Bloggers gain protection from libel

Bloggers not liable for libel.

Hm. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that bloggers can’t be sued for libel over information they republish.
“One-way news publications have editors and fact-checkers, and they’re not just selling information — they’re selling reliability,” Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Wired.com. “But on blogs or e-mail lists, people aren’t necessarily selling anything, they’re just engaging in speech. That freedom of speech wouldn’t exist if you were held liable for every piece of information you cut, paste and forward.”
One of the main reasons for libel law is that one-way media, like newspapers or television, often don’t give the allegedly injured party a chance to respond as prominently or as fully as the initial charges were made. The libel lawsuit allows the plaintiff to show that not only is he not a wife beater, for example, but that the _Daily Times_, which reported that he was, didn’t do squat to determine the truth. The full rebuttal can really only happen in the courtroom, and the threat of monetary judgments against media companies keeps them honest. Well, relatively so. (I’ve _greatly_ simplified libel law here, by the way.)
But blogs allow full-blown conversations, assuming a blogger has integrity and allows the wronged party to respond almost as prominently and immediately to the initial charge, either via comments or published emails. Failing that, the low barrier to entry allows the alleged wife beater to start his own blog and rebut the accusations.
Still… While I suppose it’s good news that bloggers and other e-media are protected from expensive lawsuits — and I don’t have to shell out the bucks for expensive libel insurance — I don’t know how this will play in establishing credibility for the medium. I’m of mixed feelings on this, but maybe that’s just my old media background wagging its vestigial tail.
Why? Because I think independent journalists like myself and others _are_ selling reliability. When I was overseas, I made damn sure to get it as right as I could. If I didn’t witness the events with my own eyes and if I couldn’t get it confirmed by some other media or other sources, I didn’t run it. (I still have stories that I’ve not been able to confirm.)
No, I don’t want to be sued for libel. But I don’t know that it’s a bad thing that I have to stop and think about what I write. And if people know that bloggers have to stop and think, perhaps they’ll take them a little more seriously.
Anyway, just some late-night musings. Maybe I’m completely wrong. Flame on!

Bush to Iraq: “Who’s in charge here?”

Who’s in charge here? Bush goes looking for his WMD inspector.

Lord. Daily Kos has a jaw-dropping anecdote from _Time_ about President Bush’s attempt at not only finding WMD, but also finding Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. “Who?” Bush asked.

The comments on Kos’ site range from the anguished to the conspiratorial. I personally don’t think this little exchange was deliberately engineered to insulate Bush, as Reagan was in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra scandal, but instead I see this as another example of the guy at the top not “sweatin’ the small stuff,” as he might twang when he’s feelin’ particularly Texan and all that.
When will this man realize that he is the _president of the United States_ and he has responsibility — legal, moral and otherwise? Whether he was lying about WMD when he claimed they were an imminent threat or whether he was misinformed _doesn’t matter._ What matters is that people died because of the decisions he made. And since it looks like he was either a liar or ignorant (or both, since why should one have to choose?) _he is responsible._
As Harry Truman once famously said, “The buck stops here.” I think Americans need to stand up and say, “We need to stop Bush here.”
*ADDENDUM*
_Time_ goes on to report that after the Q&A in Doha, Bush charged CIA chief George Tenet to lead the hunt. Tenet, in turn, appointed David Kay, former U.N. weapons inspector and big-time Iraq hawk as his go-to guy in Iraq. As Reagan once famously joked, “My right hand doesn’t know what my far-right hand is doing.”