I know in my 9 years of blogging I have taken down about a dozen articles based on the request of the people I was talking about in the article. I generally complied, there are only a few instances of when I did not comply, and usually that fell under what I thought was the chilling of free speech and dully filed the case with the chilling effects clearing house. I know I have heavily edited or redacted statements over the years as well. I have even taken down comments at the request of the commenter years after the comment was made.
This week an Oregon blogger was fined 2.5 million dollars for defamation against an investment firm. While she wanted to be considered an investigative journalist, and be protected under the shield laws from revealing her sources, the fact that she did not reveal the source means that she takes the fine. While a larger news organization would have been able to fight this, and used the idea that they are established journalists, this blogger did not make the case, and got the fine.
I don’t consider this chilling of free speech, rather I consider this more of a note of caution about what we write and where we write it. There are always limits, and no matter how refined or defined it is difficult to get anyone to see a blogger outside of certain fields as a journalist.
Blogging has significantly improved my career, it has improved my writing, and it has opened the doors to some amazingly interesting and fun situations.
However, if we are not shielded under the media shield law it means we need to step back and revisit what we write, why we write, and the challenges we face as bloggers. There is always someone who is going to be very angry about what we wrote, and I often get called an amazing plethora of names, and have even had to go so far as to get a court order to keep stalkers at bay because of some of the things I have written over the years.
This means we have to take what we say with a bit more circumcision, and much like the many sites that have been taken down in the past for being a blogging site, or because they are leaking inside information, we have to be careful. We might no longer have any chance of getting media shield laws on our side, at least in Oregon, and at least with an investment firm where she claims she was getting inside information and releasing it.
It is an interesting case and something that all bloggers should be aware of, so that in the future we at least know some of the rulings that we need to pay attention to.
- Bloggers Beware: Lessons from the Crystal Cox Case (undeniableruth.com)
- Oregon Defamation Decision Could Chill Free Speech (eff.org)
- Is a blogger a journalist? Not in Oregon (chicagoreader.com)
Blog, Crystal Cox, Defamation, Freedom of speech, Investigative journalism, Oregon, Reporters' privilege, Shield laws in the United States