Posts Tagged ‘bloggers and the law’

James Guckert threatens suit

Media Matters may have to rethink its apparent bias against litigation reform. They’ll have to spend some unnecessary money on lawyers if Jeff Gannon/James Guckert follows up on his claim that he’ll be suing the group (along with liberal bloggers) for the non-existent cause of action of “political assassination” for revealing his strange double-life. (Newsweek, Feb. 28).

OJR on web defamation

In an article in USC Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review, writer Mark Thompson examines some recent instances in which webloggers have been threatened with defamation actions on questionable grounds, such targets including Justene Adamec (Calblog) (see Jan. 22) and the pseudonymous “Atrios”. One source of jeopardy is courts’ penchant for narrowly construing statutes intended to protect press freedom: for example, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals refused to extend to the Internet a state law providing that newspapers and magazines cannot be sued for defamation until they’ve been given a chance to retract an item. Also mentions our commentary on the Luskin/Atrios case (see Oct. 30). (“Law Offers Internet Publishers Scant Guidance on Libel”, Jun. 16).

More weblogs threatened with lawsuits

The widely discussed Luskin/Atrios affair last fall (see Oct. 30) was just the start, it seems, as far as webloggers being menaced with litigation over their sites’ contents. In November Justene Adamec of CalBlog (Nov. 14) received a demand letter from a lawyer for a telemarketing firm “threatening to sue me and ‘my agents’ for invasion of privacy, misrepresentation and interference with economic relations” because of critical discussion about the firm in readers’ comments at the site. See also Damnum Absque Injuria, Nov. 9 and Nov. 14 and Right on the Left Beach, Nov. 15 and Nov. 17, which have useful information on the workings of this particular telemarketing firm/directory publisher, Infotel by name. And last month Michael Airhart at Ex-Gay Watch (Dec. 23) received a letter from LightHouse World Evangelism, Inc. located in Rohnert Park, Calif., threatening a defamation suit over a post in which Airhart expressed decided doubt about the medical claims made by Pastor Matthew C. Manning, who has appeared on Pat Robertson’s broadcast “700 Club” to say that he was healed by faith from HIV/AIDS.

Conspiracy to keep you scared and silent?

Economics commentator Donald Luskin, who operates a website entitled The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid, is known for his furious and unremitting attacks on New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman. So furious and unremitting have these attacks been as to raise the question of whether Luskin was actually daring Krugman to sue for defamation, as when Luskin declared on “Hannity and Colmes” Oct. 27 that Krugman “masquerades as an economic scientist” (whatever one thinks of his politics, Krugman is exceptionally well credentialed as an academic economist; by comparison, columnist Robert Novak let himself in for years of hard-fought litigation when he printed an assertion that Bertell Ollman, a much less well-known economic scholar, “has no status within the profession”). And two months ago Luskin alleged (“Lights-out economics”, National Review Online, Aug. 20) that a statement by Krugman about the Northeast electrical blackout was “one of the few truthful statements I can ever recall him uttering” — inevitably recalling, for defamation-law buffs, Mary McCarthy’s talk-show gibe at Lillian Hellman, which led to one of the American literary world’s most bitter and celebrated lawsuits: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”

Now, however, it seems that Luskin pictures himself appearing in court as a plaintiff rather than a defendant. Recently he was verbally savaged in the comments section of the left-wing anonyblog “Eschaton” ( and now attorney Jeffrey J. Upton, claiming to represent Luskin, has (“, scroll to Oct. 29) written to that site’s proprietor (“Atrios”) demanding that the entire comments section in question be taken down within 72 hours on pain of “further legal action”. The threat has provoked a widespread outcry in the blog world, with dozens of sites commenting since yesterday (examples: Mark A.R. Kleiman, Armed Liberal, David Neiwert, Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler). We don’t know how much money Luskin has made on Wall Street, but we would be nervous on behalf of his prospective targets if his pockets prove deep. More: Jack Balkin points out that courts have found website proprietors not liable for hosting outsiders’ libels in their comments section, which leaves us wondering all the more about what happened to AVWeb, above. Stuart Levine discusses possible homeowner’s insurance coverage. (& welcome Curmudgeonly Clerk readers) Update Nov. 5: dispute settled. (& letter to the editor Aug. 16, 2004).