Join The Discussion

 

Bridge collapse on I-35 north of Austin

SALADO, Texas (AP) — Emergency crews are responding to a reported bridge collapse along an interstate in Central Texas.

read more >

Amazon begins Prime Now program in Dallas area

If you just have to have it now, as in one hour, you can, at least in the Dallas area, as Amazon.com Inc. announced Thursday it will offer Prime Now.

read more >

Westchester Plaza manager says "business as usual" for now

The future of a redevelopment plan for the 50-year-old Westchester Plaza on Fort Worth's Near Southside is unclear.

read more >

Texas jobless rate falls as employers add workers

Texas unemployment fell to 4.3 percent during February for the sixth straight month of declines, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday.

read more >

Monty Bennett: Businessman, water district activist

Monty Bennett’s name will not appear on the ballot for the Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors yet he remains a powerful backstage player whose influence could shape the direction of the district’s business for years to come.

read more >

 

Defamatory online posts revisited by Texas court


PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — They say nothing on the Internet ever really goes away, but the Texas Supreme Court is considering whether defamatory postings might be worth the effort to try.

Justices on the state's highest civil court on Thursday weighed broader questions about cyberbullying, hate speech and the First Amendment while hearing a case with far lower stakes. At issue is whether a company can be forced to remove from its website damaging personal comments about a fired Austin businessman.

Lower courts already have ruled that Robert Kinney's former company, Los Angeles-based BCG Attorney Search, can't be forced to remove the comments, even if a judge or jury eventually finds it defamed Kinney on the company's website by accusing him of running a kickback scheme. That's because defamatory speech still has protections under the law.

But Kinney's attorneys told the nine-member court that it's time for Texas law to catch up with technology.

"It was a little harder to defame someone before the Internet. Now, on my cellphone, I can walk out of here and in five minutes I can say something defamatory about somebody and hit a button, and it's there worldwide," said Martin Siegel, Kinney's attorney. "And it's potentially there for perpetuity."

Anthony Ricciardelli, an attorney for BCG, said forcing the comments to be removed would "set a dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on speech and may lead to a slippery slope."

The court isn't expected to make a ruling for several months.

Justices asked both sides to consider more divisive cases involving cyberbullying or hate speech — whether a court should be able to issue orders to stop online antagonists from harassing others, for instance, even if no defamation was present.

Siegel said it's time for Texas to join a "modern rule" of decisions in five other states where injunctions against defamatory speech have been granted. The Kentucky Supreme Court in 2010 ruled in a case that the future speech of a party could be restrained so long its original comments were ruled defamatory.

Michael Fertik, the CEO and founder of reputation.com, said the broader problem of defamation in the digital age needs to be addressed. He said people need to be "giving a fighting chance" and pointed to how publishers can be forced to remove defamatory material from books before additional printings.

"There's a solution in the print world for that. In the online world, there is no solution," Fertik said.

Kinney now runs another legal recruiting firm in Texas and said the damage done by the comments "isn't breaking me." Courts likely would have let his case proceed if he was seeking financial damages from his old boss instead of having the online remarks erased, but Kinney says he wants to help others in similar situations.

"Hopefully it'll be a public service," he said.

 

< back

Email   email
hide
Catch
How 'bout them Cowboys?