Are Bloggers (& Comments) Due 1st Amendment Protections?

Fascinating case with my buds over Mortgage Implode-Explode as defendants. This might impact if bloggers have the same first amendment rights as traditional journalists; Also, can blog websites protect the identities of those who post comments anonymously?

At issue are postings on the website called Mortgage lender Implode-O-meter. That’s a Las Vegas blog that tracks the mortgage lending industry. Last year, the blog reported the Plaistow-based Mortgage Specialists had been sanctioned by the state banking department, and posted a confidential document the company had sent to regulators. In response to that posting, someone calling themselves brianbattersby then posted that Mortgage Specialists President Mike Gill was under a tax lien, and had bought his way out of a fraud committed in 2002. The lawyer for Mortgage Specialists says neither claim is true. Mortgage Specialists asked the blog’s editor to remove the confidential document, which he did, and asked for him to identify brianbattersby, which he didn’t. A Superior Court Judge ordered the website to permanently remove the posts and reveal brianbattersby’s identity — a ruling the website’s attorney, Jeremy Eggleton, told the justices was wrong-headed, in the extreme.

“The trial courts order violates basic principles the 1st amendment, of the US constitution and essentially tramples on the rights both of implode explode both to speak, and to publish and to speak, as well as on the rights of the public to receive information and speak anonymously.”

The court seemed to have some fun with this, with justices leery of drawing any bright lines.

Justice Gary Hicks:

“But the information is newsworthy; people want to know about trends in the mortgage industry, and secondary markets, credit-default swaps.”

Justice James Duggan:

“So they print rumors, right? So does the national enquirer, and that’s a newspaper.”

“It’s a newspaper.”

“Not that I read it (laughs).”

I (obviously) think blogs should be afforded the same protections . . .

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Source:
Fight Over Blog Comments Hits High Court
Josh Rogers
NHPR, November 5, 2009
http://nhpr.org/node/27722

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