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Bloggers not liable for content published in comments

October 14, 2006

The blogosphere continues to be abuzz about the jury award arising out of a women calling another a crook on an online message board. Bloggers are overly fretting that they are going to be the next be sued.

One thing to clear up. Bloggers are not liable for comments made by third parties on their blog. This from the Washington Post article I mentioned this week.

Robert O’Neil, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, said the same principles of defamation more or less apply in both print and electronic media. However, Mr. O’Neil noted, there are some exceptions — for example, newspapers are liable for all published content, while bloggers and Web site operators are liable for only their own content and not that of those who post comments, he said.

And O’Neil adds cases like this one are going to be far new few between.

Still, ‘typically just name-calling, using nasty labels and epithets, such as ‘crook,’ would not be viewed as sufficiently factual in nature as to constitute defamation,’ Mr. O’Neil said. ‘Such pejorative terms are fairly freely and widely used in the informal environment which characterizes blogs, bulletin boards and message boards.’

And bear in mind, if you have a brain, your comments are going to be moderated anyway. Nothing close to defamatory is going to end up on your blog. Unless you choose to defame someone by flaming someone with one of your posts. But that’s why you can mark a post draft and think about it overnight.

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