Welcome to BRB, everyone! Today my guest is author C.E. Todd and she's given me a short article to post concerning blogging, that she published on her own blog previous, along with a very interesting response. Anyway, she thought, and I thought, it might be good to share.
What else to watch out for….
I posted earlier on a blogger who was sued for his allegedly defamatory comments on his blog. He was merely sued; he was not jailed. Now, comes a truly sordid tale from Alabama of a blogger who is currently in jail, without an attorney, for statements that might, but have not been proven to be defamatory. This is truly disturbing. Salon has posted two articles. The original article is here, and the most recent article is here.
Replies to Post:
2 thoughts on “What to watch out for….”
Thanks for the link to my blog. However, there are a couple of statements in your post that could mislead people. Hope you don’t mind a bit of a correction.
First, your blog doesn’t have to be popular in order to attract a lawsuit. A lot of blogs with only a few dozen readers have been sued — and a lot of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr users with small followings have been sued as well. All you have to do to attract a lawsuit is to break the law — which is a lot easier to do than most people think.
Second, the lawsuit discussed in my blog post wasn’t about a website that published things that someone didn’t like. It was about a website that exists solely for the purpose of allowing users to trash the reputations of other people. The particular series of posts that caused this lawsuit weren’t opinions (protected by the First Amendment), they were defamatory comments (illegal and NOT protected by the First Amendment) that trashed someone’s reputation without a shred of proof, and cost someone their ability to earn a living in their chosen profession. The website refused multiple requests to remove the false and malicious comments, and attempted to use the victim’s lawsuit to promote the website and drive more traffic.
It’s easy to get sued for what you say online — but equally easy to avoid it. Just learn and follow the rules, and you can stay out of trouble. But if you fall for the myth that just because Google and Facebook can’t be sued for content posted by other people then your blog can’t be sued either, you’re likely to invite trouble. The lawsuit talked about in the blog post you linked to here came about because the blogger/website owner asserted that his blog/website had the same legal protection as a “common carrier”, and the court said that it did not.
I’m personally not rich enough to pay out millions (or even thousands) in damages to someone offended by what I write on my blog. And I don’t want to put a lawyer’s kids through college trying to prove a point. So I have to be careful what I say online, and suspect most other people are in the same boat.
Cheers – and Happy New Year! — Deb
Just to clarify:
1. Regarding whether you have to have a popular blog in order to get sued: Anyone can get sued anytime for anything. The fact that there is no merit to a lawsuit does not prevent the lawsuit from happening. The term of art is “nuisance lawsuit.” Most attorneys need to make money, however, and they will check out whether the people they plan to sue have assets. If the blogger has no assets, there is no money to be made if the lawsuit is won. Technically, however, having no assets does not prevent a lawsuit; it only discourages one.
2. Regarding the nature of the blog comments at issue: A jury has already ruled that the statements are defamatory. See this article: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sarah-jones-case-ex-cheerleaders-defamation-suit-puts-internet-giants-on-edge/
3. The issue: What is of concern to bloggers is whether the blog that was held liable in the case is a “common carrier.” There are those, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney, who claim the judge in the case “got it dead wrong” in ruling that the blog was not a common carrier, and the woman suing should be limited to a suit against the person who made the statements, not the person who runs the blog.
At any rate, it was a pleasure to hear from you, Deb, and I look forward to hearing what the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules later this year sometime.
Happy New Year to you and yours. – C.E.