Being sued over blog posts is bad, and being threatened with legal action can be just as bad. Saturday morning, at the 2012 Minnesota Blogger Conference, I am presenting on …
10 steps bloggers should take to avoid getting sued
1. Tell the truth
Libel is a claim that a communicator has harmed someone’s reputation by publishing something false. So truth is the ultimate defense to a libel suit. A blog post that says horrible things about someone is not libelous if it is true.
2. Report for jury duty
Sometimes even false posts are legally protected. That’s because a jury ultimately decides whether the blogger did “what a reasonable blogger would do” under the circumstances.
3. Focus on the famous
Politicians, celebrities, and other public figures must prove “actual malice” to win a libel suit. So if you stick to writing about famous people, the risk of legal liability decreases.
4. Act like the AARP era
Most of a blogger’s legal defenses were enacted with the Mainstream Media in mind. So emulate the “AARP” generation by Avoiding Anonymous Sources, Attributing Information, Retracting When Necessary, and Publishing Regularly.
5. Know when truth doesn’t matter
Bloggers do risk liability for publishing true information if doing so is an invasion of privacy. So don’t publish Social Security numbers or bank-account information, and tread carefully with racy pictures.
6. Stay local
Most laws governing bloggers are state laws, enforced separately and differently in each state. So posting about people outside Minnesota increases the chance, complexity, and cost of litigation.
7. Keep SLAPP in the face
Minnesota is among states with laws that protect against “SLAPP” lawsuits, which are Strategic Lawsuits filed to prevent Public Participation. The SLAPP laws provide extra protection to bloggers who write about public issues
8. Picture a troll
“Copyright trolls” patrol the internet, looking for material used without the owner’s permission. Bloggers are easy prey. Know where your pictures come from, and get permission to publish if necessary.
9. Act in moderation
Some believe that bloggers can avoid legal liability by not moderating comments. I disagree. Moderate your comments and remove the dicey ones.
10. Blog as a matter of policy
Read your business and homeowners’ insurance policies for whether you’re covered if you’re sued. Consider purchasing a separate policy for bloggers.