Patterico's Pontifications


How Google Helps To Fuel Libel Litigation Over Internet Web Postings

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Law — Justin Levine @ 6:42 pm

[posted by Justin Levine] 

Jack Shafer has posted a thoughtful response to this column by New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt regarding the problems created by Internet search engines which can preserve unflattering news coverage about you (including matters that may be either true or untrue).

One key observation by Shafer –

One of the flaws in Hoyt’s thinking is his belief that one’s reputation is a possession—like a car or a tennis racket—when one’s reputation actually resides in the minds of others. A person can have as many reputations as people who know him or know of him. Positing that the top link in a Google search of a name equals somebody’s reputation is silly, and Hoyt’s column only encourages that notion.

Whether or not you tend to agree with Shafer’s position, I can tell you that Google is definitely driving much of the libel litigation stemming from Internet content in recent years. Many people won’t care if you print smack about them on some obscure niche website. But if that same website suddenly manages to hit on the first page under a Google search of a person’s name, that person is far more likely to try and take action against you in order to make you remove the content.

Naturally, there are a number of unwise plaintiffs who still sue over obscure websites with small niche audiences. Some such lawsuits then get attention by others in the blogosphere which paradoxically boosts their Google profile – making their situation far worse based on what they wanted to accomplish in the first place. But I suspect that class of potential libel plaintiffs are becoming an ever increasing minority. [Perhaps I merely hope it?].

But to illustrate my main point: One my past legal cases of blogger libel defense involved Google rankings as a key component in negotiations. Confidentiality agreements regrettably prevent me from going into too much detail here. However, I can state that part of the eventual settlement agreement involved allowing the website content to remain up, provided that the author went back and deliberately changed the spelling of the plaintiff’s name in the blog post such that it would eventually bypass the radar of Google and other major search engines. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this sort of thing applied more often in future cases.

[Update: “Schafer” corrected to “Shafer”. Who needs editors or spell check programs when you have helpful commentators instead?]

L.A. Times Ignores Terror Financing Trial

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Terrorism — Justin Levine @ 12:41 pm

[posted by Justin Levine] 

Add the L.A. Times to the long list of news outlets that have neglected to cover the largest terror financing trial in history and the CAIR connections that it has helped unearth. (If they have provided coverage to it, I must have missed it. But a search on their website doesn’t suggest that it has.)

I have admittedly criticized the L.A. Times in the past for concentrating too much on news out of Washington and international circles at the expense of more solid local coverage of Southern California which is desperately needed – so I don’t wish to seem hypocritical here. I just simply believe that there are already plenty of other papers that can provide adequate coverage of national politics and international affairs, but few consistent news outlets for the relatively important region of Southern California for those who actually live here. However, if the Times insists on trying to brand itself as a national paper, they could at least get on the ball with important stories like this one.

[Update:  A Times’ employee disputes the fact that they have ignored the trial. My response here.]

We need a Song

Filed under: Humor,Law,Music — DRJ @ 12:26 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Patterico’s Pontifications needs a theme song but it should be something better than the Nixon Peabody song.

Any suggestions?

Bruce Cutler Resigns From Phil Spector Defense Team

Filed under: Buffoons,Crime — Justin Levine @ 11:33 am

[posted by Justin Levine] 

After proclaiming that he was the only one on this Earth who could possibly free Phil Spector from his murder rap, attorney Bruce Cutler decided to skip the trial in order to concentrate on his reality TV show. But being the ever gracious guy that he is, he decided to pencil in some time to come back to perform the closing arguments on a trial that he wasn’t present at during the closing weeks.

Astonishingly enough, word now has it that Cutler has resigned from Spector’s defense team due to a “difference of opinion on strategy”. Who woulda thunk it?? I guess Spector is screwed now that his sole legal savior is gone.

We need to add attorneys resigning from cases due to “differences of opinion over legal strategy” to the same pantheon of standard media responses to poor behavior like “I intend to donate the proceeds to charity”, “I wish to spend more time with my family”, or “I will be voluntraily entering a treatment facility and would appreciate that you respect my privacy at this time” etc.  This one ranks right up with the “donating to charity” response in terms of its sheer lameness though.

(Any other traditional lame media responses that I am leaving out? Feel free to post them in the comments section.)

Beldar makes John Kerry an Offer too good to refuse

Filed under: 2004 Election,General,Law,Politics — DRJ @ 10:10 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

From yesterday’s BeldarBlog:

“Sen. Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts has a very unusual, extremely generous and pro-plaintiff three-year limitations period for defamation claims. Massachusetts’ three-year statute of limitations for defamation claims made it the very last feasible venue in which Sen. Kerry conceivably could file suit and gain his public vindication, if the SwiftVets’ allegations about him were false. Those claims were certainly, indeed deliberately, injurious to his reputation; his damages arguably include the loss of the 2004 presidential election, however that might be valued in dollars and cents; and if John Kerry could hope to find a home-town advantage anywhere, surely it would be there. But now he’s let the incredibly generous Massachusetts statute of limitations run out, too.

Beldar’s offer? It’s generous:


AG Alberto Gonzales resigns

Filed under: Current Events,Government — DRJ @ 9:17 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

From the New York Times, “embattled” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned:

“Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had “lived the American dream” by being able to lead the Justice Department.”

I’m not overly fond or critical of AG Gonzales. I think he is an honorable man but he was not well-suited to be Attorney General. Still, you’d think the NY Times could be more gracious in its lead paragraph. Doesn’t the Times know not to Kick Him When He’s Down?

Patterico should be pleased to learn this when he returns since he’s already posted that Gonzales should resign. I also hope WLS will weigh in with a separate post since he forecast Gonzales’ resignation a month ago.

Until then, feel free to discuss this topic here.

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