News / USA

Gossip Case Could 'Chill' Internet Speech, Say Tech Giants

Sarah Jones, then a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader, performs during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in this 2010 file photo.
Sarah Jones, then a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader, performs during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in this 2010 file photo.

Related Articles

Report: Snapchat Rejects $3 Billion Facebook Offer

Offer to purchase mobile messaging start-up reportedly came on heels of data showing declining numbers of teens using social network

Male-heavy Boards Dominate Tech Start-ups

Twitter, Google and Facebook all went public without a woman on the board, but are now more diverse

Google Quietly Amassing Robotic Know-How

But, the tech giant has not said what it's plans are for the technology
VOA News
In a move that some of the biggest names on the Internet say could “significantly chill online speech,” a federal judge in Cincinnati is allowing a gossip website to be sued for defamation by a former American football cheerleader convicted of having sex with a teenager.

The ruling spurred Internet giants Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google to blast the decision, saying it would undermine a law passed by Congress in 1996 that provides broad immunity to websites and fosters free speech online.

The federal Communications Decency Act provided immunity from liability to websites for content posted by their users. The law also was designed to encourage websites to self-police offensive material.

"If websites are subject to liability for failing to remove third-party content whenever someone objects, they will be subject to the 'heckler's veto,' giving anyone who complains unfettered power to censor speech," according to briefs filed last month by lawyers for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Gawker and BuzzFeed, among others.

The case began in December of 2012 when former professional football league cheerleader Sarah Jones, also a former high school teacher, sued the website, The Dirty, for posting stories about her sexual history. One post alleged she had sex with members of the football team. Jones argued the posts were untrue and caused her mental anguish and embarrassment.

The website is a gossip site mostly about sex, celebrities, promiscuity and plastic surgery. Users can submit content anonymously.

The owner of the website, Nik Richie, said the information about Jones was giving to him anonymously and argued that it was not his responsibility to check the accuracy. He said he simply added a comment about high school teachers and sex.

In July, a Kentucky judge allowed the suit to proceed and the jurors in the case found the posts were untrue and that Richie had acted with “malice or reckless disregard by publishing them.” The jury awarded Jones $338,000.

Richie is asking the federal court to find that the case should never have been allowed to proceed.  Oral arguments should start early next year with a verdict expected in the summer.

The posts in question were made prior to Jones being charged with having sex with a minor. Last year she pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a former student. Jones and the student, who was then 17, are still together and say they’re engaged to get married.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ami0 from: USA
December 09, 2013 11:10 PM
Typically web sites that accept postings from contributors will explicitly prohibit posts that constitute an 'attack' on a person; typically described in an acceptable use policy for the site. Pretty standard on the web.

To host a site with content devoted exclusively to postings that are comments `about` people for the entertainment of their readers is silly.

Free speech is important, and a persons right to be free from unfair attacks is important.

So, what should the Judge do... protect that businesses right to line it's pockets by publicizing attacks on people, or protect the rights of people affected by the published attacks...

I hope the person wins. This isn't a free speech issue; it's a lack of good judgement issue.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid