Court of Appeals says bloggers may enjoy same free speech protections as journalists
Ruling means means blogger will get retrial
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled today that a blogger should enjoy the same free speech protections as a journalist, and ruled that the blogger, Crystal Cox, deserved a retrial on her defamation case.
“As the Supreme Court has accurately warned,” the court said, “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,'” said the court, citing the Citizens United case (PDF).
“Because Cox’s blog post addressed a matter of public concern… the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find Cox liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently.”
The case at the center of the ruling involved the blogger Crystal Cox who wrote accusing a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud. A lower court ruled that because Cox failed to provide evidence that she was a journalist that she was not protected in the same way a reporter would be – that is, the person would have to prove that the author knowingly knew the information was false when it was published.
The court ruling was not a complete victory for Cox, however. The rejected claims that the trustee and Obsidian were public officials because they received compensation, a claim she raised in her appeal. “They are not rendered public officials by virtue of that compensation, any more than is an expert witness compensated by the estate,” the court said.