For those of you brahs out there who value the 1st Amendment and enjoy visiting websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and other sites that revolve around content that is submitted by 3rd party users, a federal judge in Kentucky really screwed the pooch in a defamation case today by incorrectly instructing the jury on the applicable law which, ultimately, resulted in a verdict that could have far and wide-ranging impacts on how we use Internet.
Ex-cheerleader and former high school teacher, Sarah Jones, sued TheDirty.com and it’s operator, Nik Richie, in 2009 after the website published comments alleging that she banged the entire Bengals football team and had numerous sexually transmitted diseases.
1st Amendment and technology experts began closely watching the case after U.S. District Judge, William Bertelsman, ruled that the website was not shielded from liability under the Communications and Decency Act of 1996. This decision, which occurred in 2012, was seen as a sharp departure from a slew of other rulings protecting website operators who use or publish material that is provided to them by their users, as explained by Richie’s attorney, David Gingras, in this video.
Now, keep in mind, that this case was completely unrelated to the fact that Jones banged a student who she taught at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood and subsequently pleaded guilty in 2012 to misdemeanor sexual misconduct and felony custodial interference.
Nonetheless, Jones wiped away tears after jurors awarded her $338,000 in damages today–a far cry from the $11 million that she had sought–after finding that the posts about her on TheDirty.com were substantially false. Richie and Gingras have stated that they will appeal the case, insisting that the Judge should have never allowed the case to go to trial in the first place. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of this case since it could affect several popular social networking sites. Until then, you got this brah!