Internet speech has drawn concern for its limitless, it seems, availability for anyone to air their comments about something. While there are certain protections for speech, the inherent lack of truth in the statements or the lack of concern for the truth in making such a statement online about someone, engenders a considerable amount of liability on the speaker. In a previous post, we discussed the relationship of the platform and the online commenter as well as the reputation affect on some business, for example, by a competitor who uses the internet to air comments.
We also addressed the public interest issue of speech from the Anti-SLAPP Act argument in Roca Labs where a review site was deemed to have fostered defamatory comments. Those comments were considered to have a tortious interference of the business. The key point is that the plaintiff has to show some how that the loss of business can be attributed to the comments.
The immunity granted to websites and blogs does have its limits. It has been well established that under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, formally known as Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act, courts have decides that a defendant’s posting of just excerpts of posts placed by a user are not actionable. However, where the host exerts discretion on what and when gets posted on its blog or website, liability begins to set in.
Republishing a defamatory comment was as well discussed regarding a defamatory content of a commercial nature where a link was provided to another site that directed the reader to read defamatory content about the plaintiff. The other aspects considered is when a comment on one site is reposted on numerous days. The reposting engenders consideration for discretions being exercised, which will draw defamatory liability.
While one’s reputation is being harmed by online comments, the internet service providers and interactive internet providers are not the ones comments and they are distinguishable from the host or administrator of the blog or website at issue having editorial discretion and authorship control over the blog or website.
Claiming damages from online comments is not as easy as one things. Defamation in the classical sense does have points to consider when statements about someone refer to, for instance, unchaste demeanor, criminality, drug use, committing acts against the public good, or physical health. Lack of truthfulness of those statements may run into the possibility of proving malicious intent of the speaker. At least there could also be a demonstration for the reckless for the truth or reckless disregard for the truth. Nevertheless, the comments on the Internet that we all read about being stated or read come with their own value for possibly impinging on someone. There will be more to come on this issue.