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Blogger ordered to pay millions in libel damages

This article notes that a jury has awarded 11.3 million dollars against a blogger who committed libel against an innocent woman by posting that she was a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud" on an internet message board:

“Scheff, who bills herself as an educational consultant, "tried to do something to help other parents and she wound up sort of being the object of hateful and vindictive statements," Pollack said. Scheff and her company sometimes get paid for their referrals.

The message of the verdict "is you just can't go out there on these blogs and slander and defame people without having any facts to substantiate what you are stating," Scheff said.”

In England, nasty remarks are crimes if they are found to be "inflammatory", as this case where a man was sentenced to 3 years in prison for posting inflammatory remarks on a web site:

"Judge Henry Globe QC, the recorder of Liverpool, told Martin: "The intention of the website was innocent, honourable and well motivated.

"You accessed that website and you abused its use. You posted highly abusive, insulting and racist messages on the site."

This articles notes that the victims of blogger-bashing are fighting back, and sympathetic juries are awarding large sums against blog libelers:

""BLOGGERS beware" is the warning circulating cyberspace since Oldham lecturer Tracy Williams was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages to a man she'd libelled on an internet message board."

The courts are now becoming aware that publishing in a blog is no different that publishing in traditional media and that a long line of legal precedents make authors responsible for their own words:

"She says: "People who use blogs and message boards are publishing statements in a public forum and the same rules apply as they would if these statements were published in a newspaper.

"If a statement is likely to provoke hatred, ridicule or contempt, and the blogger is not able to prove that it is either true or a fair comment based on fact, then a libel has been committed."


In the USA, presenting a person in a false light can have extreme damages, as this case where The Pensacola News Journal was ordered to pay a $18.28 million jury verdict for actual harm to a businessman by casting him in a "false light."

Florida also has a Bill to make libel a felony:

"Sen. Gary Siplin introduced a bill recently that would increase the penalty for criminal libel from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by one to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The Orlando Democrat's bill (SB 2742) would also add broadcasters to the existing law against deliberate false attacks.

Siplin's bill, which has no House companion and has not yet been referred to a Senate committee, would also make it a felony for anyone to knowingly submit lies to a newspaper or broadcaster for distribution."

I have more notes on these important blogger libel issues here:

I also highly recommend the book Web Stalkers: Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths, $19.95 by Rampant TechPress. 



 

 
 
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