Game Maker’s Bid to Unmask Glassdoor Author Denied

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By Alexis Kramer

Business review site Glassdoor Inc. doesn’t need to reveal the author of an anonymous post in which a game maker allegedly disclosed confidential information about its platform technology, a California appeals court held March 10 ( Glassdoor Inc. v. Superior Court of Santa Clara Cty. , 2017 BL 75610, Cal. Ct. App., 6th Dist., No. H042824, 3/10/17 ).

The decision highlights the trend among courts to hold that website operators may assert the constitutionally-protected rights of their contributors to remain anonymous.

Game maker Machine Zone Inc. alleged that a purported former employee’s review disclosed the confidential information, in violation of a nondisclosure agreement. Machine Zone served a subpoena on Glassdoor for information on the identity of the poster. After Glassdoor refused to provide that, a trial court granted Machine Zone’s motion to compel the information.

The California Court of Appeal, in an opinion by Justice Conrad L. Rushing, said that the review’s references to Machine Zone’s platform team and CEO statements concerning his expectations for the team didn’t reveal any facts about the company’s technology. The court ruled to set aside the trial court’s order.

According to Machine Zone, the author’s statements revealed that it was in the process of developing a then-unknown technology. But the company failed to show that those statements would tell readers anything about its later-unveiled real-time data transmission platform, the court said.

“The record provides no basis whatever for a finding that Doe’s mere allusions to a platform team would tell the public anything more than that a group of MZ workers were charged with developing the infrastructure for future games,” the court said.

Seubert French Frimel & Warner LLP represented Glassdoor Inc. Arnold & Porter LLP represented Machine Zone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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