Online Rants Lead to More Lawsuits

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There is an interesting article in theMinneapolis Star-Tribune about the increase in lawsuits stemming from online rants. With the number of people blogging, Facebooking and posting comments on sites like Yelp, it was inevitable that some of these comments would lead to lawsuits based on defamation and even criminal charges like terroristic threats.

Part of the reason for the increase in these lawsuit is the anonymity that the internet provides. Many people think that if something is posted anonymously, there is no way  that anyone can find out who the author was. Not true. Under federal law, websites generally are not liable for comments posted by outsiders. They can, however, be forced to reveal the poster’s identity if the post includes false information presented as fact. And recently, judges have been saying that online speakers do not always have a right to remain anonymous.

The final lesson in the article is a good one and one that we should all take to heart when posting on any site, or when sending a text or an email: think twice before clicking ‘send.’ Imagine yourself in the shoes of the recipient, or anyone reading the message. And if you have doubts about what you are writing, click ‘save’ and wait at least an hour or so before reading the message again and deciding, with a clearer mind, whether you really do need and want to publish that message.

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