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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.