Pro-tip: hyperlinks are your friends when possibly defaming someone


Pro-tip: hyperlinks are your friends when possibly defaming someone brings us a tasty little piece of advice for bloggers: including hyperlinks can help in defending yourself against a defamation suit.

Gizmodo, Gawker Media’s tech-centric blog, was sued over a 2011 article entitled, “Smoke & Mirrors: The Greatest Scam in Tech.” According to a write-up by professor Eric Goldman, the piece purported to describe “Peep Telephony, a service that claimed to offer free cellular phone service through the power of mesh networking.” As you might guess from the title, it wasn’t exactly a fluff piece. (The company is also known asPeep Wireless.)

Scott Redmond, who owns Peep, was quite unhappy with the coverage, so the site ran a follow-up piece that included his objections to the original. That wasn’t enough to appease his frustration, so he sued.

A California court tossed the lawsuit last week, partly for a few commonplace reasons. For one, the court said the issues raised by the article were a matters of public interest. Also, the court said Redmond was upset about statements of opinion, not facts.

But most awesomely interestingly, Judge Sandra Margulies specifically pointed in her opinion to Gizmodo’s extensive use of hyperlinking as helpful to their defense. From the ruling:

“The sources upon which the authors rely for their conclusions are specified, and the article incorporates active links to many of the original sources—mainly Web sites and promotional material created and maintained by Redmond and his ventures….”

“Having ready access to the same facts as the authors, readers were put in a position to draw their own conclusions about Redmond and his ventures and technologies…. Statements are generally considered to be nonactionable opinion when the facts supporting the opinion are disclosed.”

Govern yourselves accordingly.

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