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Get Angry: Blogger Sued For Comments On Their Blog

One Man's Blog Sued Over Blog CommentsWhen a blogger believes they are alone and the only one, we all lose. In response to my friend, John Pozadzides’ recent experience outlined in “VistaPrint.com Is Threatening to Sue Me Over a Blog Comment. Really???,” I want him and all of you to know you are not alone when it comes to the threats against our blogs for being open spaces for free speech.

John is not the first nor the last but the many who have faced legal action and lawsuits for contents and comments on their blogs. The issue of contents is more clear cut when it comes to lawsuits concerning libel and defamation, as well as the freedom of speech in your country. The issue of comments is much more complex.

In general, the “owner” of the comment is the responsible part for their actions. Unfortunately, there are legal decisions that state that if you moderate and edit your comment queue, you are responsible, thus attackable, for any comments that appear on your blog. A good description and legal references can be found on Can Bloggers Be Sued Over Comments? Maybe from Contentious.com and Legal Liability Overview from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Jonathan Bailey writes a great post on The Legal Issues with Comments that should be a must read. ShoeMoney was among the earliest, publicly exposed blog comment lawsuits in 2006, though attempts were made long before, especially with comments in forums dating back to the early 1990s.

It will be a while before there is a good body of work to support freedom of speech online in blogs, forums, social media publishing platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, etc.), and other social web venues that are supported by laws that really protect citizens to have their say.

Freedom of speech does not mean you can go around saying anything you want anywhere. Freedom of speech implies responsibility. You can saw whatever you want, but you must be willing to live with the consequences of your actions.

Until there is a body of law to support blogger’s and their comments, to support John and others who have been sued for comments on their blogs, here is a reference list of some of the other attempts and commentary on them, as well as some legal decisions, advice, and reviews in their blog comments, to let you know that you are not alone.

Now that you know you are not alone, it’s time for us to stand together. Anyone up for a good fight?

This list is just the few I found during a quick search. If you have heard of more that involve legal specifics, let John and all of us know.

Blog this up. Tweet it out. FB it to your community. We need to let the world know that we, as a blogging body, want the right to freedom of speech for everyone, including those who comment. Let them know that we police our blogs’ comments and are proud of it, but that doesn’t mean we are responsible for the words of others. As I’ve always said, a blog comment is a mini resume. They tend to speak for themselves and their owners. Thus, you are responsible for what you say no matter where you say it, as long as your laws permit you the right to say it. If they don’t, that’s a different battle.

For now, let’s support John and others who fight for their rights to blog free.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network
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21 Comments

  1. Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle
    “We are not alone” sounds like a line from Star Trek. LOL
    Never thought about the legal position with blog comments and I never leave aggressive comments, but it’s good to know where you stand.
    Thanks for the list of articles and references… I’ll take a look at a few.

    • Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      @keith davis: I stand behind the bloggers getting attacked because they are working hard to protect their readers from spam comments and out-and-out offensive comments while allowing the natural flow of conversation on their blogs. They should not be held responsible for what others say, and certainly not for frivolous stuff like this. There are people in the business of lawsuits, playing a numbers game where they will win eventually, but I don’t like people playing with other people’s lives like this.

      And as a Treker, I believe the phrase is “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” or the more famous one that applies in this case: “the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.” We need to work together to support those who are doing the fighting for us so we can get the laws on our side and not the petty sides of those who just don’t know how to play nice in the social web world.

  2. Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Vistaprint.com would make better use of their time addressing the 18,700 search results on Google that show up under ‘Vistaprint.com scam’

    Their threat of a frivolous lawsuit only brings more attention to what kind of a company Vistaprint.com really is. Also see: Consumer complaints about VistaPrint.com.

  3. Keith Davis
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Well said Lorelle
    Guess we are all trekkies really.
    Live long and prosper.

  4. Posted September 4, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Wow. I’m just glad I never got threatened with legal action for Why Not to use UK2. Though they did offer a paltry sum to remove it when it was nearer the top of Google – hovered around number 2 or 3 for a quite a long time.

  5. Posted September 6, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Like everything else, there are good and bad sides to this situation. An irresponsible blogger cost Shirley Sharrod her job by posting incomplete and out of context material, then sat back and watched the doodoo hit the fan! That is clearly going after someone and is the “bad” side of this. Others voice an opinion which just happens to differ from someone else’s opinion and they get sued!! I mean really, there is a free speech amendment in the United States!! My issue is that nobody talks to each other anymore. If I post something that someone disagrees with, they either get hostile and evil or threatening. A simple “I am on the other side of this view and would like to voice my side of this issue” would solve most of these problems. As for corporations who are sue happy, you would think they have something better to do such as product improvement rather than “sue everyone who mentions our name.” Okay, enough of the soap box speech. As you can tell it’s a bit of an issue with me. Thanks for listening!!

  6. Posted September 7, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Great piece Lorelle. Count me in on this good fight. I’ll repost this piece on my WP Writers Group.

    • Posted September 8, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      @pochp: As a writer, I hope you mean that you will link to the piece on the writer’s group, not plagiarize. :D Thanks for spread the word.

  7. Posted September 8, 2010 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Wow, I never thought about it. It makes me a little nervous now. I don’t say mean things and I don’t talk about others, but it still makes me nervous. :S

    • Posted September 8, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      @cg.reyes: Don’t be nervous, as that means the enemy wins. Be brave and smart. Don’t say things that run the risk of libel or defamation. It’s not normally part of people’s regular conversation and the law is pretty specific about the definition. This is a frivolous and dumb action and luckily people with the smarts to recognize that are dealing with it. We must stand behind those who fight back on our behalf, so you don’t ever have to worry or be nervous.

  8. Posted September 8, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry Lorelle. I always create a link to posts I plagiarize :-)

  9. Brian R
    Posted September 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    While I also a big believer in the 1st Amendment we also have another equally important right which is the right to have our day in court. We have a court system to determine wether or not this case is legit or not.

    Really it is the outcome of cases like these that resolve these questions and will bring more clarity to the issue.

    Perhaps a more contructive effort here would be an effort to raise funds to support those who come under fire so that they can defend their cases in court!

  10. Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t surprise me that big companies try to protect their brands by bullying people around. They assume it will put enough of a scare in someone to take the comment down (threatening legal action). What they didn’t anticipate was the nature of most bloggers is to “fight the power”.

  11. Ken Pierce
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I found this very interesting, and I guess that I am wise to moderate the comments on my blog to the extent of “if the views are not within the context of the writing they are not approved”. Granted this particular blog of mine is more based on photography and things I see around New York City and since it’s new, I don’t get a lot of comments anyway. I do see things that can be considered “risky” being posted on my Music Review blog but again try to only leave that which adds to the discussion or promotes the artist in some positive way alone. People surely say that the work sucks or my opinion of them was wrong, and those are left online but if the commenter goes off tangent and gets belligerent, I hardly have interest in giving them a forum for those views and just trash or spam mark their words. It depends on the situation. Either way, this was something I never was aware of and I thank you for posting it.

  12. dwatz
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    hi Lorelle,. like c.g. reyes, i never thought about it… it doesn’t make me feel nervous but get confused.. I am not really an expert blogger like you guys, but i believe that posting anything on the net like online diary can already be called a blog… and I was in a situation right now that maybe, seeking an expert advice, because of some people who reacted and get affected of the quotes I posted on FB, and some of my initial reactions posted on some networking sites… I never meant anything in posting it, it was just for fun, but someone got affected because it hit them….
    now i received some threat, and that makes me feel nervous, its violent threat…. i guess i am on the right side,i never mentioned any name on it…
    please give me some advice….
    and thanks Lorelle for posting, i learned a lot of things from your post and also about blogging..
    God will always be with you!

    • Posted October 7, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      If you have been threatened in any way, please call the police or the FBI immediately. Don’t talk about it on any blogs nor ask public questions about this. It’s a crime. Act accordingly.

  13. Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Dwatz
    Lorelle is right. Although some jokers use threats just for fun, better to be sure and safe. I write a lot about hot issues and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find many threats on my spam mail. I’ve been blogging for 23 months and I’m still unharmed and alive :-)

    • Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      There is a different between a threat in spam and a real threat. Please don’t confuse the two. Spam is junk mail, created by bots and human spammers. It’s job is to attract attention and make money. A legitimate threat is targeted, not mass produced, and that is a crime, not spam. HUGE difference, legally and personally.

      Also, let’s not make fun of those who have been wounded, physically, mentally, or spiritually, by others online or off. It doesn’t help and hinders active reporting, making the victim look like a fool for taking this to the next legal level. I know you are being supportive and want to reassure them, just take care in not putting a negative support slant on that assurance.

      These things are a crime. We need to learn to treat them that way and encourage the victims to come forward and report them so this can not just be discouraged, but stopped. Thanks.

  14. dwatz
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle for the reply…. I am now customizing my blog page, i guess for now that is the best way to at least avoid some false reaction from readers who has narrow mind… if in case i will still received threat personally, i will follow your advice… i just can’t stop blogging…. if i don’t have net, i have to hand write it down on papers….. thanks and
    God bless!!!!

    • Posted October 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Please, stop whatever you are doing and call the police. Do not change your site, blog, or stop blogging, just call. This is a crime.

  15. Posted October 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Correcting myself. I meant spam comments, not spam mail. Thanks for reminding.


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Comments on His Blog By Lorelle VanFossen, posted Sep 4 2010 at 8:12 am | View CommentsIn “Get Angry: Blogger Sued For Comments On Their Blogs” on my own blog, I outline some historical references regarding libel and defamation lawsuits [...]

  2. [...] were made long before, especially with comments in forums dating back to the early 1990s. More at Source Even the EFF says you can be held liable. __________________ In the same fashion, the free [...]

  3. […] Get Angry: Blogger Sued For Comments On Their Blog […]

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