A Blogger's First Amendment Rights - and Responsibilities

Friday, January 24, 2014



A federal court ruled last week that a blogger who had lost a defamation suit in 2011 should have the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist, and as everyone else who publishes online. The blogger is Crystal Cox, who is notorious for creating domain names and blog posts tarring the online reputations of her targets and then offering to fix the problem for a price. Bob speaks to Ellyn Angelotti of the Poynter Institute about what the decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals means for First Amendment protections online, and whether it matters that Cox is the defendant.


Ellyn Angelotti

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Bob Garfield

Comments [2]

Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

ellen diamond asks "Why haven't we professionalized journalism...?" Why, indeed.

In the United States of America, Individuals are certainly free to associate in any way they please and to form fraternal and/or professional organizations or institutions. They can adopt rules whereby they may profess achievement according to rules of such associations and such associations may review the performance of their members and proclaim their members' achievements, and so forth. The states and perhaps other governmental bodies may regulate commercial activities and other activities according to the advice and/or recommendation of such professional institutions.

However according to the Ninth Circuit in its review of Obsidian Financial Group v. Cox, the 1974 United States Supreme Court ruling in Gertz v. Robert Welch "sweeps broadly" and that the Court has stated, in among other rulings including Bartnicki v. Vopper; Cohen v. Cowles Media Co.; First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti etc., that “We [USSC] have consistently rejected the proposition that the institutional press has any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers. (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission)".

So, it may be a good idea for journalists to form clubs and award merit badges and congratulate one another about having received them and so on. I'm sure that many people will take such awards seriously. They shouldn't expect "any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers," though.

Jan. 26 2014 07:58 PM
ellen diamond from New York City

Why haven't we professionalized journalism in the same way we do other kinds of professions? Different educational or experiential levels could be established each with their own set of clearly defined requirements and repercussions and established legal,educational and moral guidelines? Right now, anyone may claim to be a journalist without being held to any established standards or legal codes of conduct, much as in the recent past, anyone could hang out a shingle and call themselves a psychotherapist, without being held responsible to any of the guidelines and requirements established for other mental health practitioners. In their book: Morality and the Professional Life: Values at Work, Prentice Hall Inc. (2000), guidelines of what makes a profession are outlined as follows:

- Group Identity
- shared education, training (requirements for admission)
- special, uncommon knowledge
- knowledge used in the service of others (positive social need)
- involves individual judgement, some autonomy in decision making
- adherence to certain values
- penalties for substandard performance

“To meet this description, you are not a professional until you are a member of a group of colleagues who have articulated a set of standards and values and can enforce them, at the very least, by exclusion from the group.”

Jan. 26 2014 04:30 PM

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