Friday, November 24, 2006

Internet libel immunity

Libel law news:
The California Supreme Court just held, in Barrett v. Rosenthal, that Internet users who post (to Web sites or discussion groups) material created by others are immune from liability.
I was surprised that this case was still pending. I posted about it in 2001. This libel complaint
against defendant Ilena Rosenthal and others is about being called a quackpot, a pimple doctor, and a dimwit.

The core of the matter, as I understand it, is that Stephen Barrett and his Quackwatch site go around debunking alternative medicine. Occasionally some snake oil peddler fights back, and makes accusations against Barrett. Then Barrett sues, figuring that he has mainstream medicine on his side.

I am all in favor of exposing quacks, but Barrett doesn't always have science on his side. His own professional career has been that of a psychiatrist, and he subscribes some goofy psychiatric ideas. He is also an advocate of mandatory vaccination, and I've disagreed with him about some of those vaccines.

Anyway, calling Barrett a "quackpot" seems fair game to me.

Malkin thinks that the court went too far in favor of free speech, because a blogger could republish some anonymously-posted libel without any liability.

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