Free speech on the Internet versus defamation

About a month and a half ago, the California Supreme Court ruled on a case in such a way that I’m conflicted about. As anyone who’s read this blog knows, I’m very much an advocate of free speech and the First Amendment. The case is Barrett vs. Rosenthal, and it involves the question of whether the reposting on the Internet of material written by someone else can be defamatory. In brief, it involves the question of whether the reposting on Usenet of an opinion by someone else, as the defendant Ilena Rosenthal (a notorious “breast implant activist” and die-hard altie) did, can result in liability for defamation. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, meaning that Internet users and Internet service providers cannot be held liable for posting defamatory material written by someone else.

The ruling has disturbing implications in that it allows an easy means of defamation simply by reposting material written by someone else. Free Speaker over at a new blog Unchilled Speech has the lowdown of what this may mean to Internet users and to bloggers like myself. He also promises more commentary on such issues in the future.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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