Online Comments Lead To Internet Defamation Lawsuit

lawsuit target
An online poster is the target of a political online defamation lawsuit.

Online comments and missing public funds are the two ingredients of an Internet defamation stew brewing in Kootenai County, Idaho. The former chairwoman of the county’s GOP, Tina Jacobson, filed a libel claim against Linda Cook, who posted anonymous comments on “Huckleberries Online” – a blog associated with The Spokesman-Review.

Unlike many other Internet defamation lawsuits, Jacobson, the plaintiff, didn’t include the blog’s administrator, Dave Oliveria, or the newspaper, on the defendant’s list.

The Allegedly Defamatory Comments In Question

This Internet defamation lawsuit centers around two comments posted on the Spokesman-Review’s website. They read:

“Is that the missing $10,000 from Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina’s blouse??? Let’s not try to find out.”

And

“A whole boat load of money is missing and Tina won’t let anyone see the books. Doesn’t she make her living as a bookkeeper? Did you just see where Idaho is high on the list for embezzlement? Not that any of that is related or anything…”

First Comes Court Order, Then Comes Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Since the posts were originally posted anonymously under the handle “Almostinnocentbystander,” Jacobson first had to uncover the author of the comment to proceed with defamation litigation.  So, in April, Jacobson subpoenaed The Spokesman-Review in an effort to uncover the government name of Almostinnocentbystander. Jacobson succeeded and got a court order forcing the newspaper to give up the identifying goods. They were also ordered to hand over any correspondences between Cook and the media outlet.

Defense’s Online Libel Argument: It May Have Been False, But It Wasn’t Malicious

Judging from reports, it appears Cook is willing to acquiesce that the information she originally received may have been false. But she maintains that at the time of her posting, she certainly believed her source to be accurate, as she had gotten her information from a party board member. Cook went on to aver that even if the information she posted was incorrect, it was certainly done without malice.

Dave Oliveria also acknowledged that Cook’s posts were defamatory. Moreover, when removing Cook’s comments, he remarked that they were “baseless, derogatory and unsubstantiated.”

Accusations of Conspiracy Abound

Even though Jacobson is not suing Oliveria for Internet defamation, she does accuse him of initially conspiring to obstruct Cook’s identity. The plaintiff also claims the the blog administrator also “coached” Cook not to mention their mutual e-mail exchanges.

Reminder About Internet Defamation: 1 Hour Will Do It!

A point of interest about this Internet defamation lawsuit is that the comments under fire were only online for about 2.5 hours. The fact that they were deleted the same day does not mean a lawsuit can’t be filed. Remember, if it goes up, it’s actionable. As such, triple check all your facts and sources before making online accusations.

Jacobson is suing for a cool $10,000, for both defamation and breach of contract. Confident in her litigation prowess, Cook has chosen to defend herself in court and is quoted as saying that “In the proper setting, which is now the court, [she is] more than prepared to vigorously defend [herself].”

The Kelly/Warner Law Firm maintains an active Internet defamation legal practice. If you’ve been libeled or slandered online, contact us to understand your options.

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