Be Careful What You Write. Libel Suits Are No Laughing Matter. You may have noticed that I make an effort to document every important fact I assert here. The reason for this is three-fold. First, I find that proper documentation makes it easier for third party readers to verify what I say; second, proper documentation makes it easier for me to use my old research in future writings; third, and perhaps most important, it provides a prima facie case that I base what I say about individuals and organizations on established fact -- and that is important in a world where defamation suits against bloggers are becoming more numerous.
In the first successful suit of this type, a blogger was ordered to pay $50,000 in damages to a person whom the court deemed he had slandered on his web site.(1) In a more recent suit, "[a] Florida woman has been awarded $11.3 million in a defamation lawsuit against a Louisiana woman who posted messages on the Internet accusing her of being a 'crook,' a 'con artist' and a 'fraud.'"(2)
When you write something unfavorable about someone, the way to avoid being subject to a potential libel suit is to make sure that what you say is 1.) true, and 2.) provable. If something is true and you can prove it, go ahead and say it. Otherwise, keep your thoughts to yourself unless you want to be on the losing end of a law suit. Remember, even if what you are saying is true, it does you no good if you can't prove it.
(1) Laura Parker. "Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites," USA Today, 2006 October 02, para. 4, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-10-02-bloggers-courts_x.htm.
(2) Laura Parker. "Jury awards $11.3M over defamatory Internet posts," USA Today, 2006 October 11, para. 1, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-10-internet-defamation-case_x.htm.
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