The infamous Troll Tracker suit has come to an end.  As we reported, Rick Frenkel, the anonymous blogger of the Troll Tracker blog who revealed his identity, along with his employer Cisco, were sued for defamation by two attorneys from Texas, Eric Albritton and T. John “Johnny” Ward, Jr. The lawsuit was over a posting over who filed what when in a lawsuit against Cisco for patent infringement.

East Texas patent litigators Albritton and Ward sued claiming that Frenkel and his former employer Cisco Systems libeled them when Frenkel wrote that the two litigators  conspired with a courthouse clerk to change a date on a patent infringement suit filing.

The original post contained a mixture of fact and opinion but it seems that the facts that Frenkel noted were accurate. The filing did originally have the earlier date on it, and the court clerk was later convinced to change it.  However, Albritton claims that the post made it look like a criminal conspiracy and said he’d been “hurt” and “humiliated.” Explaining why he didn’t just complain to Frenkel, Ward said, “You don’t wrestle with a snake, you cut its head off.”

After federal district court judge Richard Schell ruled that the jury would have to find “actual malice” on the part of Frenkel and Cisco in order for the plaintiffs to win punitive damages, the the parties involved quickly settled the defamation trial in an undisclosed agreement.

Even though Albritton was not a public figure, he ruled, the “actual malice” standard adopted by the Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan was appropriate because the issues raised in Frenkel’s blog posts were of public concern.

Cisco Systems said that the case had been “resolved to [the parties’] mutual satisfaction, and Rick Frenkel and Cisco apologize for the statements of Rick Frenkel on the Troll Tracker blog regarding Eric M. Albritton.”

Joe Mullin, of IP Law & Business, has been reporting the case blow-by-blow.

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    Conservation of anonymous free discourse is indispensable for a just and open society, and protection for anonymous whistle blowers discourages wrong-doing. But, as in all just things free expression is perverted. When the words injures an innocent victim, then the price is too much.

    Nonetheless, wrong rumors & libelous lies are ofttimes published by anonymous low-lifes. Frequently these masked bottom dwellers demonstrate some kind of antisocial personality disorder (called psychopaths in old movies) or another Axis II Mental Disorder, & driven only through hate & revengeful, asocial inspiration. They have an insatiable compulsion to hurt or control others; they are in reality fueled by the anguish they cause; a victim’s anguish is their twisted prize, their “narcissistic supply”. Ordinary individuals like 90-97% of the readers of this commentary can’t begin to envisage what drives these individuals.

    This wretched public predicament has exploded in the past decade and manifested itself primarily through anonymous online defamation. There have been cases where authorities have issued orders directing that anonymous and malicious internet bloggers need to be unmasked by subpoena, such instructions are normally a source of indignation for a small but rambunctious band of rabid activists who deem that freedom of expression deserves to be absolute & a speaker can’t be responsible for his or her speech, irrespective as to truth or falsity of the utterances. Many think that if these same vocal pundits were to live through the paralyzing impact of a cowardly anonymous blogger and the vocational, emotional, physical, and social well-being of victims or their family; they wouldn’t be as noisy in their protests.

    Envisage if you will a grazier who has had all of his or her animals killed and barns and crops burned by an enemy; the withering effect on his or her source of income is total. Whereas, a consultant, artist, doctor, knowledge worker, or executive who relies on his or her respectability to receive new customers, and for that matter keep existing business, will be as utterly ruined as the farmer described above as the outcome of a persuasive , focused online defamation campaign. The difference being that the the public, the police, the courts and jurors can more easily relate to the severity of the farmer’s troubles.

    An inherent aspect of anonymous internet defamation is that it is generally less credible when seriously considered by level-headed and open-minded parties. Notwithstanding, there is an interesting dynamic with the crisis of vicious & anonymous bloggers. Although the statements can be seen for what it is, when the victim is being “Googled” for a job, consulting awards, babysitting work (or courtship), then the individual carrying out the reference checks will probably factor in the potential public relations exposure from associating with the victim. Although the prospective employer might see past the vitriol, the decision maker will probably reflect on what their customers and partners will presume if they are not as sophisticated & open-minded.