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Blogger Defamation Suit Survives Dismissal

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 29, 2011 6:41 AM

As the business of blogging has become an important part of popular media, so has the blogger defamation suit.

In one of the newer suits to hit the blogging community, a federal judge has refused to toss out a lawsuit filed by former USDA official Shirley Sherrod against conservative political blogger Andrew Breitbart.

He and his employee have been accused of editing video footage of a speech Sherrod gave on racial reconciliation to make it appear as though she was making racist remarks against white farmers.

While you may remember last year's media frenzy, and Sherrod's eventual forced resignation, the important issue here is that bloggers are not immune to defamation lawsuits.

While bloggers are certainly entitled to freedom of expression, like regular citizens and even journalists, they are not entitled to make fraudulent statements about another person or company.

Especially if they know that information to be false.

Unfortunately, there is often a very fine line between statements that are merely opinion, and thus protected speech, and those false statements that appear to be fact and are thus defamatory.

Though no one is suggesting self-censorship, to avoid a blogger defamation suit, it's important that you step away for a second and ask yourself how a third party might construe your statements given the totality of your post.

Is it opinion? Or would a reasonable person think you were stating facts?

Sometimes providing a little more footage or information can catapult a post clearly into opinion territory, and far away from a blogger defamation lawsuit.

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