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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Delaware Supreme Court Extends First Amendment Protection to Online Comments

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If you are a blogger or are thinking about making a comment on a blog the ruling of the Delaware Supreme Court this week extends First Amendment Free Speech Protection to those who write or make comments on blogs whether signed or anonymously.

The ruling may not be to everyone's favor, because the posting in question contained numerous obscenities, however, as a protection of our rights of freedom of expression it comes at a time when many Americans are concerned about whether our rights are being usurped by the current administration via the Patriot act and their direction in appointing U.S. Supreme court justices.

This is no small ruling. This puts the home publisher on the same footing as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal or The Chicago Tribune when it comes to the protections guaranteed in the First Amendment of the constitution. It may also imply other protections awarded to the Fourth Estate for bloggers who publish regularly, such as the right to confidentiality of news sources, though the Judith Miller case has once again placed this in doubt.

Why is this important? Because for most of printing history, the ability to communicate messages to a large audience was restricted to a very few, mostly the wealthy, who could afford printing presses or scribes and the people to manufacture and distribute the news.

Today, it is obvious that the internet provides an international audience to a blogger, should he or she find it. What is not so obvious are the implications of the low cost of entry into the distribution of each individual's opinion and the impact that can have on the spread of ideas, ideas that can change the world.

True, once mass media was established, news could travel worldwide overnight. But the media was a self-governing filter for ideas, one controlled by commercial and other interests.

The internet however, lacks those controls for better or worse. This means that it is both a slush pile and fertile ground for new ideas. However, the best of those ideas can spread extremely quickly bypassing the media if desired. Of course, bad ideas can spread too.

So it is worth thinking about this historic week. The U.S. Supreme Court could still weigh in with a different opinion on this issue, but it is very unlikely. The protection of the Constitution of the United States is of course is that Court's job, and it is usually only the state courts that would seek to erode those rights somehow.

Were the U.S. Supreme Court to attempt to erode this right would reflect a very serious problem with the constitution of the court indeed. Here's a link for further reading:

“Delaware Supremes extend First Amendment Protection to online Comments” by Bob Cauthorn

Thanks to The Lorelle on Wordpress Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Peter
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