21st Century Media.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
  Trouble on the horizon?
I've been struggling for the past week to actually find any good material to blog about. I found something that seemed worthwhile today.

According to CNN.com, a victory has just been won for electronic speech. The California Supreme Court ruled that web sites cannot be sued for libel, following a case where a woman posted allegedly libelous emails concerning two doctors. The ruling determines that people can only sue the original sources for libel, not the sites that publish the material.

This, to me, is both good and bad news. It's a victory for eBay, Google, Yahoo and several other sites that backed the defendant, afraid that if the defendant were to lose, they would be held liable. This means, also, that Google and Co. are not going to have to watch their backs. It also means a lot more inaccurate crap can float around on the internet and no one has to answer for it. Strange implications....
No, it doesn't mean that there will be more inaccurate statements on the web. It means that lawyers have to go after the actual person who made the remarks -- which isn't nearly as attractive as suing Google and publishers, who have deeper pockets.

For instance, if I made a libelous remark right here in your comments section, under the old law, someone could sue you, and potentially, Google, who owns Blogger. Now, they can only sue the person who made the remarks.

Let's imagine the old law stood, and multimillion dollar suits started rolling in against Google -- and they started putting filters that didn't let you write certain words, or link to certain sites on your blog, to protect themselves from suits? That would be perfectly legal for them to do, since the first amendment restricts the government from abridging your freedom of speech -- private companies can censor you all they want if you are using resources they built on their dime.

And it would be hard to get away from, too -- because such suits would spread to ISPs. It could become difficult to find a web hosting company that wouldn't filter you.
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