"Did you know that if you're a blogger and someone tries chill your speech with defamation law, your rights are protected by the First Amendment? Considering the flurry of litigation, specifically the whole "blogger vs. real journalist" legal debate, one might be well inclined to believe that bloggers live in an anti-constitutional bubble, where the rights, privileges and immunities granted to every other believer in the First Amendment bounces off this imaginary bubble like water of a ducks back. But there's good news from the 9th circuit Court of Appeals.
|Blogger Crystal Cox|
Thus begins our story of Ms. Crystal Cox, Internet blogger who posted articles on her now defunct bankruptcycorruption.com blog, accusing two bankruptcy officers "of fraud, corruption, money-laundering, and other illegal activities in connection with the Summit bankruptcy." At the district court level, Cox actually did well for representing herself. All but one of her blog posts in contention were found to be protected as they merely contained hyperbolic speech. But the one article at issue here was different, as it "fairly specific allegations[that] a reasonable reader could understand . . . to imply a provable fact assertion" about the officer's alleged failure to pay taxes. The story that follows is familiar - a demand to remove the articles was refused by Cox and litigation ensued in Obsidian Financial Group v. Cox.
One of the major issues of this case is dealing with the level of scrutiny the court will apply to Cox's speech. In other words, what do the plaintiffs (Obsidian) have to prove in order to win a defamation suit against Ms. Cox? The court has two landmark cases to sort through, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and Gertz v. Robert Welch. The Times case gives us the rule for defamation involving public officials, while Gertz gives us the rule for defamation involving private individuals. Gertz offers slightly less protection, but ultimately, both cases give strong First Amendment protections, no matter who you are."
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