Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Court ruling helps bloggers in libel cases"

"Bloggers are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as traditional journalists in libel suits, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

That means someone who was harmed by a false statement posted online and seeks damages must prove, at least, that the blogger acted carelessly. A more demanding standard - proof that the statement was a deliberate lie - applies if the person filing suit is a public figure or public official, or can't show economic loss from the falsehood."

""The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities ... or tried to get both sides of the story," Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote in the court's decision, which entitles Cox to a new trial.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, other appeals courts have agreed that the high court's constitutional standards in libel suits against the media also cover individual speakers, Hurwitz said. This is apparently the first appellate case to specifically address bloggers, said Cox's attorney, Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who is also a prolific blogger.

The ruling "shows that every person has a role to play in discussing public issues," said Tom Goldstein, publisher of the legal-affairs website Scotusblog, who submitted arguments in the case."