Thursday, September 7, 2000
Gag Order Lifted for annoy.com Publisher
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GAG ORDER LIFTED FOR ANNOY.COM PUBLISHER
ApolloMedia Corporation Wins Right to Reveal Information Regarding Internet Privacy in the Case of United States v. ApolloMedia
SAN FRANCISCO -- September 7, 2000 -- In the latest round of litigation that surrounds the battle over Internet privacy, a Texas court has lifted a year-long gag order from ApolloMedia Corporation, a San Francisco-based multimedia company. Following an opinion to reconsider by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the District Court lifted the gag order, an action that enables ApolloMedia, the publisher of the annoy.com Web site, to finally discuss its role in the controversial case.
In June 1999, the U.S. government ordered ApolloMedia to disclose the identity of a user of annoy.com's e-greeting card service, a service that facilitates anonymous communications. The information they were seeking followed a similar attempt in April 1999 by the University of Houston, who tried unsuccessfully to obtain ApolloMedia records. Paragraph 7 of the Magistrate's June 16, 1999 Order prohibited ApolloMedia from discussing not only the details of the government's investigation and the content of the order with anyone until authorized by the court, but also the very existence of the order and its application.
"Though we may have been silenced for over a year, what continues to be of utmost importance to us is that we are able to extend the dialog regarding Internet privacy and the freedom to publish information regarding the case," said ApolloMedia's president, Clinton Fein.
The United States v. ApolloMedia case continues to challenge existing notions of on-line privacy and to raise First Amendment issues of free speech on the Internet. All relevant documents and background information regarding United States v. ApolloMedia can be found on the Internet at www.ejournalism.com.
ApolloMedia has been involved in litigation since the inception of their controversial Web site, annoy.com, including a high profile U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno. Although that case challenged a provision of the Communications Decency Act that criminalizes "indecent" Web content, Apollo's latest legal battle has centered more specifically on the issue of individual privacy and freedom of the press.
"The gag order violated the First Amendment ban on prior restraints and the statutory requirement that it have a definite duration. It was not issued upon affidavits establishing probable cause. It did not arise during an investigation of a bomb threat or kidnapping or comparably serious crime," stated Cooley Godward's Michael Traynor, one of the attorneys who represented ApolloMedia in the case. "ApolloMedia's successful challenge in the courts is an important step toward limiting unjustifiably secret investigations of communications over the Internet."
Publicly launched in 1997, annoy.com is devoted to free speech and the free exchange of ideas. Annoy.com allows visitors to participate in online discussions on topics of social and political interest such as gun control, abortion, health care, the military, the environment, censorship and privacy. Generally, ApolloMedia does not mediate, censor or filter these discussions in any way. The Web site also allows visitors to send anonymous or pseudonymous email postcards, related to the discussion topics, to public figures or to persons of the sender's choice.
ApolloMedia is a multimedia technology company whose business is entirely devoted to computer-mediated communication. ApolloMedia provides consulting services, designs, develops, constructs and implements Internet and database technologies, including sites on the World Wide Web. ApolloMedia licenses customized network solutions for the management and delivery of information using telecommunications. ApolloMedia also writes, develops, and produces multimedia content for corporate, educational and entertainment purposes.
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