The Iowa Supreme Court has given protections against libel lawsuits to Internet publishers but declined to extend them to average citizens, a ruling that media lawyers called significant.
Friday’s ruling extends free-speech protections long enjoyed by newspapers and broadcasters to companies that distribute Internet content, such as book publishers, experts said. But the court declined to extend those rights to individual social media users, saying the victims of cyberbullying and online smear campaigns should be able to more easily sue for defamation.
University of Iowa journalism professor Lyombe Eko said the court “has given protection to people who are bullied on the Internet, the victims of smears or lies or accusations posted on Facebook and Twitter.” People will be able to sue the attacker, but not the company that hosts the site where the statements are posted, he said.
Media lawyers said the decision modernized Iowa’s libel law by extending free-speech protections to Internet publishers. They had wanted the court to go even farther and give all online communication by citizens the same protections enjoyed by the media at a time when anyone with a computer can publish information.
What do you think of the ruling? Should Internet publishers have the same free-speech rights as newspapers and broadcasters?
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