Although there are laws in place to prevent entities and citizens from harmful comments, such laws have to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the toes of the First Amendment to our constitution. The line got even thinner when the Internet was developed. Now people are free to broadcast their opinions all over the world with a relative amount of anonymity. The combination tends to make people freer about stating their thoughts, but if they’re not careful, those people might find themselves facing a lawsuit for defamation.
Sarah Jones, a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals, has also worked as a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Kentucky. At the end of 2009, a user of TheDirty.com posted a photo on the website of Jones with a man and made offensive comments about Jones’s sex life, and the sex life of her partner. Jones repeatedly asked for the posts be removed, and Nik Richie, the owner of the website, refused. Jones responded by filing a lawsuit for defamation against the company that operates the gossip site, Dirty World, LLC, and Richie. The lawsuit alleged that the posts humiliated Jones, undermined her position as an educator, her membership in the Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader squad, and her personal life.
The content posted on TheDirty.com is never created by Richie, but submitted by third parties. Richie then reviews and publishes the submissions with his own comments. Richie and his attorney cited this as a basis for Richie’s immunity under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Continue reading