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The term "slander" refers to defamation of character that is spoken, whereas the term "libel" refers to the written word

By Tarus Balog
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Having been on the Internet for a very long time (I was a geeky child and in many ways still am) it's always interesting to watch how people react to some of the unpleasant things this wonderful technology brings into our life.

As with most things modern, when people feel wronged they tend to, or at least think about, using the courts for satisfaction.

If you decide to do this, please look like you did your homework and use the proper terms. The term "slander" refers to defamation of character that is spoken, whereas the term "libel" refers to the written word.

So, you can't slander anyone on the chatlist unless you are reading it aloud down at Virlie's Grill.

As for bringing a suit against Gene, good luck. In traditional law, the publisher of libel is held to the same level of responsibility as the person who originally wrote it. In other words, if I write a false, defamatory statement and that statement is published in, say, the News and Observer, then the News and Observer can be held accountable for liable.

However, I can't sue the paperboy who brings me the paper. He is merely a distributor.

The role of on-line services, such as the chatlist, was defined in a law called the Communications Decency Act, specifically section 230 [1]. Basically, it defines the service provider as a distributor. In fact, it is best for that provider if they don't edit anything they distribute, because depending on the amount of editing done that could move them into the realm of publisher.

Now, one of my complaints with Gene is the amount of editorial control he holds over this list. However, it's His list, his rules, and no one seemed interested when I created a competing list a few years ago (sniff). However:

"Courts have consistently held that exercising traditional editorial functions over user-submitted content, such as deciding whether to publish, remove, or edit material, is immunized under Section 230" so it looks like Gene is well within his rights to decide not to publish a post. As long as he is not significantly involved in the creation of the content he posts on this list, he is immune from defamation suits.

This doesn't protect the authors of posts, I should point out, but in the Internets there is a term called "Don't Feed the Trolls" [2]. The best way to kill a angry thread is to ignore it.

[1] http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/immunity-online-publishers-under-communications-decency-act
[2] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Don%27t_feed_the_Troll

 
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The term "slander" refers to defamation of character that is spoken, whereas the term "libel" refers to the written word
 
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