Michael J. Zwebner, the CEO of penny-stock holding company Universal Communication Systems , is unhappy that he’s being flamed on the RagingBull.com message board, run by Lycos. He may have a legitimate beef to some extent; the dozens of John Doe usernames he’s seeking to discover in one lawsuit are being represented by a lawyer, L. Van Stillman, who apparently pled guilty to SEC charges of “pump and dump” schemes. (Then again, UCSY has a fishy 10-K, being forced to admit that their auditors don’t think that the company can be maintained as a going concern. They’ve certainly had some bad luck: UCSY’s 2003 10-K was late “because of a fire at the building which houses the Company’s corporate headquarters”. The most recent 10-Q was late “due to a fire at the corporate accountant’s office”.)
More importantly for our purposes here, Zwebner’s litigation methods, through his lawyer John H. Faro, are questionable. He’s filed five lawsuits in federal court in Miami, against anonymous posters, against Lycos (for, among other things, “trademark violations” for naming a message board after the ticker symbol UCSY), and even a couple of purported class actions. He’s especially upset at one anonymous poster, who has the especially credible username of Wolfblitzzer0 [sic]. So, Zwebner has sued… CNN and the real-life Wolf Blitzer! It seems, according to Zwebner’s view of the world, that Blitzer is supposed to be on the lookout for anonymous posters using similar names, and should be held liable for such posters’ postings when he fails to police the use of such usernames. (Jessica M. Walker, “Executive Faces Uphill Battle in His Suits Over Anonymous Web Attacks”, Daily Business Review, Jan. 28).
A Google search shows that Zwebner seems to have had previous success intimidating posters into silence. Update: Professor Volokh comments.