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Ninth Circuit Rules In Favor of Bloggers and Citizen Journalists
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The Court of Appeals for the 9th U.S. Circuit has created a precedent in partly reversing a lower court’s judgment in a defamation suit. It held that in defamation suits, bloggers and citizen journalists are at par with the professional journalists. The legal standards for judging their actions should be the same in relation to the First Amendment.

While the lower court had awarded damages to a bankruptcy trustee on a defamation claim against an Internet blogger, the 9th Circuit disagreed. The summary of the judgment mentions: The panel held that Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc (1974) “is not limited to cases with institutional media defendants. The cited Supreme Court precedent had held that the First Amendment required only a negligence standard for private defamatory actions.”

  
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The summary observed, “The blog post at issue addressed a matter of public concern, and the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find the blogger liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently.”

The court also pointed out that a bankruptcy trustee did not become a public official “simply by virtue of court appointment, or by receiving compensation from the court.” Following its reasoning the 9th Circuit remanded the matter to the lower court for a new trial concerning the blog post at issue, while affirming the district court’s summary judgment on the other blog posts that were deemed constitutionally protected opinions.

The 9th Circuit’s opinion mentioned succinctly in the introduction, “This case requires us to address a question of first impression: What First Amendment protections are afforded for a blogger sued for defamation? We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages.”

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Summary:

The Court of Appeals for the 9th U.S. Circuit has created a precedent in partly reversing a lower court’s judgment in a defamation suit, which held that the bloggers and citizen journalists are at par with the professional journalists. The 9th Circuit further said that the liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages.





 

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