The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, 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.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352. In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue — not the identity of the speaker — provide the First Amendment touchstones.
Nicely done, Prof. Volokh. I have a feeling this decision will be quoted as persuasive authority when we move to dismiss Brett Kimberlin’s frivolous claims against me. (You are aware that Brett Kimberlin has sued me, in an utterly frivolous set of claims — aren’t you? If not, Ken White has the definitive post. I could still use pro bono local counsel in Maryland, if anyone has any suggestions or contacts.)
UPDATE: Ken White from Popehat says (my characterization) that this defendant is a jerk (I’m putting it very mildly) and has given him fits in the past — but approves of the First Amendment protection.