Contrary to more misportrayals, as usual, of my views on that other WordPress blog by saying I am on the “wrong side of a legal debate”, anyone even remotely familiar with my views would immediately recognize that I am completely opposed to the proposed criminal libel law in North Carolina and am very glad to hear it got struck down and agree, it would have been the worst libel law, ever, my worst nightmare when it comes to suppression of internet free speech. In my prior posting about criminal libel law in Florida, that law is not nearly as sweeping and applies only to very specific forms of speech and was not specifically about the internet, not all internet speech and I never said I was in favor of it. I was simply noting that it existed, leaving the door open for prosecution, should the anonymous posters who are posting obscene lies about me be identified. I was noting that as an item of interest and also noted that I wasn’t even sure if it had been recently enforced, as it appears to be one of those antiquated laws. In Florida, it is also still illegal for unmarried people of the opposite sex who are couples to live together but of course, hundreds of thousands of couples in Florida do and it is not enforced and this obviously outdated law should be taken off the books.
Only someone who is either extremely deficient in thinking skills or who is deliberately attempting to mislead people about my views would conclude I would support such a law. If anyone is on the wrong side of that debate, it would be Ronald S. Federici, who tried (and ultimately failed) to gain jurisdiction over several defendants from out of state in his internet defamation lawsuits, so it would seem to me that the NC proposed law would be right up his alley. Plus, since it would criminalize defamation, it would spear him the expense of having to hire a lawyer, although the disadvantage would be that he’d have to convince the State to press charges, which would be highly unlikely since so far he has been unable to state a claim that was acceptable to the court (e.g. his Federal case against me was dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Nevertheless, if that law had been in existence in Virginia, Ronald Federici could have gained jurisdiction over all of his defendants, had he been able to state a claim. Go here for documents which show that it is Ronald S. Federici who repeatedly tried to get defendants brought in from out of state so he could sue them for internet defamation, conspiracy and tortious interference. However, a Federal judge put an end to that by overruling the decision of a small claims court judge (Federici also lost the small claims cases against Mercer, Miller and Advocates for Children in Therapy, but the judge in that case had stated that he believed Virginia had jurisdiction over them — however when case law was presented to the Federal judge in his later lawsuit, it was ruled that Virginia does not have jurisdiction over any of the defendants and that the mere fact that people in Virginia read the postings was not sufficient reason for Virginia to have jurisdiction. A law like the one proposed in NC, however, would have changed that).
In any case, I completely agree that the NC law would have completely killed Constitutional rights to free speech and I am adamantly opposed to it and overjoyed that it was defeated. Is that clear enough for you, anonymous cyber smear campaigners? It is well known that I publicly support anti-SLAPP legislation and the kind of law that was proposed in NC could have encouraged all kinds of frivolous lawsuits and had horrific unintended consequences.
What I do think is that something needs to be done about is extreme cases of obviously malicious fabrications being posted on the internet that can wreck a person’s life. Now that is draconian. That is something our Constitution does not guarantee and that, under law, is subject to usually civil defamation statutes. What still needs to be worked out is how to deal with anonymous people on the internet who are getting away with this. The fact that such postings can come from outside the US makes this issue particularly complicated and problematic and I, for one, am not so arrogant as to presume that I have the answer for how to deal with this. There are no easy answers to this and since the internet is still relatively new, this is something that probably won’t be worked out for years. Also, wording of such a law needs to be worked out so that it would clearly distinguish between people who are posting malicious lies designed to wreck a person’s life and people who are exercising their legitimate constitutional rights to free speech by expressing opinions and the facts, as they sincerely understand them.
On the one hand, people do need to remain free to exercise their right to free speech, which includes the right to express opinions, including criticism that people might not like and well documented facts. What free speech does not include, however, is malicious lies and outright fabrications of the sort that have been posted about me, for example, copying a posting from a website, altering it and then putting my name in it, something I recently caught the internet smear campaigners doing, red handed. That is a clear demonstration of malice and deliberately posting falsehoods that would even win a case against a public figure. However, in this particular case, I didn’t even need to go to the law. The website owner, once I presented him/her with the evidence, much to their credit, had the decency to remove the posting. However, he/she didn’t have to and not all website owners would have done so. So thank you, Liars and Cheaters RS, for being decent and honest human beings. Sadly, not every website owner is and hence, the need for some kind of carefully and clearly worded law, not the proposed and now-defeated NC law.
So yes, the State of North Carolina went way overboard and their proposed legislation, I am very happy to report, was defeated. However, that does not mean that anything should go when it comes to malicious fabrications being posted on the internet. Ultimate, however, I believe the solution lies not with the passage of legislation, which will always have its limitations, but with teaching people to critically evaluate statements that are made, rather than believe everything they read on the internet. Were people capable of doing this, it wouldn’t matter what was posted and Google would have to re-evaluate its search algorithms if it wanted to be credible.
Once again, the anonymous smear campaigners appear incapable of telling the difference between legitimate free speech and malicious defamation.