Communications Decency Act[CDA], a federal law designed to encourage online debate.I have first hand knowledge of this ruling, which I believe to be the first definite ruling on a blogger's liability in Pennsylvania. I happen to be the Defendant.
The ruling in question concerns a blog I wrote about Tricia Mezzacappa, not long after I obtained a $67,140 defamation verdict against her. Several of my readers responded to that story with uncomplimentary comments about her, and she sued. Judge Beltrami agreed with the argument that I am immune from liability under federal law. I am responsible for what I say, but not for the commentary of third parties, whether they identify themselves or not.
Though few people are aware of this obscure little provision, it has been dubbed "the greatest of all Internet laws."
Without question, anonymous commentary often leads to hateful and vicious remarks. But it also sometimes results in very good tips. I first learned that Sheriff Randy Miller had been fired thanks to an anonymous comment here. People feel more free to speak.
In this case, Mezzacappa had argued I should be held liable because, though I do not moderate, I respond to comments and occasionally delete them. The Court concluded these were nothing more than "the exercise of a publisher's traditional editorial functions, namely, whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter comment provided by others. This is the very conduct that Congress chose to immunize by [CDA]."
It would appear that, under Judge Beltrami's reasoning, even moderated blogs are immune.
Essentially, Mezzacappa's lawsuit has been gutted. I still have to answer some allegations, but her lawsuit is going to fail.
In the meantime, a defamation judgment that first stood at $67,140 has grown to $71,000.
Blogger's Note: This story originally published at midnight, and has been updated to reflect The Daily Intelligencer story.