Appeals court rules bloggers have same speech protections as journalists

A Ninth Circuit Appeals court has overturned a lower-court decision that said that bloggers weren't entitled to the same free speech protection as journalists. The case involved a 2011 blog post by Crystal Cox in which she alleged that a firm had engaged in tax fraud; the company she wrote about said that the allegation was false, and that Cox should be found guilty of libel because she wasn't a "journalist." The higher court found that, journalist or not, Cox's guilt turned not on the truth of her statement, but whether she was negligent, and could have discovered the truth.

The ruling on Friday is particularly important in the era of online content, Volokh said.

"In this day and age, with so much important stuff produced by people who are not professionals, it's harder than ever to decide who is a member of the institutional press," Volokh said.

Cox's blogging activities have attracted their share of controversy. According to the court's opinion, Cox has a history of making allegations of fraud and other illegal activities "and seeking payoffs in exchange for retraction."

Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court [Dan Levine/Reuters]

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(Image: "FREE SPEECH*", a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from newtown_grafitti's photostream)