Federal Judge Tosses Anchor’s Libel Suit Based On Comment Board Posts

A federal court judge ruled against a news anchor who sought libel damages against her former employer because they hosted comments about her purported cocaine arrest.
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Toni Miles had filed suit against Raycom Media’s WLOX-TV, charging libel because the company ran a story saying the employee had been arrested for cocaine. Miles also charged that by hosting comment boards, the company is responsible for any libel that a commenter might make.

While Miles was arrested in October 2008 for cocaine possession, a grand jury decided against pressing charges. But the facts of the story WLOX-TV ran were true. Of the most pressing issue was U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Mississippi Judge Louis Guirola, Jr.’s statement about a company’s liability while hosting comments.

“Persons who claim that they were harmed by a website’s publication of user-generated content may sue the third-party user who generated that content, but they may not sue the interactive computer service that enabled the third-party user to publish the content online,” said Guirola, according to MediaPost. “Thus, an interactive computer service is entitled to immunity as long as it did not create or author the particular information at issue.”

So comment board hosts, don’t worry. And news professionals don’t expect to win a libel lawsuit just because someone said something mean about you on a comment board.