Internet Libel Selina Rust Survey of Internetjournalism Dr. Yang, Fall 2009
Computer Sales: We now offer libel insurance for bloggers
What are important elements of the Internet concerning cyber libel?
Important elements of the Internet <ul><li>Global Nature : Presently, more than 125 countries are  l inked to the Internet...
Important elements of the Internet <ul><li>Accessibility:  The relatively low cost of establishing one's own website. Ever...
How can you sue someone for defamation in the internet?
How can I sue someone for defamation in the Internet? <ul><li>Identification  of the person allegedly defamed </li></ul><u...
What are defenses  against cyber libel?
What are Defenses against Libel? <ul><li>Truth:  In the US the plaintiff must prove that the defamation is falsehood </li>...
In the Internet, communication is merely about sharing opinions. But how can you distinguish between a defamatory opinion ...
How do you distinguish between  opinion and fact? <ul><li>Can it be proven true or false? </li></ul><ul><li>Context  surro...
How do you distinguish between  opinion and fact? <ul><li>H ypotheses, verbal cues, hyperboles, name-calling cannot be pro...
Can bloggers get sued for cyber libel?
Can bloggers be sued for cyber libel? <ul><li>Blogs are held similar to news groups </li></ul><ul><li>The media has the sa...
How can you sue an anonymous person?
How can you sue an anonymous person? <ul><li>There needs to be a legal process that allows identification </li></ul><ul><l...
Who is liable for Internet republications?
Who is reliable for Internet republications? <ul><li>recipients of material published in the Internet are able to republis...
How are owners of bulletin boards and websites liable?
How are operators of bulletin boards and websites liable? <ul><li>Operators of networked computers are liable for defamato...
Legal Case Liskula Cohen and free Speech Liskula Cohen
Liskula Cohen took Google to court <ul><li>Vogue model Liskula Cohen was subject of a blog entry in “Skanks in New York“ <...
Reactions <ul><li>Through lawsuit the discussion came up, whether or not bloggers should reveal their true identity </li><...
Interviews
Did you ever think about online libel while you use the Internet? <ul><li>I don’t use the Internet very often so I actuall...
Do you think the Internet needs different defamation laws than traditional media? <ul><li>I think they should enforce the ...
Should the identity of anonymous Internet uses be revealed in case of a libel suit?  <ul><li>For me it doesn’t make any se...
Reference List
Reference list: Books <ul><li>Collins, Matthew (2001). The law of defamation and the Internet. New York: Oxford University...
Reference list: Books <ul><li>Sanford, Bruce W. (2009). Libel and privacy. Washington: Aspen Publishers. </li></ul><ul><li...
Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Chakrabortty, Aditya (2009). Brain food: Theory of lied. Vogue model Liskula Cohen took G...
Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Media Law Resource Center (2009). Frequently asked media law questions. Available at:  ht...
Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Potts, David (2009). Website on cyberlibel. Available at :  http://www.cyberlibel.com/ . ...
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Selina Rust Libel

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How does libel law work in the Internet?

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Selina Rust Libel

  1. 1. Internet Libel Selina Rust Survey of Internetjournalism Dr. Yang, Fall 2009
  2. 2. Computer Sales: We now offer libel insurance for bloggers
  3. 3. What are important elements of the Internet concerning cyber libel?
  4. 4. Important elements of the Internet <ul><li>Global Nature : Presently, more than 125 countries are l inked to the Internet. In which jurisdiction did the publication occur? In which jurisdiction should the plaintiff sue? </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive Nature: It is easier to express a defamatory statements to the public but it is also easier to reply to the claims </li></ul>Sources: Potts, David (2009) Ferrera, Gerald R. (2001)
  5. 5. Important elements of the Internet <ul><li>Accessibility: The relatively low cost of establishing one's own website. Everyone can be a publisher and can be sued as a publisher </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity: No one has to reveal their true identity in order to send emails or post comments. </li></ul>Sources: Potts, David (2009) Ferrera, Gerald R. (2001)
  6. 6. How can you sue someone for defamation in the internet?
  7. 7. How can I sue someone for defamation in the Internet? <ul><li>Identification of the person allegedly defamed </li></ul><ul><li>Publication : must have been published to at least one other person, every Internet posting is a publication </li></ul><ul><li>Defamation: untrue words that tend to harm a person’s reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Damage : like out of pocket expenses or losses, loss of reputation or court as punishment </li></ul>Sources: Radford University (2009) Media Law Resource Center (2009)
  8. 8. What are defenses against cyber libel?
  9. 9. What are Defenses against Libel? <ul><li>Truth: In the US the plaintiff must prove that the defamation is falsehood </li></ul><ul><li>Privilege: statements from the floor of a legislative body and testimonies </li></ul><ul><li>Fault: on behalf of the publisher, such as negligence or malice </li></ul><ul><li>Fair Comment and Criticism: a comment on a matter of public interest </li></ul><ul><li>Opinion </li></ul>Sources: Larson, Aaron (2003) Milo, Dario (2008)
  10. 10. In the Internet, communication is merely about sharing opinions. But how can you distinguish between a defamatory opinion and fact?
  11. 11. How do you distinguish between opinion and fact? <ul><li>Can it be proven true or false? </li></ul><ul><li>Context surrounding the publication must be considered </li></ul><ul><li>More likely considered opinion in political campaigns (public context) </li></ul><ul><li>Reviews, editorials, humorous piece, cartoon, headline is more likely considered to be an opinion than an assertion of facts (literary context) </li></ul>Sources: Goldstein, Norm (2002) Sanford, Bruce W. (2009)
  12. 12. How do you distinguish between opinion and fact? <ul><li>H ypotheses, verbal cues, hyperboles, name-calling cannot be proven true or false </li></ul><ul><li>But: do not offer protection in defamation per se : </li></ul><ul><li>Attacks on professional character or standing </li></ul><ul><li>U married person is unchaste </li></ul><ul><li>P erson is infected with an sexually transmitted disease </li></ul><ul><li>Person has transmitted a crime of moral turpitude </li></ul>Sources: Goldstein, Norm (2002) Sanford, Bruce W. (2009)
  13. 13. Can bloggers get sued for cyber libel?
  14. 14. Can bloggers be sued for cyber libel? <ul><li>Blogs are held similar to news groups </li></ul><ul><li>The media has the same rights as individuals engaged in the same activities </li></ul><ul><li>For Bloggers, all defamation legal rules apply to their blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Problem: Mostly bloggers post content anonymously </li></ul>Sources: Potts, David (2009) O’Connell, Kelly (2007)
  15. 15. How can you sue an anonymous person?
  16. 16. How can you sue an anonymous person? <ul><li>There needs to be a legal process that allows identification </li></ul><ul><li>A court must agree, that all elements of defamation have been met </li></ul><ul><li>They can be traced by high tech means </li></ul><ul><li>But: the website owner must cooperate in the search as well </li></ul>Sources: O’Connell, Kelly (2007) Ferrera, Gerald R. (2001)
  17. 17. Who is liable for Internet republications?
  18. 18. Who is reliable for Internet republications? <ul><li>recipients of material published in the Internet are able to republish the material to any number of recipients in many different countries </li></ul><ul><li>Who is liable for the allegedly defamatroy material? </li></ul><ul><li>The original author for publishing it first </li></ul><ul><li> Everyone who republished the material to other people </li></ul>Sources: Collins, Matthew (2001)
  19. 19. How are owners of bulletin boards and websites liable?
  20. 20. How are operators of bulletin boards and websites liable? <ul><li>Operators of networked computers are liable for defamatory material which they write or publish on their network </li></ul><ul><li>If third party publishes defamatory material on the network, the operator might be liable if they knew the material was defamatory </li></ul><ul><li> the online service provider can become a publisher and therefore sued for libel </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>if they do nothing, they could be sued for negligence </li></ul></ul></ul>Sources: Potts, David (2009) O’Connell, Kelly (2007)
  21. 21. Legal Case Liskula Cohen and free Speech Liskula Cohen
  22. 22. Liskula Cohen took Google to court <ul><li>Vogue model Liskula Cohen was subject of a blog entry in “Skanks in New York“ </li></ul><ul><li>An anonymous person called her an „old hag“, a „ho“ and „a psychotic, lying, whorin... Skank“ </li></ul><ul><li>Cohen started a $ 3 Million lawsuit for “libel and intentional emotional distress“ </li></ul><ul><li>The judge ordered Google- the blog‘s host- to hand over the blogger‘s identity </li></ul><ul><li>Cohen dropped the action as soon as 28-year old Rosemary Port could be identified </li></ul>Sources: Chakrabortty, Aditya (2009)
  23. 23. Reactions <ul><li>Through lawsuit the discussion came up, whether or not bloggers should reveal their true identity </li></ul>
  24. 24. Interviews
  25. 25. Did you ever think about online libel while you use the Internet? <ul><li>I don’t use the Internet very often so I actually never thought about breaking any law with what I do. I don’t write Blogs, I am not on Facebook, and I don’t have a Twitter account for exactly that reason: I don’t want to be part of that online gossip. </li></ul><ul><li>Well I am thinking about that quite a lot. I never actually wrote anything bad about another person. But what happens if I get sued for something where I’m not even aware of doing something wrong? </li></ul><ul><li>To be quite honest, all that media law doesn’t bother me too much. If someone doesn’t like what I am talking about online they can always write a comment on it and complain about it. </li></ul>Lindsey Webster Freshman, 19 Lorraine Mbati Major: Nurse, 21 Antonio Jones Major: Education, 20
  26. 26. Do you think the Internet needs different defamation laws than traditional media? <ul><li>I think they should enforce the online media law. I really don’t think you can compare it to another media because it is so much different. Everyone can reach a huge audience all over the world. </li></ul><ul><li>I am really not that familiar with media law in general. But as far as I am concerned I don’t think it already covers everything that might be relevant for the Internet because it is so much stronger than other media. </li></ul><ul><li>I think it doesn’t make a difference whether a traditional newspaper or a blog says something defamatory about a person. Both publish it to others, both need to be treated the same way. </li></ul>Lindsey Webster Freshman, 19 Lorraine Mbati Major: Nurse, 21 Antonio Jones Major: Education, 20
  27. 27. Should the identity of anonymous Internet uses be revealed in case of a libel suit? <ul><li>For me it doesn’t make any sense that people can say defamatory things online, but stay anonymous. They should reveal their true personality and stand up for their opinion. Covering those people makes it even worse! </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes I enjoy the fact that I can do and write whatever I like online and no one will recognize me. This is a certain advantage for sure, and I don’t think it would be very easy to actually reveal all the true identities. </li></ul><ul><li>I think this is what the Internet stands for. I wouldn’t want everyone all over the world to know what I am writing online and therefore I have a right to stay anonym. </li></ul>Lindsey Webster Freshman, 19 Lorraine Mbati Major: Nurse, 21 Antonio Jones Major: Education, 20
  28. 28. Reference List
  29. 29. Reference list: Books <ul><li>Collins, Matthew (2001). The law of defamation and the Internet. New York: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Milo, Dario (2008). Defamation and freedom of speech. New York: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Ferrera, Gerald R. [et al. ] (2001). Cyberlaw: text and cases. Australia; Cincinnati, Ohio: West/ Thomson Learning. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Reference list: Books <ul><li>Sanford, Bruce W. (2009). Libel and privacy. Washington: Aspen Publishers. </li></ul><ul><li>Goldstein, Norm (2002) Associated Press stylebook and briefing on media law: with Internet guide and glossary. Cambridge: Perseus. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Chakrabortty, Aditya (2009). Brain food: Theory of lied. Vogue model Liskula Cohen took Google to court. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/sep/08/brain-food-google-aditya-chakrabortty . [12/14/09, 09:30 pm] </li></ul><ul><li>Larson, Aaron (2003). Expert Law. Defamation, Libel and Slander Law. Available at: http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/defamation.html </li></ul><ul><li>[12/14/09, 09:43 pm] </li></ul>
  32. 32. Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Media Law Resource Center (2009). Frequently asked media law questions. Available at: http://www.medialaw.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Public_Resources/Libel_FAQs/Libel_FAQs.htm#What%20is%20Libel ? . [12/14/09, 09:35 pm] </li></ul><ul><li>O‘Connell, Kelly (2007). INTERNET LAW- Understanding Internet Defamation. Available at: http://www.ibls.com/internet_law_news_portal_view.aspx?s=latestnews&id=1874 [12/14/09, 09:25 pm] </li></ul>
  33. 33. Reference list: Internet <ul><li>Potts, David (2009). Website on cyberlibel. Available at : http://www.cyberlibel.com/ . [12/14/09, 09:30 pm] </li></ul><ul><li>Radford University (2009). What is libel? Available at: http://www.radford.edu/wkovarik/class/law/1.5libel.html . [12/14/09, 09:40 pm] </li></ul>
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