Internet Slander/Libel Law Coming To North Carolina?

Back on February 8th, John Hawkins wrote an article How The Internet Damages Our Culture. In it, he wrote

Well, you have individuals from all over the world, who can talk anonymously to people they have no personal connection to and they can say absolutely anything without fear of getting punched in the nose. Put another way, the internet takes away all the factors that keep people from saying the rude things that they may be thinking, but wouldn’t blurt out if they were face-to-face with another human being.

Mostly true. Because there are some things people will say and write about others in the Real World, which is why we have libel and slander laws. Because with Free Speech comes responsibility, and, you just cannot say/write whateverthehell you want about someone else or some entity. If you call someone a pedophile and it is a lie, and the person is damaged, well, they can sue your butt off.

And now it could be coming to the Internet for the State of North Carolina

Law professors tackled the issue of freedom of speech and the internet at a UNC School of Law symposium Friday while the N.C. General Assembly looked at a bill making online posts subject to N.C. libel law.

Harvard Law professor and expert in information law and policy John Palfrey said there is a legal need for online regulation.

“The general impulse to seek to regulate this kind of Internet speech is completely right,” Palfrey said. “We need a sense of accountability in what people say online just as we have in the offline sense.”

The law, S46, can make it an actual class 2 misdemeanor for violation, depending on the severity, and whether the person accused of slander/libel (there is some interesting disagreement on which word applies in what situation, since it is in the cybersphere) apologizes in the proscribed way. You can read the bill for the details, it is rather short and understandable, unlike so many other laws.

Good idea? Bad idea? Personally, I think it is a good idea, if, IF, two things are added on. 1st, there needs to be a way to stop all those who are just so easily offended by everything, as well as people who will frivilously claim to be offended, from constantly demanding apologies. One of the best ways to deal with this is to make sure that the “offended” person actually has standing.

2nd, since this will only apply to North Carolina “sites” and/or residents, there needs to be a way to make sure that someone from another State/country isn’t throwing a tantrum, then slamming the person on a non-NC site.

Overall, I do think it is a good idea. People should be responsible for what they say/write, even on the Internet. What do you think?

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5 Responses to “Internet Slander/Libel Law Coming To North Carolina?”

  1. Raven says:

    Read these articles:

    No, I would not be able to support this. It would be the first step towards rewriting what free speech is. Liberals especially would take advantage of this and any other effort.

    Laws are already in place to protect those who have been slandered- be that in writing, words or online. Slander is one thing. Libel is another. Actual harm to one’s reputation must be proven. Tort laws apply.

    Can we see Meaty under such a rule? We’d be able to sue the heck out of him yet he would never actually harm one of us- because not a one of us uses our real identity. Under the idea you write of here, we would have to give that up.

    No thanks.

    I would be more apt to support some sort of Code of Ethics voluntary set of guidelines; a set of rules bloggers agree to abide by. As of yet, I haven’t seen one. Perhaps we should work on that. Simple things like the golden rule would apply….

  2. I think what they are trying to do is specifically codify electronic media slander/libel and make it so that, except in extreme cases, people have to post an apology and correction for a specified time.

    Unfortunately, there would be all these constantly offended folks who would pitch hissies constantly. For folks like meaty, who was warned, I just banned his ass.

  3. Mark says:

    I just don’t see a real need for extra laws. What does it matter if I commit slander in the village square, center court of a shopping mall, in a paid advertisement or in comments on a website?

    Would a North Carolina court have jurisdiction if the offender wrote the words in NC? Or if a server were hosted in NC? How about if the slanderee (?) was in NC? Perhaps if it can be shown the slanderous data traversed NC on it’s way to offend someone?

  4. John Ryan says:

    I definitely agree with you Teach we should put the nanny state in charge of everything

  5. They are all good questions, Mark, and hopefully I will get some answers from the gentlemen who represent me to the NC House and Senate.

    How about a serious response, John. I don’t think this has anything to do with the nanny state, but, with law and order.

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