Business Bloggers Liability for their Posts


February 15, 2010

I thought it made sense to start off this blog with a post about the risks of blogging itself. More and more businesses are using both blogs and social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and others) to expand their brand visibility and attract new customers. While there are numerous seminars to teach you how to use all this stuff to your advantage, there are a few legal points you need to keep in mind.

1050872_columns_and_sky.jpgThe 3rd Circuit (the appellate court for PA, NJ, DE, and the Virgin Islands) held a few years ago in Dimeo v Max that bloggers are not liable for comments other people post on their sites. Like everything in the law, there are exceptions, but the general rule is that unless you wrote it or had someone else write it on your behalf you're not responsible.

So the next question is, what about the stuff you write yourself? Blogs are supposed to be open exchanges of information, and the best of them often break news quickly. Does this mean as a blogger you are now a full fledged member of the media, entitled to source protection and back stage passes? Not according to a recent case in New Jersey. In Too Much Media v Hale, the defendant in a defamation case argued that she could protect her sources under NJ's press shield law. In a decision that relied more on an analysis of the facts of Ms. Hale's actions rather than a verdict against bloggers as a whole, the court found a distinction between her posts and those of someone in the business of disseminating news for the general public. While this is good news for companies who are the target of online smear campaigns, it raises some real questions about liability for those bloggers who regularly intersperse news with commentary.