Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you
want legal advice, see a lawyer, not me . . .
For people old enough to remember the days before the Internet,
the rules for Libel were quite clear. If you wrote a letter to
the editor, it was carefully fact-checked and vetted by the
Why? A person is
responsible for what they publish, and
the newspaper is held responsible for publishing the libel, even if
they did not write it themselves.
IANAL, but the case law is crystal clear is clear that anonymous
blog commenter's are responsible for what they write, and in some
case this also extends to the owner/operator of the blog.
Today, it looks like blogger are being held to the same standards,
and rightfully so. In the past, unscrupulous bloggers would
self-publish libelous blog comments anonymously and hope that the
courts do not order that the blogger disclose the identity of a blog
But Internet law is evolving, and it’s now clear
bloggers who moderate the blog comments are responsible for what people publish on their blogs,
just as newspapers are responsible for what they allow people to
publish in letters to the editor. It's still a shady area, but
the case law I have read indicates that if a blog owner or web site
owner participates in comments, or takes an active role in editing comments, then they are not
immunized by section 230 of the DMCA.
The media may be different,
but essentially a newspaper publisher and a blog publisher have the
same duty not to facilitate unlawful activity. In sum,
bloggers are considered publishers.
Finding an anonymous blog commenter’s true
There are many pitfalls in disclosing the true identity of a blog
commenter, and see my notes on
anonymous blog commenter’s true identity.
Note: As a former
database administrator for Lawyers Coop (ALR, AmJur), Shepards and
Bancroft Whitney, I know that the case law changed constantly.
If you are planning to cite a judgment relating to Internet Law,
make sure to have your attorney Shepardize each cite and check the
Bancroft-Whitney latest case service to insure that it is still
valid case law.
For more details on blogger rights and responsibilities, see my
related notes on: