Blogger Liability Lawsuits, and Judgments, on the Rise


Montana real estate agent, Crystal Cox, was on the bad end of a winning decision about some of her blog content. In fact she didn’t win … at all. Her liability for the words she wrote about a bankruptcy custodian? Two point five million dollars. Let me put that in plain English: $2,500,000. And she’s a real estate agent which means that’s probably about 100 years of income.

Bloggers beware. We’re not journalists, at least according to these court cases – $47,000,000 in defamation awarded – and we’re not protected by the same laws. I’m not going to go through the entire details here but I have a tendency to disagree with the whether or not we are journalists BUT I also don’t think journalists should be able to write or report just anything they want because they have shield protection.

Watch this …


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4 thoughts on “Blogger Liability Lawsuits, and Judgments, on the Rise

  1. I’m with Ken and against the videographer on this one. Saying that a “blogger” should be protected by the Shield Law because s/he’s a blogger is crazy.  The video goes too far with his comparison — the key point isn’t that Ms. Cox’s blog was but what it didn’t provide — other investigative jounalistic information.

    If I suddenly did an expose on real estate on my Web site and then claimed that I was an investigative blogger. There is nearly 3,000 pages of content that are absolutely non-investigative and intentionally “pro-local community” that it would be hard for any judge to believe my claim.

    My point from this: Don’t be stupid with what you post online. If I find something interesting that deserves real journalistic review I send it to some investigative journalists that I honestly believe in. Why? Not because I don’t want to cover it, but my Web site isn’t geared towards taking on those topics. Let the professionals cover that. If you’re goal is to take down “XYZ” Company then go for it, but be prepared when they come fighting back.

  2. I don’t know enough about the case to speak to it specifically, but an unwillingness to produce a source shouldn’t result in a loss.  Now if the blogger relied on ‘hearsay’ without any physical proof, then yes, she should have lost the case, but if the source provided proof that would have led any reasonable person to take the information as ‘fact’ the source becomes irrelevant.

    In order to win these cases, the complainant must prove the reporter’s (or blogger’s) statements were in some way negligent or knowingly untrue.  It sounds like producing the source wouldn’t have change much about the case, but again, I don’t know the case, yet.

    I don’t think the lesson bloggers should learn is to shut up.  Bloggers need to learn to rest less on a source and more on the validity of the “physical information” a source produces.  If they don’t produce any, don’t to the story, or at the very least, insert a little CYA language.

    And, I think bloggers should be covered by Shield Laws, provided they’re used responsibly.  It doesn’t sound like this was responsible use.

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