How to avoid being sued
April 4, 2009 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Guide for Bloggers and Non-Profit Organizations About Writing With Libel in Mind

A layman's guide to the current state of libel law, presented by Public Citizen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I want to make a joke here, but I don't want to increase my exposure to litigation.

nice post
posted by double block and bleed at 6:13 PM on April 4, 2009

You better not! I know a lawyer!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:58 PM on April 4, 2009

One principle: tell the truth and back it up.
posted by Maias at 8:03 PM on April 4, 2009

Actually, two. The second principle is that under the First Amendment, opinions are protected speech. But only if it's clear to the reader that it is an opinion.

"I think you're an SOB" is protected speech.
"You are an SOB" may not be; it depends on the context.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:35 PM on April 4, 2009

"Writing With Libel in Mind" but it's not a guide to committing libel? That's no fun.
posted by XMLicious at 10:39 PM on April 4, 2009

Australian bloggers might want to check out Skeptic Lawyer's guide to defamation law for bloggers
posted by girlgenius at 3:49 AM on April 5, 2009

Chocolate Pickle: "I think you're an SOB" is protected speech. "You are an SOB" may not be; it depends on the context."

Well, because no dog has ever actually given birth to a human, calling somebody an "SOB" has always constituted opinion, i.e. protected speech. But perhaps it is more important to remember that libel is a tort of public perception*--it constitutes vandalism to a person's reputation. The term "SOB" connotes (in our culture, and at this time) a negative, but imprecise, insult that cannot be proven "true" or "false." Exchange "SOB" for thief (or prostitute, counterfeiter, child molester, drug addict, etc.) and Chocolate Pickle's statement becomes more accurate.

[*For example, the homophobic epithet "fairy"--which, like "SOB," is not taken literally by the public to mean "a benevolent winged spirit"--has, in previous decades, constituted libel when used to define a heterosexual man.]
posted by applemeat at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2009

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