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Old 08-26-2010, 09:46 PM
darrellmaurina darrellmaurina is offline
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Default Media&Communications Law-Blogger Beware: You Can Be Sued Over ĎAnonymousí Posts

A lawyer sent this article to me from the ABA Journal, the professional journal of the American Bar Association.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/blogger_beware_you_can_be_sued_over_anonymous_post s
Posted Aug 24, 2010 8:25 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

The author is right. People on the Pulaski County Insider and other interiet forums like it, but even small Wordpress accounts with a lot fewer readers, need to pay some serious attention to this.

Some key quotes:

"Expressing an opinion is often OK. However, disparaging a business operator or accusing a public official of criminal conduct are danger zones, as a growing number of those who are criticized on the Web turn to the courts for redress. 'Most people have no idea of the liability they face when they publish something online,' says Eric Goldman, an Internet law expert at Santa Clara University. 'A whole new generation can publish now, but they don't understand the legal dangers they could face.'"

Reporters and others who write for a living have known for a very long time that there are risks we take if we are irresponsible, and while the First Amendment ensures that truth is an absolute defense against libel, that doesn't mean we can spread garbage with no basis in fact.

While some people can and do start internet smear campaigns with the deliberate intention of attacking someone with malice aforethought and either demonstrable falsehoods or reckless disregard for the truth (those are technical legal terms), smear campaigns are usually recognizable for what they are, and treated accordingly both by public opinion and by the courts.

The real problems happen when well-intentioned people who are trying to call attention to crime, corruption, unethical business practices, or some other major problem get most of their story right but have enough mistakes that a lawsuit gets beyond the dismissal phase (in which the lawyer for the person being sued tries to convince the judge that the lawsuit has no merit), and the lawsuit ends up going to trial. At that point somebody is going to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

None of us want to be in that courtroom if we don't have to be.
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