Juniper sues over message-board posts

Comments alleged that Juniper executives were bribing attorneys to cover up a scandal

Juniper Networks Inc. is suing 10 unnamed defendants over comments posted to a networking news message board that Juniper charges are libelous.

The router and security vendor last Wednesday filed suit in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, against individuals who posted several comments on Light Reading Inc.'s online news site. Among other things, the comments alleged that top Juniper executives were bribing attorneys to cover up a scandal at the company and installing spyware to monitor employees' work at home.

Juniper alleges the defendants made false statements that could hurt the company's business and reputation. It is seeking injunctive relief against the defendants to enjoin them from publishing defamatory statements, plus compensatory damages, legal fees and punitive and exemplary damages.

Two of the people who posted the comments -- called "Doe 1" and Doe 2," used the aliases "infranet_rulz" and "exJuniper981," respectively, according to the complaint, to which Light Reading provided a Web link. Aliases for the other defendants were not included in the complaint. Juniper said in the complaint it would amend the suit with the defendants' real names when it knows them. Juniper would not comment on the case on Wednesday, said Marina Tsatalis, an attorney with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, in Palo Alto, California, which filed the complaint on behalf of Juniper.

Light Reading, based in New York, has a worldwide audience of more than 400,000 unique visitors per month, according to information on its Web site. Established in 2000, it covers primarily network infrastructure. Juniper, in Sunnyvale, California, is a major rival to Cisco Systems Inc. in the carrier router business and also sells network security products.

According to the complaint, Doe 1, "infranet_rules," wrote in one comment on April 20, 2005, in part, "the man at the helm seems to be paying (off) attorneys all over the bay area to cover up the scandal which resulted in the terminations of many at the top." In a comment on April 21, the person wrote, "the man at the top should join his buddy Bernie [Ebers]..." A July 22 comment under the same name, on a story about Juniper's finances, said, "[t]heir lawfirm from Palo Alto and their security use spyware on employees' and ex-employees' home computers to log the activity."

Doe 2, who used the name "exJuniper981," commented on the same Juniper financial story and used the subject line, "This is a very unethical company." In the comment, the person wrote "[i]f they cannot fight something legally, [they] resort to attorney bribing and intimidation to coverup things."

Light Reading took the posts down from the Web site not long after they appeared, because they violated the site's message board policies, said Phil Harvey, Light Reading's news editor. The site's editors do their best to keep comments relevant to the topic and remove serious attacks on people, Harvey said. Though the messages don't appear on the site now, they have not been destroyed and could still be accessed within Light Reading's systems if needed as evidence, he wrote on the site.

Quoting the site's published terms of use, Harvey wrote in an article on the suit, "When requested, Light Reading will cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies in any investigation of alleged illegal activity on the Internet."

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