The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that bloggers and the general public have the same First Amendment protection as journalists holding that “liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages”,.
…The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story.
As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media . . . the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352. In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue—not the identity of the speaker—provide the First Amendment touchstones….
We therefore hold that the Gertz negligence requirement for private defamation actions is not limited to cases with institutional media defendants. Obsidian Finance Group LLC et al v. Crystal Cox (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2014), pp. 11-12.
As stated by Eugene Volokh (the Volokh Conspiracy) who represented Crystal Cox against Obsidian Finance Group LLC :
… I think that’s right, not just as a matter of First Amendment principle but also as a matter of history and precedent (as I documented at length in Freedom for the Press as an Industry, or for the Press as a Technology? From the Framing to Today, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 459 (2012))….