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Court rules blogger is not a journalist

Last week a federal judge ruled a blogger, Crystal Cox, was not a journalist and not subject to first amendment protections. I haven’t been following the case very closely, but was a little concerned about the precedent and the liability for people like me who blog.

Reading some of the articles on the case, though, I’m less worried. This isn’t a blogger making some statements. Instead, Ms. Cox acted more like a stalker and harasser than a reporter. The judge even concluded that had she been granted protection as a journalist it was unlikely she could prevail as there was little factual basis for her statements.

Others have done better summaries of the case and the effect and I encourage everyone to read them.

Seattle Weekly
New York Times
Ars Technica
Forbes

I also discourage folks from applying this ruling to all bloggers. It’s not clear she was doing anything journalistic. I did find it interesting that some of her techniques to ruin the lawyer’s search results were defined as Search Engine Optimization. I’ve long thought SEO was akin to spam: say something often enough in enough places and you start to dominate the conversation. Not because you have anything useful to say, but because no one can get an idea in otherwise.

1 comment

  1. Catherine Jefferson says

    *Nice* work. I’d followed this story from a distance, mostly because I long ago concluded that Crystal Cox was not somebody whose word I would take on any issue. :/ She rightly lost her case. IMHO that it cost Mr. Padrick money to sue her that he is unlikely to recover is itself an injustice, but at least this judgment should help clear his name.

    Fortunately nobody who knows the law and the facts of this case is likely to worry that it will negatively impact blogger journalists. Freedom of speech is a right not just of journalists but everybody. Truth is a defense against claims of slander (in most cases) and libel (across the board) not just for journalists but for everybody. As best I can tell, the major advantage to being deemed a journalist under law is that you often get the right to keep confidential sources confidential. That can be important, but it isn’t as important as the others.

    I, for one, wouldn’t want the system not to protect truth — whether “truth” is on the side of a journalist, a blogger who might or might not qualify as a journalist, or the defendant in a libel suit against either of those.

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