Observations on Life, Faith, Media & Technology

Sue the… um, Bloggers!

Capital Hill Blue has a article from yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a defamation lawsuit brought against a blogger from State College named Aaron May.  It’s disturbing enough to think about a blogger being sued for something he said in a blog (the First Amendment applies in cyberspace, doesn’t it?) but here’s the bizarre part:  Aaron May is being sued for a comment posted by a reader of his blog.  The sue-er (pun intended) is a company called TrafficPower.com that helps boost search engine rankings for websites.  Aaron Wall earns a living in the same space.

There is a lot more at stake here than a feud between two players in the search engine optimization business.  What is at stake is the future of the blogosphere.  So much has been made over the last 18 months of the impact of blogs in the public discourse not to mention the impact on the continued decline of the MSM.  Just ask Dan Rather about that one. Now it remains to be seen if bloggers will be treated in the same manner as “real” journalists. 

The casual, informal tone of blogs, is a potential minefield of legal liability. The First Amendment doesn’t mean that bloggers are free from writing without repercussions. “In every state there are defamation and libel laws that apply,” Soller added. But Wall’s attorney Ariel Stern said that because the Internet and blogging in particular are so new, it remains to be seen how the courts will rule.

Will bloggers be treated like newspaper reporters, protected by the First Amendment but subject to libel and defamatory laws, or will they be treated like “common carriers,” such as telephone companies, and not held liable for what other people write and say? Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects Internet service providers and Web sites from liability for information posted by third parties. But the courts have yet to decide if bloggers enjoy those same privileges. It’s his job to convince the court, Stern said, that bloggers fall in the same category as Internet service providers and Web sites.

We will all watch with great interest the outcome of this case. Read the entire article here.  (HT: Hewitt)

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