ZL Technologies, Inc. v. Does 1-7, 13 Cal. App. 5th 603 (2017)

ZL Technologies brought suit, alleging libel per se and online impersonation, against seven anonymous individuals who represented themselves as current or former ZL employees and who posted critical reviews of ZL’s management and work environment on Glassdoor (a website where workers can post “reviews” of their employers). ZL served a subpoena on Glassdoor, requesting records identifying and providing contact information for the anonymous posters, but Glassdoor refused to comply. The trial court denied ZL’s motion to compel Glassdoor to comply with the subpoena and eventually dismissed the lawsuit in light of ZL’s failure to serve the defendants with the lawsuit. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the reviews contained statements that declared or implied provably false assertions of fact, providing a legally sufficient basis for a defamation cause of action. The Court further held that “the constitutional protections [First Amendment and privacy rights] weigh in favor of requiring [ZL] to make a prima facie evidentiary showing of the elements of defamation, including falsity, before disclosure of a defendant’s identity can be compelled.”