In what sounds like the premise for a weirdly legalistic fairy tale, a judge has ruled that actor James Woods must prove that he has a viable legal case against a Twitter troll who called him a “cocaine addict” if he wants to learn his enemy’s identity. (Woods will presumably be allowed to build three cases, one out of straw, one out of sticks, and one out of his rock-solid certainty that this is the way the legal system works.)
The Videodrome star first brought his suit against “Abe List”—the Twitter user who accused him of harboring a chemical dependency that could never lead someone to run around throwing lawsuits at random internet ghosts—back in July. Now, superior court judge Mel Red Recana has denied a motion that would allow Woods to legally demand the identity of the defendant in the case. (According to the ruling, which you can read here if you’re so inclined, discovery is usually postponed in cases like this, but can be forced for reasons of “good cause shown,” a condition that “James Woods is asking for it” apparently doesn’t meet.)
As ridiculous as this latest twist in Hades from Hercules v. Rando M. Twitterjoke is, though, it’s also a nice reminder of the free speech issues potentially at stake. (Specifically, the right to be a dick to people on Twitter without having your identity revealed to a vengeful James Woods.) As per the suit, Abe List’s major contention is that hyperbolically insulting people is part of what Twitter is for, and that dragging those kinds of “accusations” into a court of law sets a dangerous precedent. Still, if Woods can actually make a case that Abe List’s identity is relevant to the proceedings—possibly via testimony from his star anti-troll witnesses, the Three Billy Goats Gruff—he’ll have a chance to meet his opponent face to sweaty, terrifying face.