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Don Burleson Blog 








Blogger fined 11 million dollars for posting facts disguised as opinions

By Donald K. Burleson

Burleson is co-author of Web Stalkers: Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths, $19.95 by Rampant TechPress. 

The United States courts are finally cracking-down on people who post false allegations about people on blogs, message boards and char rooms.  While the First Amendment allow complete freedom of opinion, the courts have ruled that you cannot "couch" a factual allegation with a preface like "I heard that" or "In my opinion".  For details on the nuances of internet libel, see the book "Web Stalkers".

If you allege that a person is a "fraud", a "crook" or a "con artist", it is not your opinion, it's a statement of fact, and you had better be prepared to prove it in a court of law.

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 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.”

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


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