truly are anonymous until someone looks hard enough to find you.

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  • Right. Sorry. removed comment and downvote (although I still think your answer is not of much use since there is no legal framework mentioned: the rules aren't the same in the EU, US or Russia, for instance)
    – Stephane
    Jun 15 '15 at 14:40
  • I agree about the legal framework. I have no idea of the location or any specifics for that matter. Which is why I suggested what I think is a "safe way out" to comply and then write about this new experience. Of course, this could lead possibly just to a second experience...
    – KnightHawk
    Jun 15 '15 at 14:53
  • Even in the US, "freedom of speech" has limitations. If the review lies about the product, then the vendor has a legitimate claim.
    – schroeder
    Jun 15 '15 at 17:15

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