SwampBubbles Sued?

From the Toledo Blade: The principal of Leverette Junior High School filed a complaint in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday demanding information about a Web site that he claims has been posting items that are "false and defamatory."

According to the complaint, postings were written by at least three unnamed people in response to a story about a Leverette school employee charged with assaulting a student.

Can he sue for someone opinions?

Your rating: None Average: 2.9 (116 votes)

I remember that thread - and it sounded to me, that the people who posted those comments were employees (teachers) at Leverette, and they all seemed to agree with each other, as to names, dates, events, situations, etc. with witnesses. I got the impression they all were afraid of being fired for saying anything (something like the Oregon police officers) - but a court room would maybe allow them to voice their complaints against this principal with some protection? This principal may not even want to GO there, because it will be made MORE public - and I got the sense that these people could back up what they accused him of. At any rate, I thought that public blogs were just that - public blogs - and this principal would be hard pressed (I think) to prove defamation if in fact, the statements had any truth to them at all. (seems lots of Leverette employees/teachers knew about all this for quite some time). If I recall, there was only one poster who defended the principal - and the consensus from the teachers who worked there, was that she was one of the principals "lady friends". I don't know what the law is about forcing a blog owner to release the identity of it's posters, when the whole point of choosing a user ID was to be annonymous. I say Chris should stand firm & say "NO". If this principal can get a court order for something like this, it will open the floodgates to all blogs to be sued. I think Mayor Marge Brown demanded that the city attorney sue the owner of the margebrown.com site & demanded it be shut down. If I remember right, the city attorney told her that it can't be done - because it's a public forum for opinions.

Glass City Jungle has a pretty good discussion of this issue -

In her comments, Lisa includes this from Swampbubbles.

Teacher
Submitted by chrismyers on Wed, 2007-11-21 20:01.

If you are actually a teacher, that is a horrible/nasty rumor you are putting out there and don't think you are immune just because you are hiding behind a screen name. Plus you give yourself no credibility by not saying who you are. I don't know the principal personally but I respect what he does and has done there unlike this post from you. You better invest in a lawyer if you continue to do this type of stuff. If it is not true, he has a perfect case for libel/defamation against you.

http://swampbubbles.com/toledo-public-schools-employee-charged-sexually-...

Lisa also makes this statement:

"The reality is though, that the only way Steven Riddle can sue the anonymous poster is for them to either a) admit they were the ones who posted or b) for Chris Myers to turn over his records for Swamp Bubbles. Since Swamp Bubbles is a community forum as opposed to an individual blog, anyone who registers can create a sign in name and be able to immediately post whatever they want on the front page. It is stated in the about."

This is an interesting conundrum for Chris since he has stated that this is "a perfect case for libel/defamation against you".

To those of you who post anonymously, unless you take precautions your IP address can be traced back to you very easily - sort of a digital fingerprint. While Swampbubbles does not have a great deal of personal information, there is probably enough information along with the IP address to find you should a court order it be provided.

I think the best advice is to be careful what you write even if you are posting anonymously! While it may be tempting to "go after" someone, be careful unless you have the evidence to prove your point.

It can always come back to bite you in the ass.............LOL I hope those posters are found and charged. They talked some smack and now it will pay out properly. I wish the teacher at Rogers could have done so to.

As long as the poster phrases his/her comments to be simply their opinions, or includes words like "I heard he did...", etc. rather than "He did...", I would imagine that would protect the poster, where it'd simply fall under 'hearsay' or 'personal opinion'. This is still a somewhat free country , where people should be able to say what they think. It takes a lot more than calling somebody a nasty name, or saying 'I heard that so & so did this & such" to get a court order to obtain identiies. IF it were that easy to sue for defamation, I'd imagine the courts would be backlogged with blog cases. Also, the best defense is the truth - IF the comments about Riddle are true, or can be proven to be true (public record, witnesses) - then he hasn't got a case. IF my sister was a crackhead prostitute (she's not), and somebody referred to her as being a crackhead prostitute, she couldn't really sue over it, if she IS one. Ergo, IF Riddle had affairs on the job & DID whatever else people said he did, then he'd be hard pressed to win this in court. I guess he'd have to prove he did not do the deeds, or the posters have to prove he did do the deeds - and if I remember that thread right,there seemed to be several posters who said the same things about him, times, dates, events, names, etc. - provable information.

There's a good side to blogging?

SwampBubbles cannot be successfully sued for defamation for merely allowing commentary.

I do believe that included in the Communications Decency Act in the 1990s, there is a provision that EXPRESSLY insulates site hosts from such legal actions, as long as the basics are covered. One of the primary insulators is the lack of editorial control. In other words, as soon as Mr Myers starts playing editor with commentary on the site, he opens himself up to litigation for said commentary.

Since in contrast My Myers has been a responsible site host, there's simply no way to sue him for defamation. Such lawsuits must be targeted against the alleged defaming poster himself.

HOWEVER, that has nothing to do with issuing upon a subpoena for any and all records that the site host keeps concerning these posters. My Myers obviously keeps each person's registration information ... which we all know about, since we had to submit such information in order to use the site. BUT, even that seems specious for obtaining in order to ascertain a real identity. What is really key here is if the site host keeps a log of IP addresses from posters.

The same CDA, among other acts, might or might not require site hosts to keep such IP records. I'm thinking that it's likely that they don't, however. In my experience, site hosts don't seem to be IP hounds for legal reasons. So, a subpoena may not even work, since Mr Myers may not keep the IP records of his visitors. (Jr over at ToledoTalk does, since he's mentioned tracking people by their IP addresses.)

With an IP address and a date and time, then it's legally and technically simple to find the Internet Service Provider that was using that address at the time, and then ANOTHER subpoena has to be issued to obtain THEIR records as to which of their customers was using it at the time.

And then? Well, you'd have a bona fide person at that point, BUT you'd still need to prove that the owner of the ISP account was indeed the person who actually posted the allegedly defamatory message. In this day and age of wifi and wardriving, that may be hard as heck to prove if your target is just a little bit crafty. Devious, even. I can think of how easily you can just setup your wifi-enabled laptop to use your home network, so you can surf-and-defame like anyone can who wardrives your network from the outside. So, if any legal paperwork comes your way, you can just submit records of your network's accesses, showing that -- oh gosh! -- some evildoer was using your wifi from outside your home on that day!

Yea, the legal waters get muddy, and they swirl, and they swirl.

I would not make this case a constitutional case. Every case is different, and the complaint merit will need to be weighed. I don't think people have a problem with opinions on that thread; it was what was passed as fact which is the problem. What you don't see is what was edited out, but those who know the thread know what was edited out. That is the problem. There is a difference between commentary and opinion vs. personal attacks. And this is what it boils down to. There is a new development in the complaint which has caused me concern and was a surprise to me which is causing the most thought. I will let you know what the decision will be once things clear up.

But remember, just because you log on it does not mean you log off from your responsibilities.

GZ said...One of the primary insulators is the lack of editorial control. In other words, as soon as Mr Myers starts playing editor with commentary on the site, he opens himself up to litigation for said commentary.
Since in contrast My Myers has been a responsible site host, there's simply no way to sue him for defamation.

Chris said...What you don't see is what was edited out, but those who know the thread know what was edited out.

It is evident from the orignal posting...

This is truly sad but even more sad and even more bad is the terrible Principal at (admin edit) . It has been a known fact for almost 2 years that the (admin edit) has...

... that the comment was indeed edited by the admin. So, if what GZ states is true, Chris may be liable. I hope not as I always appreciate the straight talk here at SB. Sometimes it may be controversial, sometimes I may not agree, Sometimes I may get PO'd, Sometimes I have been attacked for my beliefs, Sometimes I have attacked others. But the site has always been an outlet to express true feelings and encourages others to see things from a different perspective.

I hope this law suit does not bring the demise of Swamp Bubbles.

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth. ~Japanese Proverb

KraZyKat, I don't think you have to worry about the demise. Editing may have caused problems before Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was created. After this section was added to the CDA, it does immunize Web site operators where the content is user generated, because it wanted to give Web site operators the ability to edit without having to face suit. But it does not prevent someone from going after someone when they feel they have a strong defamation case, it does not also mean that people won't try to do it when they don't have a strong case, which is why the response to every case and situation will be weighed.

If you want to learn about defamation on the Internet and what your rights are, see the Chilling Effects defamation FAQ:
http://www.chillingeffects.org/defamation/faq.cgi

Or the EFF blogger defamation site:
http://w2.eff.org/bloggers/lg/faq-defamation.php

You can also read about Section 230 at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communications_Decency_Act

I may have to actually ask 13abc for a copy of the complaint. As of this hour I have not seen it. I saw they had a copy.

So basically, the current incarnation of the CDA (i.e. that which survived court testing) implies that you can perform administrative deletions under your own schedule without liability?

There is no way to win a suit like this. First, it is an opinion. And anyones opinions are protected speech! It is just that simple. BUT, if you KNOW something not to be true for a fact and you still say it or post it as TRUE, to harm or defame, then there could be a problem. BUT, then still the harmed party must have damages and will have to prove such.

Chilling Effects and EFF FAQ. It can happen if the claims are not true. There is a difference between opinion and passing false information as fact. Know your rights and responsibilities.

Very correct for a defamation/libel case there must be damage done which is hard to prove also they must prove malice as well which is equally hard to prove. In cases like these truth matters very little. I could post something that I know to be true that it turns out it isn't true yet still be free of defamation because of lack of malice. Even a reaction to the untrue posting could be free of malice because it is essentially an opinion of the untrue event as if it were true.

Good luck to those with the lawsuit (on both sides) because what you're basically doing is pissing your money away. Very little satisfaction is ever realized on either side in these cases. You'd be better off putting your hard earned money in a briefcase and dumping it into Lake Erie because at least you get a scenic boat ride.

And an IP address isn't exactly a finger print. Just because someone owns an IP doesn't make them the poster. If the anonymous sources posted from the library are you going to sue the library for the comments?

Lesson learned: If you're going to post libel do it at a public IP.

MikeyA

MikeyA

When did you pass the bar? For that matter, when did you pass English 101? How much did it cost you?

Mad Jack
Mad Jack's Shack

Nice call, MadJack. My thoughts exactly.

BTW the following is my opinion and satire and contains known no facts therein:

The principal of Leverette is a douche bag!

MikeyA

MikeyA

I heard it on the radio this afternoon. That is all; please do not sue me.

:-}

http://historymike.blogspot.com/

In my opinion, if Chris is an LSU fan, that is reason enough to sue him or any website he is associated with.

kidding

is in the mail :)

oy

Say it ain't so Chris!

See what you have done HistoryMike? :)

On a personal note, when you become involved in it you get worried about many things (such as what do you do or what if you respond the wrong way etc.). Met with the lawyer today and I feel much more relaxed.

Dorsey gets it done
FOXSports.com's Chris Myers talks with Glenn Dorsey after LSU's 38-24 win over Ohio State. Dorsey had six tackles, a sack and forced a fumble in his first BCS Championship :

video: http://msn.foxsports.com/other/story/7513062?gt1=10838

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth. ~Japanese Proverb

TPS, Web sites, yes I do it all.

Just an update: I filed for an extension of time so I will have 28 more days to respond. It appears the court is going to have to make a decision on what to do because one of the users are exercising their rights, which is fine with me I just don't like being caught in the middle. I imagine if the complaint continues, that another extension will not be filed and that something will need to be decided in that time frame.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.