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Free Speech vs Defamation? A Texas Supreme Court Case

www.endcyberbullying.org

A fine example of how the role of the U.S. constitution is changing with the technology-driven world, a lawsuit was filed in Travis County, TX, by Robert Kinney who claimed that his former boss posted defamatory statements online acuccusing him of bribery and kickbacks. Kinney and his attorney, Martin Siegel, hope to convince the Texas Supreme Court to order the defamatory statement to be taken down.

This decision, if ruled in favor of Kinney, could have a tremendous impact on how speech is regulated online, from negative reviews on Yelp to cyberbullying through social networking sites. For example, a court can order defamatory statements made by the bully to be taken down.

However, according to the former boss’s attorney, Anthony Ricciardelli, this case is “fundamentally a free speech case.” He said that even if the material is deemed defamatory, prohibiting its continued and future publishing by permanently removing the post would amount to unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech. Not only would the original poster will be held liable for defamation, but in the internet where a lot of information is reposted by multiple users, each of them will also be liable. It could have a “chilling effect” on posting future material concerning the same individual or organization, Ricciardelli declared.

The Texas Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in late summer or fall.

 

 

 

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