Free speech on the Internet versus defamation

About a month and a half ago, the California Supreme Court ruled on a case in such a way that I’m conflicted about. As anyone who’s read this blog knows, I’m very much an advocate of free speech and the First Amendment. The case is Barrett vs. Rosenthal, and it involves the question of whether the reposting on the Internet of material written by someone else can be defamatory. In brief, it involves the question of whether the reposting on Usenet of an opinion by someone else, as the defendant Ilena Rosenthal (a notorious “breast implant activist” and die-hard altie) did, can result in liability for defamation. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, meaning that Internet users and Internet service providers cannot be held liable for posting defamatory material written by someone else.

The ruling has disturbing implications in that it allows an easy means of defamation simply by reposting material written by someone else. Free Speaker over at a new blog Unchilled Speech has the lowdown of what this may mean to Internet users and to bloggers like myself. He also promises more commentary on such issues in the future.