Archive for the ‘defamation’ Category

Matthew Lafferman, “Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media”

March 13, 2013

Matthew Lafferman (JD Candidate, George Mason University – School of Law) has published “Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media”,  Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2012. Here’s the abstract:

In Gertz v. Welch, the Supreme Court expanded First Amendment protections to defamation law by requiring a plaintiff who qualified as a public figure to prove a higher burden of proof to recover for damages under a defamation suit. The Court relied on two major rationales to delineate the Gertz doctrine: public figures “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury” and had “significantly greater access to the channels of effective communication.” Applying this doctrine to online media poses challenges, specifically when applied to social media platforms. Many scholars have recognized that social media users have equal access to the same basic media features, rendering the Gertz Court’s access-to the-media rationale inapplicable when applied to social media. A 216% rise in defamation suits against Internet users in the last three years alone, due to the recent discovery that most homeowner’s insurance policies cover libel liability, signals an almost inevitable rise in defamation suits that will eventually force courts to face the challenge of applying the Gertz public figure doctrine to social media.

This Comment offers an approach that reconciles the problems of applying the public figure doctrine to social media. This Comment argues that courts should require defendants to overcome certain initial presumptions by clear and convincing evidence before designating a social media user an involuntary public figure or a general public figure. Moreover, when recommending an approach for courts to identify voluntary activity on a social network for limited-purpose public figures, courts should avoid defining mere access to social media as voluntary activity and instead conclude such access is an extension of an individual’s private life. This approach would allow courts to apply much of the currently existing public figure doctrine to social media and help courts avoid the negative legal and policy consequences of abolishing the doctrine altogether.

A pdf copy of the paper is available for download at SSRN here.

Laura E. Little, “Internet Defamation, Freedom of Expression, and the Lessons of Private International Law for the United States”

December 19, 2012

Laura E. Little (Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law) has published “Internet Defamation, Freedom of Expression, and the Lessons of Private International Law for the United States”, European Yearbook of Private International Law, Vol. 14, 2012. The abstract reads:

This article reviews current developments in U.S. conflict of laws doctrine pertaining to transnational internet defamation cases, including personal jurisdiction, choice of law, and recognition of judgments. To resolve personal jurisdiction and choice of law issues in internet defamation cases, U.S. courts have adapted rules from the non-internet context with relative ease. Reported cases tend to concern domestic internet disputes between U.S. entities, with few plaintiffs attracted to U.S. courts for the purpose of litigating cross-border defamation claims. Although the U.S. serves as a magnet jurisdiction for many types of litigation, two liability-defeating laws render the country inhospitable to defamation claims: (1) the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment speech protections and (2) a statute affording immunity to internet “providers or users” for information “provided by another content provider.” Perhaps because of these provisions litigants are largely inspired to go elsewhere. The resulting libel tourism has prompted important U.S. developments pertaining to enforcement and recognition of foreign defamation judgments. Thus, for conflict of laws matters pertaining to internet defamation, it is judgments law that reflects the greatest activity and most profound change.

After reviewing personal jurisdiction and choice of law trends, this article describes legal developments pertaining to internet defamation judgments. The article critiques lawmakers’ adherence to First Amendment exceptionalism in regulating internet defamation judgments and identifies flaws reflected in state libel tourism statutes and the federal libel tourism statute, the SPEECH act of 2010.

Download the article via SSRN here.

From the Censorious Criminal Libel Files (Canada Edition)

December 11, 2012

 

 

BCCLA demands watchdog investigate RCMP actions against critic | BC Civil Liberties Association.:

 

New information in unsealed court documents has the BCCLA demanding an investigation into the RCMP for seizing the computers of a man who says he was helping unhappy RCMP members post their concerns online. On August 18, 2012, Grant Wakefield’s computers and cell phone were seized in a joint RCMP Major Crime and New Westminster Police Department operation.

The RCMP has confirmed that Wakefield was the informant whose information and photographs started high profile code of conduct and criminal investigations into Port Coquitlam RCMP officer Jim Brown’s activities. Simultaneously, Wakefield was also anonymously assisting disgruntled members of the RCMP to run a blog called the “Re-Sergence Alliance” blog, a blog that posted alleged RCMP front line member concerns about RCMP management and policy online.

 

The BCCLA adds:

 

“We’re asked to believe the RCMP used the resources of their major crime section, computer forensics team, the Federal Department of Justice, and a search warrant, to investigate what amounts to conspiracy theories posted in the comment section of an erotic blog and a Twitter account with thirteen followers,” said Eby. “Defamatory comments are made every day on the internet, and the RCMP doesn’t send their major crime team to investigate. What makes this case unique is that the man who had his computers taken away by the police was using those computers to help unhappy RCMP members publish their concerns online.”

The BCCLA is demanding the Commission for Public Complaints investigate the entire RCMP operation against Grant Wakefield, and has written to them to file a complaint.

Click here to read the unsealed court documents >>

Click here to read the BCCLA’s letter to the Commission for Public Complaints >>

 

The decision of P. D. Gulbransen, J. partially unsealing the RCMP search warrant is reported at B.C. Civil Liberties Association v. Regina, 2012 BCPC 406 (CanLII).

 

Criminalization of defamation is a pernicious form of libel chill and is anathema to a free and democratic society.  It is high time for the archaic and illiberal criminal offence of defamatory libel to be relegated to the dustbin of legal history.

 

Lord McAlpine and Twitter Libel: Does failing to sue when a libel is first published raise a defence of waiver, estoppel or acquiescence?

November 20, 2012

The recent media scandal involving British peer, Lord McAlpine (pictured above) who threatened to sue the BBC, ITV and thousands of Twitter users over false accusations of pedophilia is discussed over at Inforrm’s Blog: (more…)

Sarah Ludington, “Aiming at the Wrong Target: The ‘Audience Targeting’ Test for Personal Jurisdiction in Internet Defamation Cases”

October 4, 2012

Sarah Ludington (Campbell University – The Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law; Duke University School of Law; North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has published “Aiming at the Wrong Target: The ‘Audience Targeting’ Test for Personal Jurisdiction in Internet Defamation Cases”, 73 Ohio State L.J. 541 (2012). The abstract reads:

In Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2002), the Fourth Circuit crafted a jurisdictional test for Internet defamation that requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant specifically targeted an audience in the forum state for the state to exercise jurisdiction. This test relies on the presumption that the Internet — which is accessible everywhere — is targeted nowhere; it strongly protects foreign libel defendants who have published on the Internet from being sued outside of their home states. Other courts, including the North Carolina Court of Appeals, have since adopted or applied the test. The jurisdictional safe harbor (ironically) provided by the very ubiquity of the Internet is no doubt welcomed by media defendants and frequent Internet publishers (e.g., bloggers) whose use of the Internet exposes them to potentially nationwide jurisdiction for defamation. But it may go too far in protecting libel defendants from facing the consequences of their false and injurious statements. For every libel defendant insulated from jurisdiction in a remote location, there is also a libel plaintiff who has potentially been denied an effective remedy in a convenient location. This article argues that the jurisdictional test created in Young is flawed and particularly should not be applied to libel defendants. It concludes with a simple suggestion: that the appropriate test for personal jurisdiction over libel defendants in cases of Internet defamation is the standard minimum contacts analysis.

 The article is available for download via SSRN here.

 

 

 


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