1st Amendment protects bloggers, not just traditional journalists

Via University of Minnesota News Service

Bloggers protected by First Amendment, U of M expert says

Defamation lawsuits against bloggers, often called citizen journalists, appear to be on the rise. Here in Minneapolis, a local blogger is being sued by a public figure for defamation.

A University of Minnesota media law expert who can provide insight is:

Amy Kristin Sanders, assistant professor, U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Several issues are likely to feature prominently in the case, including the plaintiff's status as a public figure, Sanders says.

"Because the judge ruled the plaintiff was a public figure, the law requires him to prove a higher level of fault known as actual malice to win a defamation case. The First Amendment requires this standard to ensure speech on matters of public concern will be protected," Sanders says.

Thus, the plaintiff would be required to prove actual malice on the part of the blogger in order to win his lawsuit.

"Actual malice represents an extremely high bar for plaintiffs to overcome. In essence, they must prove the defendant knew or should have known that the published statement was false. For a plaintiff required to prove actual malice, the chances of success are extremely slim," Sanders says.

The plaintiff has raised the issue that the defendant in the case is not a traditional journalist, and that for some reason that should take him outside the protection of the First Amendment.

"Further, the courts have been extremely protective of free speech on the Internet. I find it difficult to believe the blogger won't prevail in this case. Cases such as this one cost time and money on the part of both parties to litigate."

"The increase in technology and new forms of mass communication all but ensure these types of cases will continue to crop up. As more individuals have the opportunity to have their voices heard, it's not hard to believe more people will take offense to certain types of speech."

To schedule an interview with Sanders, contact Jeff Falk, jfalk@umn.edu or (612) 626-1720. Contact Sanders directly at (612) 624-2438 or at sandersa@umn.edu.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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This page contains a single entry by sjmcblog published on March 10, 2011 8:50 AM.

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