Once More Into the Breach

Finding Nonsense and Beating it Sensible

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I used to watch TV news and yell at the box. Now I jump up from the couch, sit at the computer and begin to type laughing maniacally saying "Wait until they read this." It's more fun than squashing tadpoles

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Websites not Liable in Third-party Postings

As much as I rely on the internet for information and as valuable a tool that it is I still have to make sure of the information is accurate. The internet is the ultimate gossip medium. Anyone with computer skill and a connection can say anything about anybody at anytime for any reason. The fake National Guard discharge document used against George Bush in 2004 is a perfect example.
Even the most careful can make a mistake which is why this ruling from the California Supreme Court is important.

Websites that publish inflammatory information written by other parties cannot be sued for libel, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday...

...In reversing an appellate court's decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source.

"The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," Associate Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. "Nevertheless ... statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended."

The person responsible for the original libelous statement is still open for a lawsuit as should be the case. Simply repeating that statement does not place one in danger of such a suit which is also as it should be. Repeating such nonsense without verification may seem like a good idea at the time but eventually the truth will out and those with sloppy fact checking such as the NYT will just look foolish. As it should be.

So the tinfoil hat crowd is safe, the rest of us must strive to make every effort to know the facts and if one finds one has made a mistake one should be quick to admit it and set the record straight.


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