COURTS ARE ASKED TO CRACK DOWN ON BLOGGERS

October 3, 2006

Blogs -- short for Web logs, the burgeoning, freewheeling Internet forums that give people the power to instantly disseminate messages worldwide -- increasingly are being targeted by those who feel harmed by blog attacks.  In the past two years, more than 50 lawsuits stemming from postings on blogs and website message boards have been filed across the nation.  The suits have spawned a debate over how the "blogosphere" and its revolutionary impact on speech and publishing might change libel law, says USA Today.

The legal battles over blogging and message board postings are unfolding on several fronts:

  • In Washington, D.C., former U.S. Senate aide Jessica Cutler was sued for invasion of privacy by Robert Steinbuch, also a former Senate aide, after Cutler posted a blog in 2004 describing their sexual escapades.
  • Todd Hollis, a criminal defense lawyer in Pittsburgh, has filed a libel suit against a website called DontDateHimGirl.com, which includes message boards in which women gossip about men they supposedly dated.
  • Anna Draker, a high school assistant principal in San Antonio, filed a defamation and negligence lawsuit against two students and their parents after a hoax page bearing her name, photo and several lewd comments and graphics appeared on MySpace.com, the popular social networking website.
  • Ligonier Ministries, a religious broadcaster and publisher in Lake Mary, Fla., has taken the unusual step of asking a judge to preemptively silence a blogger to try to prevent him from criticizing the ministries.

Robert Cox, founder and president of the Media Bloggers Association, which has 1,000 members, says the recent wave of lawsuits means that bloggers should bone up on libel law. "It hasn't happened yet, but soon, there will be a blogger who is successfully sued and who loses his home," he says.

Source: Laura Parker, "Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites; Those attacked online are filing libel lawsuits," USA Today, October 3, 2006.

 

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