Court Says Message Board Mocking Is Protected Speech
from the go-ahead-and-mock-away dept
Nearly a year and a half ago, we wrote about a lawyer who was upset at being mocked on some Yahoo message boards — and tried to organized a class action lawsuit against the company and some of the posters. He was upset at Yahoo for (1) failing to stop these mocking posts, which he believed went against the company’s terms of service and (2) not providing accurate info about who the posters were. Apparently, he did get enough info to sue at least one user, Ron Long, who he believed was responsible for the mocking posts. Long’s lawyer, Joe Ribakoff writes in with an update: “In August ’04, you ran an article about a lawsuit filed against Yahoo by LA insurance lawyer Stephen Galton. The lawsuit complained that Yahoo was allowing people to mock Galton on a message board.
Galton sued not only Yahoo. He also filed a defamation action against Ron Long, the person he believed had mocked him.
The California Court of Appeals has now dismissed Galton’s lawsuit against Long. On December 22, 2005, it issued an unpublished decision that found that the messages mocking Galton were 1st Amendment protected speech.
The Court also ordered Galton to pay Long’s attorney’s bill.
The bottom line is: Mocking Stephen Galton is protected 1st Amendment speech. Galton may sue you, but he will lose and he will pay your attorney’s fees.” It would be nice if this decision was published somewhere, because right now we only have the word of this lawyer who was involved in the lawsuit to go on. Update: Thanks to someone in the comments for linking to a PDF version of the court’s ruling, which makes for interesting reading — noting, basically, that no one with an ounce of common sense would assume that the posts (which are included in the file) were meant to be taken literally based on both the language used in them (which, while definitely “mocking” isn’t libelous) and the nature of the forum itself.