Friday, March 7, 2014

Bloggers and General Public Protected by First Amendment

First of all, to those who don't know, the Founding Fathers of the United States stated in Amendment 1: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The matter of "freedom of speech or of the press" has been challenged ever since. Questions such as who qualify as "journalists" crop up - do writers for small periodicals count, for instance. 

The advent of the internet  has raised more questions, since now just about anyone can use social media outlets to voice their opinions. 

The question of "Freedom of press" was challenged recently in a case involving blogger Crystal Cox and Obsidian Finance Group. In the first legal round Cox lost in the defamation case (in her blog, she accused a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud). The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, however ruled that bloggers and the general public are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as traditional journalists in cases of alleged defamation. The panel wrote:

"The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story.”
“As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: ‘With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media…the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.’ Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352. In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue—not the identity of the speaker—provide the First Amendment touchstones,” the court added.
The justices determined that Cox’s blog post “addressed a matter of public concern, and the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find the blogger liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently.” from AllGov and from Bloggers, public have First Amendment protection - US Courts, January 18, 2014
"The protections of the 1st Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities," Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote for a three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Certainly, in this day and age when the internet is rampantly used by many to scam people, it is for the protection of the public to have bloggers and others acting as watchdogs. 

Read also

tags: law, ruling, freedom of speech, freedom of press, bloggers, Cox, legal, First Amendment
This is all for now,

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