Progress has been made to refine and clarify what kind of speech is considered Constitutional. Bloggers and journalists have seen the regulations tighten over the years as internet defamation increases by 200% annually.
cayCompass launched a poll last May to determine what the people thought about internet libel and defamation. 54% replied they they felt media, forums, comments and articles should fall under the same regulation as mainstream media.
“It is all too easy to just make something up in your head and spew it out on the web, effectively destroying someone’s reputation…”, said Tristan, a forum webmaster from New York.
Raising public awareness to avoid official regulation
No one wants their online content regulated. Who is to say what one regulator considers defamation as opposed to another’s views. This is why the solution must only be regulation through public awareness. This means webmasters are arbitrators, forum admins take control when things get out of hand, defamation victims should provide evidence to those in control etc etc.
The US Constitution is clear. It covers the communication of opinions. This does not give anyone the right to fabricate lies and false occurrences for monetary gain or revenge. In life, when someone spreads lies about you, you have the right and ability to confront the accuser with the lie and prove to those it was spread to that it was false. This system of recourse is not available online except through expensive cyber investigation services and legal.
Legal is always an option. It is also a long and expensive process, but when the case is weak (in most cases they are), the defendant will usually come out with clean hands and even continue their aggressive attacks.
When an aggressor is posting anonymously and using virtual private servers to hide their IPs, encrypted emails to spread lies and dreaming up dozens of usernames to appear to be talking “from the masses”, a person or brand has very few options. Brands can be destroyed as defamation eats away at its followers trust like termites. The lie continues to spread as other media outlets, bloggers and social media pick it up and it like a parasite being carried with whispers through the dark halls of internet gossipers.
Here we see that one person, savvy enough and with certain knowledge of the internet could cause enough destruction to effectively ruin a company.
When defamation is running wild investors start howling, stock owners sell cheap, business vendors drop contracts, agents look elsewhere, financial opportunities disappear, people can’t find jobs.
So there are ripple effects.
Things are changing for defamation victims
Canada and the UK seem to be spearheading the internet defamation game. Though both countries have a different version of “Freedom of Speech”, the concept is the same. People are permitted to share their opinion in a public forum, online or by peaceful gathering, but lies and malice are not being accepted.
In fact, from a legal standpoint using UK defamation lawyers or even Canadian counsel has proven much more effective in the defamation game.
Case in point, earlier this year a Canadian Bishop won a $400,00 lawsuit against a blogger who’s was actively defaming his family for over 2 years. Opinion is one thing but destroyed lives is another. This kind of win is rare within the USA but a sign that internet defamation is being treated more severely internationally.
Considering the intent
We must consider the intent of the United States’ Forefathers when the formulated the Constitution. Though I am not a lawyer and will not profess to excel in the “true meaning” of the Constitution, what I do know is that it was thought through carefully to allow the great country of the United States to flourish, and design for the people of the country to feel protected and live freely.