By Alicia Dorr in Miscellaneous on Aug 27, 2007 6:27PM
Everyone knows the Internet can be a nasty place. From bloggers who bore their readers and wage war on grammar to commenters who spend their entire day viciously tearing others to shreds under pseudonyms, most of the opinions being touted aren’t always taken seriously. But how will this lovably effed up relationship evolve if the legal stakes are raised?
We’re interested to see what will happen with the suit brought against an anonymous blogger in by two attorneys. Burt Odelson and Mark Sterk weren’t just a little peeved when “John Doe,” the name listed for the creator of the Proviso Insider, wrote of their "imminent" indictment. The lawyers are charging that a post on the blog, which provides information and commentary on political issues that affect Proviso township, went too far.
At issue is a July 19th post asking “Will Odelson & Sterk be Indicted Next??” The two men are arguing that it is one thing to call them names or criticize them, but it is different to finger either of them, in Odelson’s words, as a “crook.” The two will seek damages in Cook County Court from a creator who has yet to be found. The domain is not registered to anyone, and the Blogger profile only says that the creator(s?) was raised in Forest Park and likes Mary Poppins.
Legal precendent for libel as far as blogs go is complex and fairly new. There have been cases on both sides of the fence but, basically, bloggers can be held libel just like any other publisher. While blogs have the same protections under the Constitution as other media, they may also be held to the same standards. Then again, it’s possible that they are not.
So, how will they find this person? If a writer for the blog is found, could he or she claim to be a regular writer for the blog, but not the publisher? The words the writer used could certainly be construed as libelous, but how will a judge rule on what some might still consider one opinion? What are your thoughts on blog libel?