As social networking sites and Internet blogs continue to increase in both popularity and use, the opportunities for defamatory and defamatory actions increase proportionally. Defamation, sometimes called "character defamation", are spoken or written words that falsely and negatively reflect the reputation of a living person. Slander is generally spoken defamation, while & # 39; defamation & # 39 ;. it's written. Blogs or social networks in which defamatory statements are written or recorded present several potential sources of responsibility and recovery for the person whose character was defamed. In cases where defamation is proven, damages are presumed and often enforced liberally.
Blog operators are generally immune to liability for defamatory statements posted on their websites, provided they have not contributed to the publication. In 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a list server moderator and website operator who allegedly published defamatory statements provided by a third party was eligible for immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Batzel v. Smith, 2003 US App.LEXIS 12736 (9th Cir. 2003). However, if the online service provider plays an active role in the request for user information that leads to the defamatory act, the operator may not be protected by the CDA's safe harbor provisions. In Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc., a federal court ruled on the safe harbor application of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The defendant in that case operated a matching website known matchmaker.com. As part of his service, the defendant collected profiles of singles based on an extensive questionnaire. The plaintiff sued Metrosplash due to a false profile of her that an unknown user had posted on the website. The court ruled that in creating the extensive questionnaire, Metrosplash played an active role in the development of the information that had been published. In addition, the court ruled that Metrosplash was a provider of information content and, therefore, was not eligible for the CDA's secure port provided to "interactive computer services." Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc., Case No. CV 01-0018 DT (CWx) CD Cal. 2002) (subsequently revoked by the court of appeals). While blog and service operators are generally immune to such responsibility, the more active the service is with its members, the greater the likelihood of potential liability as editor of defamatory materials.
Another potential source of responsibility is the person who actually published the defamatory materials. As with the most general defamatory statements or materials, a poster may be held personally liable for anything published that falsely and negatively reflects the reputation of a living person. The publication of false and explicit claims regarding a person will generally be considered defamatory for liability purposes. However, other problems arise regarding the anonymity of the person who publishes the information and, if known, the jurisdiction to which they are subject.
Jurisdictional problems may arise in situations where the poster had no reason to expect the effect of the publication to be felt in a particular jurisdiction. However, in cases of defamation, jurisdictional disputes are liberally ruled in favor of the victim. In Griffis v. Luban, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Alabama had jurisdiction over a Minnesota defendant who posted defamatory messages on the Internet. The defendant repeatedly posted messages in an Internet news group attacking the plaintiff's professional credentials. The plaintiff initially obtained a judgment for non-compliance of $ 25,000.00 in Alabama, which sought to enforce in Minnesota. The Minnesota court ruled that the Alabama court had properly exercised jurisdiction because the effects of the messages were felt in Alabama and that the defendant should have expected her to be sued there. An important factor in the ruling was that she had real knowledge of the effect of defamatory statements on the Respondent. Therefore, the Minnesota court enforced the sentence for non-compliance of $ 25,000.00. Griffis v. Luban, 633 NW 2d 548 (Minn Ct. App. 2001).
However, there are cases in which the courts have refused to allow the exercise of personal jurisdiction on the basis of defamatory statements. In a case in Pennsylvania, the court refused to exercise jurisdiction over a New York defendant who had published defamatory comments on a defendant on an offshore betting website. The court held that since the comments were not specifically directed to Pennsylvania, the court could not exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant. English Sports Betting, Inc. v. Tostigan, CA No. 01-2202 (ED Pa. 2002).
The problems with filing defamatory actions based on Internet publications lie largely in proving that the defendant actually made the publication. If that connection can be made, a much stronger case can be presented and jurisdictional issues can be addressed. A lawyer with experience in cyber law and internet cases can improve your chances of prevailing in any case. Without the help of a lawyer who can find and connect the evidence, most Internet defamation cases will fail due to lack of sources and probative experience.