Can Bloggers Be Sued for Libel?
Fellow PR blogger Jeremy Pepper interviewed David E. McCraw, Counsel for The New York Times Co., to offer some insight on bloggers’ potential libel liability…
From the article:
“”Do bloggers deserve the same protection as journalists? On one side, it obvious that bloggers are journalists, and on the other side, people are just having private conversations. Bloggers are trying to site on both sides of the fence – citizen journalists and personal journals. They want the protection of shield law as a journalist, but at the same time not worry about fact checking since it is just a blog.”
Originally, people thought that since blogs had low readership there was no real reason to worry about libel. But, now the way that search engines work, blogs are being easily found – with comments and posts of an unflattering nature.
What happens on blogs now is that posts are being picked up by major media outlets. The lonely, personal essayist is no longer true for blogs. There are now blogs that are influential and being picked up, and if it construed as factual information, there needs to be a level of fact checking. If it is false, the original source – the blogger – may be subject to liability just as much as a newspaper.
Suing a blogger might not be worth the hassle, though. First, you have to prove that people have read the post, that you were damaged by it, then find the person that posted the libelous content, find the court that has the jurisdiction … it is extremely difficult to deal with these hurdles in an economic way.
It is unlikely that a person of prominence will sue a blog, because of the high hurdle public officials need to take. But, blogs and the potential of libel raise interesting legal issues.
One more thought – In Europe, particularly the UK, libel laws are different. Unlike the States – where it is the plaintiff who is responsible for proving libel – in the UK it is up to the defendant to prove that what they wrote was true. (Interesting side note is that the Wall Street Journal just won a libel case in the UK, proving that only 5 people read the article).”
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Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.
He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.