On Thursday an appeals court heard arguments over whether a gossip website known as The Dirty, and based right here in Scottsdale, AZ, should be immune from a defamation lawsuit brought on by former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader, Sarah Jones. Remember her, the one that had sex with one of her students, to whom she's now engaged, but who was married at the time?
She sued the owner of The Dirty, Nik Richie, in December 2012 over posts about her and her ex-husband's sexual history. In July, a federal Judge ruled that Richie (owner of The Dirty) should not be granted immunity for posts that were substantially false and that Richie had acted with malice or reckless disregard by publishing them. The jury in that case awarded Jones $338,000.
In November, some of the Internets heaviest hitters said that if Judge Bertelsman's decision is upheld the case will "significantly chill online speech." Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Gawker and numerous other large internet company's had attorney's file briefs and reiterated the magnitude of the case. Their arguments centered on an FCC 1996 act known as the Federal Communications Decency Act, that gave websites immunity from liability for content posted by users.
The internet world is awaiting the ruling and think about the doors that'll be opened for lawsuits against "anonymous" posters to comments in threads. Think about being exposed as a sock puppet commenting or writing completely false and malicious comments. Can you say here come the lawsuits I know I've already paid my retainer to my attorney in anticipation of the ruling. Don't let this happen to you.
Alex Popovic is founder of Semper Find My Home an OIF/OEF veteran and Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Scout/Sniper.
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