Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bloggers are not Protected by the First Amendement Freedom of Press Clause

Another travesty of justice, a blogger is sued by the company she is lambasting in her blog. The Federal judge rules that the blogger (Crystal Cox) in Finance Group v. Cox is not a journalist and is therefore NOT "entitled to the protections that media defendants enjoy in libel cases."

[Judge] Hernandez held that, under Oregon law, non-media defendants in libel cases are not entitled to any First Amendment protection and thus can be found liable even if they take reasonable care to assure the accuracy of their statements.

This minority view is rooted in the fact that all of the U.S. Supreme Court cases establishing First Amendment protections in libel cases involved news media defendants. While most state courts have held that the reasoning in these cases applies to non-media speakers, a few have clung to the view that private speech about matters of private concern is not constitutionally significant.
Troubling rulings paved way for blogger’s libel conviction

More than that, the Freedom of the Press clause, at the time of the signing of the US Constitution (1787) applied to all written pronouncements. There was no press as we know it today. Broadsides (analog cousins of today's blogs) could be published by anyone and were still be protected by the 1st A.

This ruling could be a horrible precursor of things to come. Libel is libel, but you needn't be hired by a news organization to be covered by Freedom of the Press. According to Judge Hernadez: “Without any controlling or persuasive authority on the issue, I decline to conclude that defendant in this case is ‘media,’ triggering the negligence standard.”

I would love to see if there are any positives to come out of this opinion. Investigative journalism cannot be the sole province of authorized entities.

UPDATE: 2/25/2012

See Finance Group v Cox

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