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Bloggers are sued for allowing blog comments

Blogger tips by Burleson Consulting

July 2010

Note:  I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.  If you want legal advice, see a lawyer, not me . . .

For people old enough to remember the days before the Internet, the rules for Libel were quite clear.  If you wrote a letter to the editor, it was carefully fact-checked and vetted by the newspaper.

Why?  A person is responsible for what they publish, and the newspaper is held responsible for publishing the libel, even if they did not write it themselves.   IANAL, but the case law is crystal clear is clear that anonymous blog commenter's are responsible for what they write, and in some case this also extends to the owner/operator of the blog.

Today, it looks like blogger are being held to the same standards, and rightfully so.  In the past, unscrupulous bloggers would self-publish libelous blog comments anonymously and hope that the courts do not order that the blogger disclose the identity of a blog commenter.

But Internet law is evolving, and it’s now clear that bloggers who moderate the blog comments are responsible for what people publish on their blogs, just as newspapers are responsible for what they allow people to publish in letters to the editor.  It's still a shady area, but the case law I have read indicates that if a blog owner or web site owner participates in comments, or takes an active role in editing comments, then they are not immunized by section 230 of the DMCA.

The media may be different, but essentially a newspaper publisher and a blog publisher have the same duty not to facilitate unlawful activity.  In sum, bloggers are considered publishers.

Finding an anonymous blog commenter’s true identity

There are many pitfalls in disclosing the true identity of a blog commenter, and see my notes on finding an anonymous blog commenter’s true identity.

Note:  As a former database administrator for Lawyers Coop (ALR, AmJur), Shepards and Bancroft Whitney, I know that the case law changed constantly.  If you are planning to cite a judgment relating to Internet Law, make sure to have your attorney Shepardize each cite and check the Bancroft-Whitney latest case service to insure that it is still valid case law. 

For more details on blogger rights and responsibilities, see my related notes on:

For more details on the evolving landscape of the Internet, see my book Web Stalkers, Protecting yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths, published by Rampant TechPress.



Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.