Please Don’t Sue Me
It all starts with good intentions
So you decided to write a blog. After all, you like to travel, ride the great trails of beautiful New Zealand, and have so much to share. You jump onto WordPress.com, pick a cool name, an even cooler template, and you are ready to roll.
Your first blog will be on your last mountain bike adventure in the South Island. At first
the post describes your great adventure, the amazing scenery, the burning lungs when going up mountains, and the thrill of going downhill. Then you start to rant on the handling of your expensive bike by the airliner employees, the awful room at the motel, and the shuttle service which was late.
You post your blog entry online and proudly send the link to your parents and four of your best friends. Three days later the blog post is picked up by the biggest news outlet in the country and they publish a piece called “The holiday from hell”. Soon enough you receive angry phone calls from the motel manager and the shuttle operator. They both demand you to apologise or else…
What have I done you ask yourself? What did I get my self into? Can they sue me?
The rise of blogging
Sharing information on line in general and blogging in particular are relatively new. On line journals, which evolved from bulletin board systems and newsgroups, began to appear during 1990s (Sachs and McHaney 2016). Since then numerou
s blogging sites and systems have emerged.
The abundance of blogs in existence today, the volume of new blog posts, and the number of views are really astonishing. In February 2017, almost 77 million new posts were published on WordPress.com, one of the most popular blogging platforms. At that time user watched more then 22 billion webpages on this platform.
The volume and vast reach of blogs can turn them into very powerful and influential sources of information, news, and opinions. But with popularity also come risks and dangers. One of those dangers is being sued by people or organisations which see themselves harmed by posts.
Bloggers and the law
Bloggers can and are being sued over blog posts they write. In some cases individuals feel that their reputation has been tarnished. One of the most famous cases lately, is the defamation lawsuit of Melania Trump against the blogger Webster Tarpley and a few news outlets.
In other cases, organisations are suing bloggers over content they wish to block from the public view. In the US bloggers are being SLAPPed as a mean to pressure them to delete their posts or even pay compensations.
In the last few years, courts around the world had debated some fundamental principals
when needed to decide in these cases. One of the principals in debate is to what extent freedom of speech cover the work of the bloggers. Another fundamental question contested is whether bloggers are considered to be journalists and thus entitled to extended protection under the law. In a lawsuit against the blogger Cameron Slater, the New Zealand High Court had decided that bloggers can be defined as journalist.
Keeping bloggers safe
To keep bloggers out of trouble, several organisation have published guides for safe blogging. These guides offer information on liability laws, the rights of a blogger as a journalist, and other related issues. One such legal guide was created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Another way to protect bloggers is to use the power of the community. In some cases
where bloggers were sued for stating their opinion, the blogging community helped shaping the public opinion in favour of the defendants. Scorching posts like this one from the blog LibrarianShipwreck helped to mass pressure on suing organisations. With enough public outcry, organisations who try to intimidate bloggers are forced to retreat.
Blogging can be fun, it allows you to express yourself, and maybe even help you earn some money. However there are dangers associated with it, so keep safe!
- I am not lawyer or involved in the legal profession in any capacity.
- The material in this blog post should not be regarded as an advice on how to behave in the blogsphere.
- The story in the first section is completely fictional. I never had any issue with any motel, shuttle service, or airline company.
Please don’t sue me.
Sachs D., McHaney R. (2016), ‘Web 2.0 and Social Media, Business in a Connected World’.