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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora