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Blogger Fined $60K For Telling the Truth 433

jfruhlinger writes "'Johnny Northside,' a Minneapolis blogger with less than 500 readers a day, revealed that a University of Minnesota researcher studying mortgage fraud had been involved in a fraudulent mortgage himself; the blog post was at least partially responsible for the researcher losing his job. The researcher then sued the blogger and won — despite the blogger having his facts straight. Johnny Northside plans to appeal the verdict."
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Blogger Fined $60K For Telling the Truth

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  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:42PM (#35485950)

    The title says it all.

    Remember this while the government works hard to eliminate all anonymous speech on the Internet.

  • by Aerorae ( 1941752 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:46PM (#35486006)
    This is why we need a fast enough version of TOR such that the whole world can use it in place of the regular web.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:50PM (#35486032)

    "Does not compute!"

    How does this have anything to do with the government clamping down on free speech? This is a god who made a claim about a researcher. The researcher then sued him in civil court where a jury, you know as in regular people, found him liable. Now I'm not saying they made the right decision, but this is not the government trying to shut this guy up, it is another guy trying to shut him up and a jury agreeing. Like it or not that is actually our system working.

  • The one guy would have no power to do that to the other guy if the power of government didn't back the first guy up. This is a case of government interference, even if it's a civil matter.

  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:12PM (#35486256) Journal

    Like it or not that is actually our system working.

    You're right. That's why we must rip its heart out. This is absolute insanity.

  • Re:First Amendment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zugok ( 17194 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:18PM (#35486308)

    Truth is a defence against defamation tort, however truth might be the very thing that a plaintiff wants to protect from the tort of a breach of privacy. Maybe the real question is whether the fact a fraudulent (thus criminal) activities can be protected by the privacy torts in civil cases.

  • by SheDevilEsq ( 769823 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:54PM (#35486636)
    The truth as a defense is for claims of defamation. From the reporting of the case, this sounds like the plaintiff won on an "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and "intentional interference with contract" and/or "intentional interference with prospective economic advantage" claim, all of which are tort claims (personal injury). Look at it this way...if you were really obese, and someone kept taunting you, day in and day out, saying "You are fat and going to die", you could sue them for emotional harm *even though* those two statements are patently true. And, yes, I'm a lawyer, *and* I played one on TV. :-)
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:00PM (#35486698)

    How does this have anything to do with the government clamping down on free speech?

    Because the truth used to be a defense against libel. However, with the swing to the far right (not a party swing, but the whole country, including both parties are swinging that way for some topics), freedom of speech is being trampled. There are already states where true statements about some protected industry is illegal if the statement is negative. Now you can't say anything to get someone fired, even if true.

    this is not the government trying to shut this guy up,

    It is the government shutting him up. The government is enforcing the finding made in the government court. They are the enforcement arm for this.

  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:26PM (#35486842) Homepage

    And who didn't throw lawsuits like this out of court? Letting 12 retards decide what to do with a person after listening to hours or days of screaming from lawyers should be the last resort, not the first choice.

  • And the laws that allowed the suit to proceed.

  • Re:"Fined"? Fine! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:05PM (#35487118)

    Fine: A forfeiture or penalty to be paid to the offended party in a civil action.
    Fined: To require the payment of a fine from; impose a fine on.

    Sounds appropriate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:26PM (#35487234)

    That is *a* solution, but it is a lesser, reactive solution - the better approach is to keep the oppressive powers from taking those rights to begin with. If, for instance, we fall back to a "fringe" or non-sanctioned approach to free speech, they have the option to segregate and dominate. Gotta make time to attend rallies and protests, first - the technical solutions won't last once they gain the upper hand.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:27PM (#35487244)
    You're right about the judge, but what the heck makes you think jurors aren't retards? I remember a woman on a jury saying, in the same sentence, that we can't allow our feelings to sway our judgment so we should band together to get this guy off the streets.
  • by mmj638 ( 905944 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @11:18PM (#35487568)

    The summary really approaches this from a certain point of view.

    Let's look at it from a different point of view ...

    1. University hires a researcher who has done something in the past which would make him look bad, but is not technically illegal. The researcher has technically never committed any crime, just gotten involved with some bad people at one stage.
    2. Blogger starts a campaign of negative publicity against the researcher focused on this aspect of his history. Everything said is true, but is inflammatory and of a nature intended to defame the researcher.
    3. The university, for all we know, may even know about the researcher's controversial past already and be cool with it. Either way, the university finds it increasingly difficult to support the researcher in the face of this negative publicity, and eventually lets go of him in order to save face.
    4. The researcher sues not for libel, because all the statements made about him were true, but for the running of a negative campaign about him which eventually lead to him losing his job and reputation.

    A lot of people have something in their past that makes them look bad, but which is not actually illegal. If someone starts a negative campaign about you based on something like this, and it ends up with you losing your reputation or job, who is in the wrong? In this case, 12 jurors thought it was the blogger.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @01:12AM (#35488130)

    Yeah... I will grant that it's insane. The defendant ought to have prevailed if for no other reason than the plaintiff has Unclean hands []; with regards to the matter under dispute.

    The plaintiff acting illegally and unethically in a way that effected the public gave rise to a journalistic duty for journalists to cover the subject. And the journalist is being sued for covering the subject.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @01:53AM (#35488262)

    Thats just as stupid as the censorship and everything else.

    What we NEED is a world that isn't corrupt, stupid and run by greed. Then we won't need TOR at all.

    Irrevelant anyway i guess. we won't have the tor solution because the goverments would never allow it. and we won't have the better world solution because people suck.

    Damm. that's despressing.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @02:30AM (#35488352) Homepage Journal

    I should clarify. The jury is instructed that they may not judge the law or the likely punishment, only the facts. They are then to robotically apply the law to those facts. They are then told what the law is.

    In spite of that instruction, the body of law the U.S. inherited it's jury system from explicitly acknowledged a juror's duty to judge the law as well as the facts. The founding fathers as well as a number of supreme court justices from the beginning to as recently as 1946 certainly agreed.

    Of course, finally, the court cannot compel a juror to act against his or her conscience and cannot even examine a juror's decision making process. (that's not to say it wouldn't happen, only that it would violate due process).

    From all of that, the upshot is that all jury instruction in the modern U.S. court is faulty.

    Of course, once you get the jury to the point of agreeing to judge the facts and then roboticly apply the law as told to them by the judge, the judge is free to create any desired verdict (though it MIGHT be thrown out if an appellate court finds that the instruction was faulty enough).

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984