Over the past few years, PubPeer has faced legal action after former Wayne State University scientist Fazlul Sarkar filed motions to learn the identities of anonymous commentators he was suing for defamation , claiming that they made defamatory comments about his work that cost him a job at the University of Mississippi. But PubPeer’s founders pushed back, winning the case on appeal when the court ruled that the commentators’ identities were protected under the First Amendment.
In the aftermath of the case, PubPeer decided to upgrade its system so that, should the issue arise again, it would not be possible for them to turn over user information, even if the courts ruled differently. “We feel that strong anonymity is very important for effective post-publication peer review and to address the security of user anonymity on PubPeer we decided to do our best to not retain any identifying information for any users that wish to remain anonymous,” PubPeer co-founder Brandon Stell told Retraction Watch. “Once the transition to the new site is complete, our goal is to not be able to reveal any user information if we receive another subpoena or if the site is hacked.”