Blogging, Content and the Courts - the Ongoing Saga
You can publish anything you want online, with the best of intentions, but don't fool yourself into thinking everyone will be OK with that. Take the example of Oregon blogger Crystal Cox, who runs several blogs including obsidianfinancesucks.com, where she has been on the case of the investment firm's CEO for close to a year. Last January said CEO sued Cox for $10 million for defamation.
As reported in Seattle Weekly Blogs "Law and Courts" blog:
Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion (like a million other blogs on the web) and moved to have the case dismissed. Dismissed it wasn't, however, and after throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that this single post was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.
So now you can be judged as a journalist - for writing "more factual in tone" blog posts - but you can at the same time be sued if, indeed, that post is not factual, constituting defamation. But there's more...
Now here's where the case gets more important: Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.
But without revealing her source Cox couldn't prove that the statements she'd made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.
Oy. Well at least the judge lowered the judgment, from $10 million...to only $2.5 million.
As has been pointed out by many pundits lately, "We are all becoming media companies," and we may be seen as such through the eyes of judges, lawyers and jury members going forward. But will we have the protections that career journalists have had in the past?
The law is one of the last things to change in keeping up with the times. This case may be overturned on appeal. Or it may not be.
Former SMT Senior Editor, currently a social media analyst/consultant. Now find me here as username Cliff Figallo.The quintessential online communities and social media veteran and expert. Founding director of The WELL, author of Hosting Web Communities ('98) and Building the Knowledge Management Network ('02).
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