Supreme Court Sets Precedent Protecting Blogger with Same Freedom of Speech Rights as Traditional Press - HotHardware
Supreme Court Sets Precedent Protecting Blogger with Same Freedom of Speech Rights as Traditional Press

Supreme Court Sets Precedent Protecting Blogger with Same Freedom of Speech Rights as Traditional Press

In what amounts to a victory for bloggers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Crystal Cox, a blogger, is protected by the same free speech rights as a traditional journalist and therefore can't be held liable for defamation unless it's proven that she acted negligently. The ruling came after Cox lost a defamation trial in 2011 over a blog post accusing a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud.

At the time, the lower court ruled that Obsidian didn't need to prove that Cox acted negligently since Cox did not submit evidence proving her status as a journalist. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court decided differently based a precedent already set by the Supreme Court.

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Image Source: Flickr (antigone78)

"As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable," 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote as part of a unanimous three-judge panel.

Obsidian's attorney, Steven Wilker, noted that the 9th Circuit didn't dispute that Cox's blog post was false. According to Wilker, Cox made "defamatory statements" that caused his clients "substantial damage." In an email to Reuters, he added that he and his legal team are evaluating their options following the court's decision.

Cox's case is controversial not only because it deals with free speech and bloggers, but also because she has a history of making allegations of illegal activities "and seeking payoffs in exchange for retraction," Reuters quotes the court as saying.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr (Sue Richards)
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The title is a little misleading, it's the 9th Circuit setting precedent, not the Supreme Court. It's also worth noting that the 9th Circuit is one of the most overturned Circuits when its cases get to the Supremes. Of course, this is likely a function of its size and the number of cases it hears, but it's noteworthy.

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Bloggers should never have the same protection as journalists. A blogger is someone with an opinion and a keyboard, who often engages in no proper citation, precious little research, and has very little interest in exploring multiple facts of a complex topic.

Journalists are people who perform precisely these kinds of tasks.

You can be a blogger who is also a journalist, but not all bloggers *are* journalists.

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Let me be clear regarding my previous post. A blogger who takes the time to fact-check, does their best to be objective, and conducts what I'd loosely call responsible journalism is performing the *function* of a journalist. You don't have to work for the mainstream media to deserve the protections of a journalist (and I think journalism shield laws are a damned good idea).

My concern is for the type of material being produced and the responsibilities of the writer, not for whether or not they work for a traditional media company.

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