The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals has ruled that bloggers enjoy the same journalistic protections as traditional print and broadcast media when commenting on matters of public concern. Financial blogger Crystal Cox now won’t have to pay a $2.5 million jury award to an Oregon attorney and his financial services firm, whom she had accused of fraud and money laundering. Why does this First Amendment victory for a finance blogger matter to the future of the Second Amendment? . . .
Because up until now there was no clear rule on which legal standard should apply when bloggers and other new media were sued for vague ‘presumed damages’ for defamation. Should the plaintiff have to prove merely that the blogger’s statements were factually incorrect and harmed their reputation? Or should the plaintiff have to prove that the blogger acted with negligence (no fact-checking or verification) or malice (let’s screw the bastards!) in making the false and defamatory statements?
The 9th Circuit ruled that bloggers are treated as full journalists for purposes of defamation laws. Because the court found that Crystal Cox was blogging (even if extremely inaccurately) about a matter of ‘public concern’, she should have been treated just like any other journalist. Journalists cannot be liable for defamation unless the plaintiff proves that they acted with negligence when speaking about a private figure, or with malice when speaking about a public figure.
This case makes it clear that when bloggers like TTAG report on matters of public concern like gun control, they can’t be silenced by lawsuits from pissed-off plaintiffs unless they prove the bloggers were more than just wrong. They have to prove negligence or malice, just as though they were suing Rachel Maddow or Piers Morgan.
In the end this is likely to be a bigger win for the 2A crowd than it will be for the anti-2A crowd. Why? Because while Gun-Toting Hypocrite Dianne Feinstein and Billionaire Mike Bloomberg have CNN and MSNBC in their pockets, bloggers and New Media are about the only media that supports the Second Amendment. It’s a good thing that we’ll be treated the same from here on out.
Cox was represented on appeal by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who happens to be a blogger himself. His blog The Volokh Conspiracy is an outstanding legal resource for defenders of liberty in all its forms. Notable pro-2A law professor David Kopel also blogs for Volokh, as well as running his own Law And Liberty blog.
If you care about liberty and you don’t bookmark these two blogs already, it’s time to start.
Source: Volokh Conspiracy.