I skimmed through an article in today's paper about an upturn in people getting sued over things they wrote online in blogs or in comments on blogs. Not that I am a fan of frivolous lawsuits, but professional writers are held accountable for what they write, so its about time the amateurs stopped assuming free speech means they have license to spout hate and lies without consequences.
I know I've been guilty of criticizing things in my blog, but I have always tried to draw the line at not making personal attacks on any individual or group. And I always emphasize that any of my criticism is my opinion based on my experience.
It surprises me that it has taken this long for the legal system to venture into the online libel world. I know that I did a great deal of research into what could be done to get damaging blogs removed from the Web a year or so back. And the harsh truth was that you could do very little. Blogger doesn't censor or get involved with disputes over content. You can complain to someone's Internet provider, but that is basically useless, too, unless you can prove someone is committing a crime. And up until now, there seemed to be very little libel law that could be applied to the Web.
Not being a lawyer, I am assuming there still aren't laws that prevent damaging crap to be posted on the Web. From the article I read, most of the law suits seem to be filed in civil courts. And the average person can't afford to file a suit against someone because of a blog. So even though lawsuits are being brought against a few abusers, I bet there are millions of other bloggers out there getting away with verbal murder.
I doubt whether new laws would be effective policing the Web, but I do think the entities hosting blogs should have higher standards and rules of conduct for people who use their services. Blogger shouldn't just ignore abuse, it should investigate complaints and bar the abusers.
On a totally unrelated and random note, Hawaii the 50th state on August 21, 1959 and just celebrated its 51st year of being a state. That makes me older than bubble wrap, which turned 50 last year, and the state of Hawaii.
Now that is a crime.