Essential Reading For Victims of Internet Defamation

by Michael Roberts on May 6th, 2013

Remedies for Web Defamation
by Neville L. Johnson May 2013

The era of anonymous defamation and online impersonation has arrived. Given that the Internet provides virtually unlimited access to information, it is no surprise that claims of defamation and invasion of privacy through this medium have exploded. Unlike in traditional newsprint, where the harmful content is eventually discarded, injury inflicted via online posting continues in perpetuity, causing victims to suffer continuing harm. What, if anything, can a lawyer do to protect a client stung by Web-based bad-mouthing?

Key Statute
At the core of all online liability cases is section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) which states that “no provider … shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another content provider.” This language grants every Internet service provider (ISP) immunity from liability for defamation and invasion of privacy. (47 U.S.C. ยง 230.) Since the CDA’s passage in 1996, ISPs have been using their section 230 immunity as an affirmative defense against defamation claims, thereby reducing the incentive for self-policing.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Taylor Leary July 30, 2013 at 5:02 am

anonymous defamation has been around since before the internet.
What happens if you only use public wifi at airports?

Michael Roberts July 30, 2013 at 5:29 am

G’day Taylor.

Yes it has, but generally its damage was generally localized and fleeting. Google gives poison-penned vandals a louder voice, a global reach, and an almost irrepressible persistence.

Public wifi certainly makes our job tougher but we can catch them too. Last month we were able to positively ID a guy using public wifi, and recover CCTV footage of him in the act. I just hung up from a call with police who are about to arrest another perp we ID’d last week. That being said, plenty do get away with it.

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