News: Bloggers free to speak

By | July 1, 2003
 Bloggers Gain Libel Protection 
Wired reports that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors (folk like me, in other words) can’t be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.
The ruling, the Wired article by Xeni Jardin says, effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.
My tuppence? It’s good news in the sense that blogs and the like are more like commentaries, and therefore free speech, than publications. But that doesn’t mean they should not strive to be accurate, and differentiate between facts and opinions: Product X does A, B and C; I don’t think it’s any good because of D, E and, er, F. Blogs on specific topics (I’m not talking about daily journals about what your pet tortoise has been up to, unless it happens to be designing a new Bluetooth standard) will only be read if they’re considered to be reliable, if not authoritative.

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